There is so much going on in Indian country the past week that I really want to comment on some of the things that have been going on. Some weeks are like that, everything happens and your head just spins with all the information. I will keep the subjects to two for this week:
Tsilquot’in Title Case: Decision Rendered June 27, 2012, BC Court of Appeal
When the BC Supreme Court in 2007 came down with their decision that Tsilquot’in had met the test for proof of aboriginal title to almost 50% of their territory, everyone was encouraged that finally aboriginal title was gaining traction in the courts. The court had ordered the parties to sit down and negotiate a settlement and that was the only negative part that could be seen. Negative because we have watched the slow pace of treaty negotiations and some of the barriers to settlement still exist today without movement from governments. Predictably, the parties were too far apart and the case went back to court.
The Court of Appeal delivered a devastating blow to the concept of territories and went back to the “postage stamp” theory of aboriginal title that was advanced by the province of BC. You can only claim title to lands you actually occupy, not use as has previously been decided. They upheld the aboriginal rights of the Tsilquot’in without the realization that those rights are interwined with territorial rights. First Nations cannot exist without the ability to use their entire territory to exercise all their rights and manage the resources within that territory. The Tsilquot’in are undoubtedly on their way to the Supreme Court of Canada and I hope their evidence is satisfactory to the court or we will have the same kind of decision as the Lax kw’alaams where their commercial right to the fishery was not found due to insufficient evidence.
Does this decision affect treaty negotiations in BC? Technically no, the BC Treaty process was formulated on the grounds that no party had to provide proof of title. Negotiations are considered “political” as opposed to legal. So, one would think that this decision should not have effect on the treaty negotiations process. I would be willing to bet that the government negotiations will use the decision at the tables to try and weaken what the First Nations are asking for. It is inevitable in a political negotiation that the parties use whatever tools are at hand to achieve their own objectives and in the case of governments as little as possible to First Nations is first and foremost in their mandates.
We can all hope and pray that this decision is reversed at the Supreme Court of Canada or unsettled title issues will continue to haunt the federal and provincial governments with First Nations unrest and political ill will. One must always remember that the Canadian law is based on Eurocentric views and colonial laws and getting our laws and views incorporated into the court system is always a struggle. The system is not an indigenous system and when we go to courts, it is the creation of another government that is foreign to indigenous governments.
Well, Patrick Brazeau was the cause of another political faux pas this past week. Not able to help himself with his twitters and insulting a woman reporter who is in the public eye in a way that demeans women and more importantly himself. Prime Minister Harper has defended Brazeau in the past for his other faux pas and has refused to remove him from office as senator. The PM should have understood way back when that Brazeau is a political liability, a bull in the china shop with his next antic just waiting to happen. Instead of removing him from office, the Prime Minister took away his twitter account. While we don’t know that for sure, there is assumptions that the directive came from PM himself, your senator is misbehaving, take away his privilege to use his twitter account. This is not a teenager being reprimanded by his parents and taking away his phone, this is a Senator of the Government of Canada who is supposed to part of the sober “second thought” of government.
Twitter and Facebook accounts have been very active this week commenting on Brazeau’s action commenting on what an embarrassment he is to the Government of Canada and that he should be removed. I am being kind in my summary of these comments as people have been quite graphic in their comments as to what should happen to Brazeau.
Let’s be clear, Brazeau in no way represents aboriginal people, he is a Senator being a person of Metis Descent. That being said, he is still an embarrassment to aboriginal people everywhere. His actions do not translate into the values that most aboriginal people in Canada uphold. His appointment was political as we all know and is a favourite with the Prime Minister for whatever reasons that we will never understand. But at what point can the Prime Minister rationalize that Brazeau remain a Senator? Obviously he is not doing his job if he has missed so many meetings even if it was for “personal reasons”. Calls for his removal come from all sectors of society. Our youth especially are outraged at the actions of this man, he is not a role model in fact he has become the model for everything you don’t want to be. Is that the kind of person who should be a senator?
I think not. We want senators in there who will carry out their role in an honourable manner and act in the best interests of those who live in Canada. With political lines drawn in the senate it is often hard to act in the best interests of Canadians when you have to follow the party line, but at least you don’t see other senators becoming the laughing stock of the country. I say that everyone who feels that Brazeau should be removed should be writing emails or letters to the PM and keeping up the pressure on social media. With so many other important issues going on in Indian Country, it is a shame we have to spend time on issues like Brazeau.