AFN Supports First Nations Driving Change for Government to Government Relationship, Meaningful Engagement by all Jurisdictions
- From: Tash Cote [mailto:TCote@...]
Sent: May-02-13 1:54 PM
Subject: AFN Supports First Nations Driving Change for Government to Government Relationship, Meaningful Engagement by all Jurisdictions
May 2, 2013
Assembly of First Nations Supports First Nations Driving Change for Government to Government Relationship, Meaningful Engagement by all Jurisdictions
(Ottawa, ON) - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo expressed support for Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation in their assertion and protection of the First Nation's inherent and Treaty rights as contemplated within the Treaty relationship, and continues to urge the federal government and provinces of Ontario and Manitoba to engage in an approach that respects these rights and the government to government relationship between First Nations, Canada and the provinces.
"I and the Assembly of First Nations national executive stand in full support of Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation and all First Nations asserting and protecting their rights in ways that will make positive change for their Nation, people and communities," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "As stewards of the land, First Nations have a continuing responsibility to protect the lands, waters, and vital resources bestowed upon them. This is a continuing responsibility to our ancestors to see their vision through - a vision of shared prosperity and success for all our peoples. Of equal importance is the responsibility to our future generations to insure that they inherit a prosperous and sustainable future. Positive change is upon us, and it starts with fully engaging all jurisdictions in a new approach that will see our peoples and communities thriving. I strongly encourage all levels of government to fully engage with Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation and others pressing for change."
The lack of sustained commitment by governments to engage by accountable mechanisms, create government to government partnerships, or follow a mutually developed consultation process with the Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation has resulted in negative impacts directly at the community level affecting the lives of the Nation's families and children, including pollution of Shoal Lake and reduction of access to harvesting rights, destruction of traditional food resources, and severely increasing demands on a deteriorating infrastructure. This has resulted in the destruction of the First Nation's economy and has generated poverty, severing of traditional and treaty rights, interests and title that places our youth on a negative trail for social development.
In an April 5, 2013 letter to Aboriginal Affairs Ministers David Zimmer (Ontario) and Eric Robinson (Manitoba), Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation Chief Eli Mandamin expressed keen interest in creating an "enduring government to government mechanism between (the) Nation, Canada and the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba".
"Treaty is a relationship that requires an ongoing ability to address matters fully and openly respectful of all interests," wrote Chief Mandamin in the April 5 letter to both Ministers. "Through a process as we describe here, the opportunity to move forward in the best interests of all emerges. Realizing the treaty requirement of consent and achieving free, prior and informed consent as affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) should not be seen as a barrier or threat against development but rather as a guiding principle that will facilitate and enable sustainable, responsible development through respectful partnership."
Chief Mandamin wrote a similar letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper also on April 5, further outlining the need for a sustained government-to-government relationship between First Nations and the Crown. In the letter, Chief Mandamin states: "Canada's unilateral attempts to make laws affecting the treaty relationship will be viewed as a violation of the treaty as understood by our people, and as understood within international jurisprudence, and will only impact the rest of the Canadian settler state". The letter to the Prime Minister underscores Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation's concern with Canada's approach of legislating in areas that affect the treaty relationship without meaningful consultation and agreement between First Nations and the Crown.
In particular, the City of Winnipeg's taking of water from Shoal Lake, in cooperation with the provinces of Ontario and Manitoba, without either consulting the Nation or receiving the Nation's consent as required by Treaty #3 has detrimentally impacted the Nation's right to food and to the territory. Shoal Lake is now used as a "hands off" lake solely for the right of the City of Winnipeg to take water resources. This in turn severs any appurtenant rights, titles or interests that Iskatewizaagegan may consider within their own territory. The building of dams on Lake of the Woods have resulted in the flooding of Shoal Lake and have destroyed a pristine resource rich area enjoyed since time immemorial by Iskatewizaagegan.
"Winnipeg's continuing use of water from Shoal Lake has had substantial impacts on our community, for instance by harming our wild rice harvesting and our fisheries," said Chief Mandamin in a December 2012 press release. "We have felt these impacts for 100 years without anyone asking us how this would affect us. And now they want to start selling the water to even more users - and still no one is talking to us. We have always remained willing to sit down with Winnipeg to resolve this. So far, we've been ignored."
Furthermore, the joint project of Canada and the province of Ontario to expand the Trans-Canada highway will further fragment the First Nation's traditional and Treaty territory. The improper planning on the part of the province has already endangered sacred sites. The lack of meaningful involvement on the part of the Nation in this project will negatively impact the Nation's rights related to access and availability of traditional food resources. Furthermore, as others benefit economically from these developments, the Nation and its people find themselves with little to gain from these projects.
"The path forward requires full partnership as per the original spirit and intent of Treaty." said National Chief Atleo. "It is critical that Canada and both provinces come to the table in a meaningful way to jointly map a way forward with Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent Nation that ensures a full voice and a share in the sustainability and development of their lands and territories. The AFN remains committed to assisting the Nation in its efforts resolve these issues."
Iskatewizaagegan No 39 Independent Nation, also known as Shoal Lake 39 is in Treaty 3 territory on the border between Ontario and Manitoba near Winnipeg.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@...<mailto:jyoung@...>
Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@...<mailto:agaron@...>
FRENCH TO FOLLOW
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