“Idle No More from years ago, it might go the same way.” —Ermineskin First Nation Chief Craig Makinaw
Updated with comment from Minister Carolyn Bennett's office Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018:
Our government is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. We are actively engaging with partners on the Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework. Since last spring, Minister Bennett has led more than 100 engagement sessions with Indigenous organizations, communities and people to develop the Framework.
We continue to make substantial progress in accelerating the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights through policy changes and the development of the Recognition of Rights and Self-Determination Tables.
We look forward to our continued work with our partners on developing this crucial framework.
By Shari Narine
First Nation chiefs from Alberta will keep the pressure on Ottawa until they have confirmation that the federal government has shelved the Rights Recognition and Implementation Framework.
Ermineskin First Nation Chief Craig Makinaw says that despite a visit to the province from Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett earlier this week, there has been no official word that legislation will not be introduced by the Trudeau government before the next election.
The waters have been muddied by contradictory reports. On Nov. 14, CBC News wrote the Indigenous rights legislation may not be introduced before voters go to the polls in 2019. That same day, the Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous think tank, that analysed the framework and found it wanting, announced that the framework was dead—“for now”.
On Nov. 15, the Indigenous Activists Network ((IAN), which includes Idle No More, released a statement calling the CBC report “misleading press” and shared in its entirety a Nov. 14 statement from Minister Bennett’s office which said, in part, “Our government is committed to advancing the framework and to continue actively engaging with partners on its content.”
Makinaw has seen the reports, but wants direct word from the minister that makes the government’s intentions clear.
On Nov. 13, the same day Bennett was in Little Buffalo, Alta. to help celebrate the $113-million Lubicon Lake Band’s land claim settlement, the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs released a statement making clear the Nations have rejected the framework.
Chiefs have also individually sent letters to Bennett or stated publicly that “Canada's aggressive agenda to expedite plans to create legislation designed to deny our rights to lands and resources have been done all without our Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).”
Windspeaker.com sent an email to the Crown-Indigenous Relations department asking for a copy of any recent statement made by Bennett regarding the framework legislation. The department did not respond.
The statement included in IAN’s news release is not available on the Crown-Indigenous Relations website.
The latest statement on the website related to the legislation is dated Sept. 19 and is an update on the engagement process.
The Assembly of First Nations has heard nothing from the government about shelving the framework legislation.
“The AFN has not received any official word from the government by letter or any other formal means, and that's what AFN would want to see in terms of confirming the government's plans,” said AFN spokesman Don Kelly in an email.
In a one-on-one interview with Bennett on Oct. 24, the minister told Windspeaker.com that there were no plans to reset or halt the work her government had begun this past spring on the framework.
Makinaw said an upcoming AFN Special Chiefs Assembly on Dec. 4 to Dec. 6 in Ottawa could prove pivotal.
“We’ll have to see what happens Dec. 4 and from there we’ll have a better idea of what to do next,” he said.
Resolutions – not yet posted on the AFN website – could guide the process, said Makinaw. The agenda is also not yet posted on the website.
Kelly says Bennett has been invited to address the chiefs and delegates at the assembly. The minister has not yet responded. If she does attend, he says there will be “an expectation” that she speaks to the status of the framework legislation.
A rally organized by the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and Indigenous youth for Dec. 4 on Parliament Hill will still go ahead. Alberta chiefs will be involved in that, said Makinaw.
That rally, said IAN spokesman Russ Diabo in a news release, is “to denounce the federal approach as colonial.…”
Makinaw says any framework legislation must be First Nations-led, something that has not happened so far.
If the federal government is still intent on moving forward with its process, Makinaw said, “Idle No More from years ago, it might go the same way.”