Putting First Nations issues in context

"The situation of Métis, Inuit, and First Nations peoples is one of the most complex and persistent challenges for the Federal Government"

We have seen a fair amount of coverage in the news lately on First Nations’ issues.  In this first installment on the First Nations, think it might be helpful to put this into an historical context.

The situation of Métis, Inuit, and First Nations peoples is one of the most complex and persistent challenges for the Federal Government.

Successive Liberal and Conservative Governments have failed to establish an agreement on the place of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian federation, and their average living conditions remain far below other Canadians.

Aboriginal issues capture mainstream public interest in a cyclical way, when a crisis emerges. The IdleNoMore movement (INM) arose as a protest against changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which were part of the Conservative’s 2012 budget implementation bill, but quickly became a nation-wide peaceful protest movement that has galvanized Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians to demand change.

Popular pressure and a hunger strike prompted a high-level meeting with the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in January, after which the Prime Minister agreed to provide oversight of the file. AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo’s decision to attend the meeting on the Prime Minister’s terms was controversial among First Nations, and revealed a divide between First Nations leadership and a grassroots movement increasingly frustrated with the status quo.

The Aboriginal population represents approximately 4per cent of Canada’s overall population. According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census, there are approximately 1.7 million people who identify as having some First Nations, Inuit or Métis heritage in Canada, among whom almost 1.2 million report an “Aboriginal Identity”, marking a stronger attachment to that heritage.  Of this number, almost 400,000 are Métis, 50,000 are Inuit and the others (700,000) have “North American Indian” background.

Half of Aboriginal peoples in Canada are under the age of 25, and the population is growing at 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the country. This makes Aboriginal peoples the youngest and fastest growing population segment in the country, which will increase the significance of this demographic over time.

In 1969, the Trudeau Government published a white paper on “Indian policy” that recommended scrapping the Indian Act, abolishing the Indian Affairs Department’s special programs, and transferring Indian lands to Indian people and away from ownership by reserves.

Aboriginal leaders denounced the white paper as a recipe for assimilation. They said it rejected their special standing in Canada as the original occupiers of the land.  The Federal NDP joined them in this position.

Trudeau relented and in 1982, existing Aboriginal and treaty rights were recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution. Despite several Government policy moves towards recognizing self-government, successive Liberal and Conservative Governments have failed to make progress on establishing a true “nation-to-nation” relationship.

Following the 1990 Oka Crisis, the Federal Government created a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). In 1996, RCAP made over 400 recommendations including that the Indian Act be replaced by a third order of government for Indigenous peoples within Canada. This was welcomed by a majority of Indigenous peoples as well as the Federal NDP. Progress on implementing the recommendations has been very slow, and most is left undone.

In 2005, just as they were heading to certain defeat after a decade in power, the Martin Government put forward the Kelowna Accord.

In the Accord they pledged a $5.1-billion budget plan to address the low standard of living of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada so that it would be equal to that of all other Canadians.

When the Harper Government came to power, it promised to meet the targets of the Accord, but has failed to do so.

In 2008, the Federal Government issued an Official Apology to the Survivors of Residential Schools. In his speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged the important role NDP Leader Jack Layton had played in pushing for the apology to take place.

(To be continued in First Nations Part II)

Alex Atamanenko

BC Southern Interior

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

A wildfire near Cottonwood Lake was put out by Nelson firefighters Sunday night. Photo: Submitted
Wildfire extinguished near Cottonwood Lake

Lightning-caused fire was near one of Nelson’s water sources

West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air leaving Castlegar airport in July

The airline says market can’t handle two airlines

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read