Dear Prime Minister Harper and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston:
Firstly, I am a descendant of Settlers who came to North America from Europe as I believe you are as well – and took lands largely unjustly from First Nations peoples who had lived on Turtle Island for millenia. This land was not ‘discovered’ it and its peoples were ‘conquered’ often with the intentional use of genocide – both physical and cultural genocide.
The Canadian Government has proposed or enacted new legislation and amended existing laws that terminate many First Nations’ treaty rights. Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation began a hunger strike on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, which is located on un-ceded Algonquin territory. The strike has entered its 12th day.
Government Omnibus Bill C-45, plus the following proposed bills will directly affect First Nations communities:
- C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act
- S-2 Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Right Act
- S-6 First Nations Elections Act
- S-8 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
- C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
- S-207 An Act to amend the Interpretation Act
- S-212 First Nations Self-Government Recognition and the “First Nations” Private Ownership Act
I call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian government to stop violating the constitutionally protected Aboriginal treaty rights in lands, waters and resources and to meet with Chief Spence. I also call on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II or her representative the Right Honourable David Johnston to join the discussion.
The Indigenous people of Canada have been colonized and patronized for far too long. Your government has apologized for the grievous wrongs perpetrated by the Residential Schools. But the passage of these Bills by your government does not look like the kinds of actions that should follow such an apology.
A treaty is a covenant between two parties. In the various treaties between many First Nations and firstly the British Crown and then the Canadian government, the First Nations believed they were sharing lands and resources with the new Settlers and their governments. They did not think that the Settler governments would time after time come and try to take more land and resources from the First Nations, but this is what is still happening with the blessing of your government. Shame on we Settler Canadians who are permitting this.
While the First Nations have lived up to their side of the Treaties, we Settlers and our governments have not. If I am not mistaken, even with the Attawapiskat First Nation, $millions in the form of diamonds are being mined and removed from their territory, yet they receive no royalties from this resource and their people do not even have adequate housing, schools and even food. This is shameful beyond belief and makes Canada a pariah in the eyes of the community of nations who see how we not only neglect the First nations people but continue to steal from the small parcels of land that we have left to their people. I believe that Ontario has agreed to the principle that First Nations must be consulted and the First Nations must have terms they can agree with before any resource extraction takes place on First Nations traditional territories – not just the tiny reserves with no economic base that our governments have left them
I know what I am speaking of because I have personally participated as an ally with several First Nations such as the Grassy Narrows First Nation, Six Nations, Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Beausoleil First Nation – all in Ontario – as attempts have been made by Settler corporations and governments to steal from them or environmentally violate their lands and resources. These kinds of disrespectful actions must stop and First Nations’ concerns for their environments, which they believe will sustain them for many generations, must be respected as part of our Treaty responsibilities.
We whose ancestors came to this continent from Europe and other places did not ‘discover’ this land, we took it by conquest. We need to stop the conquest that is still going on. I believe this may be what Chief Spence is saying as she endangers her life with a hunger strike – she is saying No to any further conquest. It is also why young and old First Nations people and their allies are marching as part of the ‘Idle No More’ movement all across Canada, which I wholeheartedly support.
Please go and listen to Chief Spence. It is time to stop telling First Nations people what to do, time to stop stealing from them and sit down and listen to how they want to live and what they want to do with the land that is truly theirs.
I expect a response from both of you regarding how you have listened and acted.