Indianz.Com > News > Opinion: A new Native insurgency threatens Canada’s sovereignty

“Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, on recalling the 1990 national emergency at Oka, Que., carefully warned Canadians that “First Nations are ever-mindful of the potential that these events could be repeated.” It would be a grave mistake for Canadian leaders to dismiss his words as mere political rhetoric.

via Indianz.Com > News > Opinion: A new Native insurgency threatens Canada’s sovereignty.

Tasha Kheiriddin: Forget the census. Let’s have some big ideas | Full Comment | National Post

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

Greetings from suburbia! I hope your summer vacation is going well. Not that you’ve had much of a holiday. First you take the heat on your government’s massive spending on the G20. Then protesters turn Toronto into a war zone. And now the nation is consumed with a debate over the most arcane of issues: the census.

So I thought I would help you out. Instead of shooting yourself in the foot over these distractions, why not go for the real red meat? Why not tackle some issues of consequence that deserve the kind of debate now being lavished on your war on Statistics Canada?

via Tasha Kheiriddin: Forget the census. Let’s have some big ideas | Full Comment | National Post.

Harper’s census push months in the making – The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided at the end of December to scrap the mandatory long-form census despite being told by Statistics Canada officials that important data would likely be lost or impaired as a result.

via Harper’s census push months in the making – The Globe and Mail.

Tattered act reflects racism of the colonial era

Once again we hear the cry to get rid of the Indian Act. Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says the act must be repealed within two to five years.

He made the statement in his opening speech to the AFN’s annual assembly being held in Winnipeg.

I’ve heard this challenge being made since the 1960s, with Jean Chretien’s infamous white paper on Indian Policy dropped on us in 1969.

via Tattered act reflects racism of the colonial era.

A Systems check on Democracy

Senate Committee to study Indian Act elections

By Senator Patrick Brazeau

It’s been said that “a politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.” Whether you’re dealing with politicians, statesmen or both there can be no denying the singular and fundamental importance of elections.

This is perhaps never truer than it is for First Nations citizens living on Indian Act reserves.

First Nations governance, and the electoral processes which guide it, are fraught with challenges. In communities that continued to be governed by on outdated, colonial and paternal statute from the 19th century there is much to be done to ensure that governance structures are accountable, transparent and democratic.

More importantly, it is essential that the people governed under this election regime are confident that their system is working effectively, transparently and accountably.

As parliamentarians, one of the key roles of the Senate of Canada is to be the place of “sober second thought”. One of the key ways we achieve this mission is through study – of legislation, and via the system of Senate Standing Committees, issues of importance to Canadians.

One of the committees upon which I am privileged to sit is the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. In this parliamentary session our committee has agreed to study the matter of Indian Act elections in First Nations communities. To this end, the committee has been hearing from a series of witnesses for several weeks. Our next step in our study will involve fieldwork and the visiting of communities in selected areas of the country.

Working in cooperation with the Assembly of First Nations, members of the committee will undertake regional visits in Manitoba, Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan. It should emphasized that the study will examine only elections carried out under the auspices of the Indian Act. More than half of First Nations communities opt to conduct elections by way of custom codes.

While the Senate Committee will not be examining the matter of custom elections in these regional visits the issue has been informed by the appearance of several expert witnesses thus far.

One of the key issues the Committee will examine in its study of Indian Act elections is that of term lengths for Chiefs and Band Councils. It is conventionally thought that the current two-year term is problematic for a variety of reasons.

The brief term length does not promote stability, is far from conducive to promoting economic development and business investment and results in more time spent on campaigning than on increasing the capacity and effectiveness of elected administrations.

This matter is the key thrust of our regional visits. I believe it is also fundamental to the issue of greater accountability of Chiefs and Band Councils to their communities and those who are entitled to vote for them.

There are so many issues surrounding elections and the impacts they bring. As First Nations citizens there are numerous issues to reflect upon and consider.

These include:

– The protection of your Charter rights and in your particular, your right to vote whether you live on- or off-reserve;

– The responsibility of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and its fiduciary duty to First Nations communities, particularly in respect of elections and overseeing challenges to election results;

– The impact of remedial financial management undertakings, including Third Party Management, and its relationship to and impact on elections;

– The degree of transparency there is around elections and the administration of band governance, and whether there are redress mechanisms readily available to grassroots community members wishing to challenge their Chief or council ;

It is very important that your voice be heard in this study. While it is always productive to work with the leadership, any study purporting to review matters pertaining to elections can only be truly successful if it is rooted in dialogue with the cornerstones of democracy: the people.

I’d like to hear from you. Send me your ideas, your comments and your stories and I will share them with my Senate Committee colleagues – and look for more information in the days to come on the schedule for our visits. I also commit to you that I will share our findings in future columns and augment what I hope will be a lengthy and productive dialogue between us.

Again, your input is key to this endeavour, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Senator Patrick Brazeau

Senate of Canada

brazep@sen.parl.gc.ca