I listened attentively to the Attorney General of Canada, Jody-Wilson Raybould.as she made her presentation to the BC Cabinet-First Nations leadership gathering in Vancouver on November 29th.
It was delivered in a very sincere manner as though she believed every word she said. It was also delivered as inclusive, that she was one of us as a First Nations person from the community fighting for our rights and asserting our place in this world. Everything was “we” “us” and when I was your regional chief.
Fact is, she is a First Nations person but she has a role as a Minister of the Government of Canada and responsible for many things that affect us daily as First Nations people. She is not one of us as she used to be-she is one of them with great insight into knowing what we want and need as First Nations people. We had great hopes for her to do something within government that would help us. Now after 3 years, her word rang empty without a track record behind her to say "I did this."
She spouted the same rhetoric, the same messages that Trudeau, and Bennett say all the time. Things like we are moving from denial of rights to recognition of rights. That we are going through transformative change as the government implements our rights.
That they are fulfilling their fiduciary obligations of government and doing what the courts directed them to do. That they will confront whatever stands in the way. They plan to harmonize laws, replace the comprehensive claims policy, do legislation to recognize rights and title and put in place new institutions that are independent of government and put in place free, prior and informed consent. They intend to assist with nation re-building based on indigenous laws and self-government. That they have moved rights out of the courts, put in place 10 principles to guide their employees and have adopted a principled approach to recognize indigenous rights
She concluded her remarks by stating that change is always challenging and says we need to be audacious and she intends to be.
As I sat there all I heard was blah, blah, blah. The same Blah, Blah, blah I have been hearing since the Liberals were campaigning to become government.
What have they accomplished in the over 3 years they have been in government?
I thought about the recent Mikisew Cree case from the Supreme Court of Canada and how the instructions to the lawyers in that case came from her as the Attorney General. That court ruling said there didn’t need to be consultations during the legislative drafting process. This runs contrary to UNDRIP they have agreed to implement and any new relationship they are trying to establish with and for First Nations.
I thought about the Nuu-chah-nulth commercial fishing rights case and how over 10 years there has been no agreements on what that means and over 3 of those years were the liberals who have committed to implement and recognize our rights and keep our rights out of the courts. In February 2019, this case known as the Ahousaht case goes back before the court of appeal based on the infringement by DFO on Nuu-chah-nulth Rights. That isn’t keeping things out of courts, this is keeping things going by not having the political will to determine what commercial fishing rights look like with these 5 Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.
I thought of the paper that Carolyn Bennett Tabled regarding “What We Heard” from First Nations on the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework. Who did the federal government listen to when they went to write that paper? No First Nation would have said most of what was in that paper. Who would agree the federal government had the power and authority to declare a First Nation to be a First Nation and would have the powers of a person and not a self determining, self governing First Nation. Who gave them the right to determine what grouping of First Nations were actually a First Nation. When Carolyn Bennett presented to the Chiefs in Ottawa in September she gave the same kind of speech as Jody Wilson Raybould. Her favourite line was the Federal Government needs to get out of the way and let First Nations be self determining. Her written document said otherwise. I told her at that meeting that if she put what she said into the paper, there may not be opposition to the Rights Framework. This initiative may be dead now as the government couldn’t get it right and most of the country rejected their efforts.
Also, after 3 years, the federal government is trying to rush through the Federal Child Welfare Act and had hoped to do the Framework for the Recognition and Implementation of Rights. This was their dream before another election was called yet they waited until there was little time to properly work with and get the consent of First Nations for such legislation. Too little, too late?
I think of their commitment to implement the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights. What have they done to achieve that? Without regard to Free, prior and informed consent, they have approved the Site C dam, the TransMountain Pipeline and other projects that First Nations are opposed to saying that these projects are in the national public interest. They do not care about First Nations constitutional rights that they will obliterate with these projects.
Some people hearing the Attorney General were excited to hear what she saying, some even clapped here and there. They didn’t know all of these things they haven’t done. If only we could believe her, if only there were actions behind those words.
Their inaction may cost them the next election. Their inaction has turned First Nations people away from them. Their inaction shows you can’t believe a politician’s promises during their campaigning and even commitments they make as governments.
Granted their have been some things done like the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women's inquiry and a few other things, but is this enough?
What can we do as indigenous peoples? We need to keep telling this Government that they are not living up to their commitments. We need to keep giving them solutions and actions that we want to see to lived up to their promises. We need to educate the public on how empty their words are. Maybe they don’t know how to do what they committed to or are afraid to do so once they understand the magnitude of those things.
We need to confront them on what they are saying and challenge them to speak the truth about their failings and how they are going to fix it. If only some of the important issues they have promised had been realized and came into being, we could listen to the Attorney General, nod our heads and say way to go Jody! Sadly, we cannot and we have lost confidence in one of our own that has now become one of them. Audacious? Where and when has this government been bold and daring? I challenge this Federal Government to be so and not just say the words again, and again and again...blah, blah, blah