Damage Control and the Donner Prize

 Recently, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce reprinted material in their lobbying document of December of 2010 supporting the call for a legislative option for fee simple reserve lands.  The reprinted material taken from the book “Beyond the Indian Act” was vetted by several high ranking  government officials, a federal government negotiator, legal representatives and of course the book’s authors.1

So What’s the Big Deal?

It does not appear that any attempt was made to validate or confirm facts before printing, or perhaps the truth did not support arguments for the First Nations Property Ownership proposal (FNPO).  I thought that the very act of "Vetting" meant to "Check Facts".  

The CCC and its network calls itself “The most influential business association in Canada” and prides itself on their “Power to shape policy”. 2 They actively lobby parliamentarians and have claimed responsibility for numerous federal government decisions such as the alignment of their views with now dead conservative budget released a few weeks ago,  the defeat of Bill C-300, which according to the CCC, sought to validate unproven claims against resource extraction companies, the defeat of Bill C-308 which proposed to increase EI premiums, and the defeat of bill C 386 which sought to restrict the use of replacement workers by railways, airlines, airports, trucking, hospitals, police, etc.3

The Propaganda Machine in Full Gear

The following was printed in December 2010 by the CCC in the document Ready for Business: Canada’s Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal Businesses as Equal Partners

Limited forms of on-reserve property rights leave First Nations communities at a disadvantage in their ability to leverage land for home ownership and business development. Also, some of these options are not backed by federal government resources to assist First Nations. The FNLMA, for example, does not provide for an agency capable of offering technical assistance to First Nations. As a result, First Nations’ property rights regimes often differ from reserve to reserve, creating uncertainty and relatively high transaction costs.

There is no doubt that First Nations under the Indian Act have experienced the issues referred to, I think there are few that would defend INAC control over lands and resources as being appropriate in this day and age.

The real issue here that refuses to make any sense, is that proponents of FNPOA are in fact aware of the existence of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board (LAB).  The very agency created by the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (FA) and its ratifying legislation, the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA), specifically tasked to provide political and technical services to First Nations.   The LAB and RC have been doing this for over 10 years.  For those who are legitimately unaware, it’s a fact, check it!

The second inaccuracy repeated ad nauseaum is that property rights among FA First Nations differ from reserve to reserve thereby creating uncertainty and high transaction costs.  Despite the obvious absence of any evidence, justification or example whereby this statement might actually have merit, the majority of First Nations that have land codes continue to defy the author’s expert opinions and are making great strides for themselves and their members in fostering economic development by drastically reducing or completely eliminating certain transaction costs, creating modern, transparent and accountable laws policies and land use planning while simultaneously providing more than adequate certainty for members, business, banking, land title insurance companies and other financing interests. 

Much I am sure to the chagrin of the FNPO proponents; the actual implementation of self government by FA First Nations isn’t just theory, conjecture, opinion, “pie in the sky” or fantasy.  There are measurable results, real businesses, real partnerships (And those in the works) and real First Nation reputations on the line that FNPO proponents seem blissful to disparage.   It is pretty easy to check the First Nations Lands Registry system and get a printout of all registrations that have been recorded by operational FA First Nations.  If that isn’t an option, its also pretty easy to visit one of the Framework Agreement communities and see with your own eyes what is happening.

Don’t Let the Facts Hold you back...

Still I have to hand it to the authors of the book and other proponents of FNPOA.  For the most part there doesn’t appear to be much questioning of their findings, or that of Hernando De Soto’s.  Conferences and workshops that I have attended (Where questions have been permitted) have for the most part brought out softball questions like “Do all First Nations support this?” and “How can we help?” etc, etc.  The proponents have somehow convinced their supporters, to shut off the part of their brains that do independent and critical thinking.  This is really pretty amazing if you think about it.

When I informed the CCC of their error in reprinting the inaccuracies of the book, their response was that for them it “Wasn’t an issue of accuracy or inaccuracy, just a difference of opinion”.    Maybe it’s just my opinion, but blind devotion to the details that prop up a concept often end up being a liability.

The Donner Party

Near the end of my discussion with the Director of Parliamentary relations, the CCC representative wanted me to be aware of the fact that the book “Beyond the Indian Act” was shortlisted for the Donner Prize. 4 Sadly, I was already aware, I was also aware that Tom Flanagan won this award in 2000.  It’s been noted that the Donner Foundation financed the research and paid for the publishing of the book “First Nations Second Thoughts”, they were also nice enough to award the book their “Prestigious” $25,000 prize. ...awesome....


1 Telephone conversation with the CCC director of parliamentary relations March 24th, 2011 and April 6, 2011



4 Ibid (1)

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