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The beating goes on & on…

Aboriginals have limited constitutional rights

UPDATES: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Canada’s federal government, affirms fundamental human rights in relation to the particular historical and contemporary circumstances of Aboriginal peoples. It echoes fundamental values, embraced by the Canadian constitutional tradition, of self-determination, equality, local decision-making and secure property, and respect for cultural identity.

“Our inherent and treaty rights are internationally recognized and constitutionally protected. There’s an obligation on the Canadian government to respect and begin a relationship that will look at resource revenue sharing in this country. Our natural resources were not ceded nor surrendered. As a party to Treaty No. 6, it is clear that a sharing of lands with the newcomers was for settlement purposes only. There was no surrender of the lands and resources. If the government want to use those lands and resources, they would have been subject to further negotiations as understood by the Treaty,” stated Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation.

A recent Ontario Superior Court decision has reaffirmed that neither the Crown nor mining companies may ignore their “duty to consult” before beginning mineral exploration on Crown lands that lie within the traditional territory of First Nations.

In August 2011, Ontario Justice Mary- Anne Sanderson ruled that Aboriginal rights to hunt and trap are enshrined in the Treaty 3 agreement signed in 1873 with the federal government. According to the 312-page judgment, Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally limit Treaty Rights by “taking up lands under the Treaty” for forestry, mineral development, settlement or other purposes. The Court said that before the province can issue land authorizations that would substantially interfere with Treaty harvesting rights to hunt, trap and fish, it must obtain the approval of the federal government.

Provincial attempts to infringe such Treaty rights “are ineffective” due to a combination of Canada’s jurisdiction over Indians under section 91(24) of The Constitution Act, 1867 and the special protection afforded to Treaty rights under section 88 of the Indian Act. “We ask them to “get over the past” and join modern Canada, but we haven't invested a moment of time into showing them how. When remote reserves slide into crisis because of chronic poverty and a lack of training, Canadians respond by rearing up into high intellectual dudgeon about the “Indian problem.” The chiefs are corrupt! It's the fault of the feds! The provinces are to blame. It is this incessant bureaucrat ic hampering that has brought a once selfreliant people to their knees.

We can leave them there, out of sight and out of mind, sleeping in shifts in mouldy homes while we engage in grandiose philosophical discourse. Or we just offer to lend a hand.

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