Jean Chretien's Legacy of Betrayal and Deceit:
An Overview of Federal Indian Policy 1968-2004 in Canada.

Source: First Nations Strategic Bulletin, Volume 2, Issue 1, August 29, 2004

By Russell Diabo

Many have called the Liberal Party the natural governing party of Canada, because the Liberals have formed most of the governments since Canadian Confederation. In fact, most of the current federal Aboriginal policies are Liberal sponsored and owe much of their origins to the influence and tenure of Jean Chrčtien, who served as Minister of Indian Affairs from July 1968 until August 1974.

Since we are on the eve of the beginning of a minority Parliament, it is important to review the legacy of Jean Chrčtien and the Liberal record, because Prime Minister Paul Martin, his advisors and the federal bureaucracy are essentially implementing Jean Chrčtiens legacy Aboriginal policies.

1968 Consultations

As Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien conducted consultations with First Nation Leaders on changes to the Indian Act. Across the country a consistent message was delivered by First Nations Leadership to the Department of Indian Affairs, which was to recognize Aboriginal and Treaty Rights!

The federal response to the consultations was to introduce a White Paper on Indian Policy.

Key Elements of 1969 Policy

* Eliminate the legislative and constitutional recognition of Indian status.

* Abolish Indian Reserves & impose taxation.

* Dismantling of Treaties.

* Off-load federal Indian programs & services onto provinces, municipalities and First Nation communities.

* Entrench economic underdevelopment.

1970s - Trudeau & Chrčtien

In response the White Paper on Indian Policy First Nations organized opposition by forming associations at regional and national levels. The National Indian Brotherhood was formed. First Nations organizations issued their own Position Papers in response to the White Paper, including the Red Paper prepared by the Indians of Alberta Association and these were presented to the federal government.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of Canada in the landmark Calder decision regarding the Nisgaa in British Columbia issued a split decision on whether Aboriginal Title existed in Canada or not, this caused legal uncertainty for the Crown governments in Canada.

The federal response of then Prime Minister Trudeau, and his Indian Affairs Minister Jean Chrčtien, was to announce modern land claims policies for negotiations with First Nations. (Comprehensive & Specific Claims)

Comprehensive Claims were deemed to be in regions of Canada where historic land Treaties werent ever made and Aboriginal Title claims by First Nations were being asserted (ie. NWT, Yukon, BC, Quebec and Atlantic region)

Specific Claims were deemed to be outstanding lawful obligations (ie. Breach of Treaties, illegal sale of Indian Reserve lands, mismanagement of Indian trust funds).

The 1970s were a time of First Nations unrest and political activity:

* A Joint NIB-Cabinet Committee was formed and then dissolved by NIB after Prime Minister Trudeau attempted to use it to rubber stamp federal Indian policy.

* A Native Peoples Caravan marched on Ottawa to protest treaty & aboriginal rights violations.

* Anishnawbe Park was occupied in Kenora, Ontario by Indians to protest racism against First Nation people.

* The James Bay & Northern Quebec Agreement was signed in 1975 ,1st Modern Treaty in Canada.

* Throughout the 1970s, DIAND proposed Indian Act amendments as a way to address First Nations demands for recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

1980 - Trudeau & Chrčtien

Then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, met in Ottawa with Chiefs from across Canada at an National Indian Brotherhood (NIB) meeting in Ottawa to announce his plans to amend the constitution and he called on their support. Trudeau implored the Chiefs to treat Canada better than Canada has treated you.

Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Jean Chrétien as federal Justice Minister and put him in charge of the constitutional negotiation process. Ron Irwin, who would later become Chrčtiens Minister of Indian Affairs in 1993, is named by Trudeau as Chrčtiens Parliamentary Secretary for Justice.

As a consequence of Trudeaus actions, constitutional issues become the priority for NIB because of concerns about the impacts on Treaty and Aboriginal Rights of changing Canadas legal status with England.

1980-81 - Trudeau & Chrčtien

After Trudeau announced his constitutional plans, Indian, Inuit & Metis representatives begin meeting with federal & provincial representatives to discuss wording for recognition of aboriginal & treaty rights in the new constitution.

In 1981, a clause recognizing Aboriginal rights was first inserted and then removed at the insistence of Western Premiers from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Aboriginal peoples responded to the removal of the Aboriginal constitutional clause by mobilizing and literally camping in Ottawa to protest and lobby federal politicians.

A train dubbed the Constitutional Express left Vancouver, BC on route to Ottawa, picked up First Nations people along the way adding to the demonstrations in Ottawa. A group from the train went on to Europe to inform Europeans about Canadas treachery in removing the Aboriginal clause from the draft constitution.

1981 Patriation Process

In the fall, some Aboriginal representatives reach agreement with the Premiers and Prime Minister Trudeau on wording for an Aboriginal Clause. This was the section 35 clause.

Another clause section 37 was also included, which provided for a First Ministers Conference to be held within 1 year of the Canada Billas it was called in the British Parliamentcoming into force.

Several First Nation organizations joined forces to go to England to launch a court action and lobby British MPs to vote against the Canada Bill until First Nations legal, constitutional concerns were addressed by the Crown governments, including the Crown in right of Great Britain.

Constitution Act 1982

Canadas new constitution was proclaimed into law on April 17, 1982, with a specific clause for protecting the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples, section 35 provided:

(1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, aboriginal peoples of Canada Includes the Indian, Inuit and Mčtis peoples of Canada.

The Constitution Act 1982 (section 37) also provided for a First Ministers Conference on Aboriginal Matters to be held within one year of the new constitution becoming law.

Also in 1982, a Special Parliamentary Committee on Indian Self-Government was established to review legal and institutional issues related to the status, development and responsibilities of band governments on Reserves.

1983 Self-Government Report

In 1983, the all-party Special Parliamentary Committee on Indian Self-Government, issued the Penner Report, named after the Chairman, Keith Penner, the Committee recommended that the federal government recognize First Nations as a distinct order of government within the Canadian federation and pursue processes leading to self-government. The Penner Report proposed constitutional entrenchment of self-government and in the short-term, the introduction of legislation to facilitate it.

1983 FMC Trudeau & Chrčtien

The 1983 First Ministers Conference (FMC) focused on sexual equality between Aboriginal men and women, self-government, as well as, need for further constitutional conferences.

A constitutional amendment was agreed to in accordance with the new constitutional amending formula. The 1983 constitutional amendment provided for amendments to section 35, regarding recognition of rights from land claims agreements set out an agenda and a schedule for 3 more FMCs on Aboriginal Matters, while agreeing to include Aboriginal representatives.

The 1983 amendments to section 35 included these additional clauses:

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) treaty rights includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

35.1 The government of Canada and the Provincial governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 f the Constitution Act ,1867, to section 25 of this Act, or to this Part,

(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada, and

(b) The Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.

1984 FMC - Trudeau/Chrčtien

Prior to the 1984 FMC Trudeau took his famous walk in the snow and announced his retirement from politics. This changed the federal-provincial dynamics of the FMC. The Premiers knew there was going to be a Liberal Leadership Convention to replace Trudeau as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The main topic of discussion turned to whether the right of self-government for Aboriginal peoples is contingent, meaning delegated versus inherent.

A federal-provincial proposed Constitutional Accord on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples was rejected by the Four National Aboriginal Organizations.

1985 - The Mulroney Years

The 1985 FMC was chaired by a new Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. In September 1984, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada had won a massive majority in Parliament. The Mulroney government initiated a two-track (constitutional & legislative) approach to First Nations self-government. A Community Based Self-Government Policy was announced.

A federal-provincial Proposed Accord relating to delegated self-government for the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada was rejected by the Four National Aboriginal Organizations because the proposal failed to recognize that self-government is an Inherent Right.

1985 - Native Policy Revealed

In 1985, the membership sections of the Indian Act were amended by Bill C-31. The Bill C-31 Indian Act amendments allowed thousands of individuals to be reinstated as Status Indianswithin the meaning of the Indian Act. This was an attempt to eliminate discrimination against status Indian women, although many still criticize the Bill as insufficient.

Also in 1985, a secret federal Cabinet submission is leaked to the media by a DIAND employee. The Report is nicknamed the Buffalo Jump of the 1980s by another federal official. The nickname referred to the effect of the recommendations in the secret Cabinet document, which if adopted, would lead Status Indians to a cultural death, hence the metaphor.

Buffalo Jump of the 1980s

The Buffalo Jump Report proposed a management approach for First Nations policy & programs, which had the following intent:

Ţ Limiting & eventually terminating the federal trust obligations;

Ţ Reducing federal expenditures for First Nations, under funding programs, and prohibiting deficit financing;

Ţ Shifting responsibility and costs for First Nations services to provinces and "advanced bands" through co-management, tri-partite, and community self-government agreements;

Ţ "Downsizing" of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) through a devolution of program administration to "advanced bands" and transfer of programs to other federal departments;

Ţ Negotiating municipal community self-government agreements with First Nations which would result in the First Nation government giving up their Constitutional status as a sovereign government and becoming a municipality subject to provincial or territorial laws;

Ţ Extinguishing aboriginal title and rights in exchange for fee simple title under provincial or territorial

law while giving the province or territory underlying title to First Nations lands.

1986 Sechelt Act

In 1986, the first self-government Act was passed, which came from the federal Community-Based Self-Government negotiations.

Jill Wherret, in a paper on Aboriginal Self- Government from the Library of Parliament describes the Sechelt Act as follows:

In May 1986, the Sechelt Indian Band Self- Government Act was passed after 15 years of negotiation and consultation. This was a specific piece of legislation that allowed the Sechelt Indian Band, located on the British Columbia coast about 50 kilometres north of Vancouver, to move toward self-government.

The Act granted authority to the Sechelt band to exercise delegated powers and negotiate agreements about specific issues. Under the legislation, the community was set up as a legal entity with the power to enter into contracts and agreements; acquire, sell and dispose of property; and spend, invest and borrow money.

The community was empowered to set up its own constitution establishing its government, membership code, legislative powers and system of financial accountability. The elected council has the power to pass laws on a range of matters, including access to and residence on Sechelt lands, administration and management of lands belonging to the band, education, social welfare and health services, and local taxation of reserve lands.

The legislation transferred fee-simple title of Sechelt lands to the band and contains a provision for the negotiation of funding agreements in the form of grants or transfer payments administered by the band council. The Sechelt Indian band has municipal status under provincial legislation.

The Sechelt Act was consistent with the recommendations of the secret Buffalo Jump objectives to change the legal and political status of Indian Bands and Indian Reserves into that of a municipality under provincial property and taxation systems.

This is more or less the template, or model of self-government that the federal government continues to peddle at negotiation table across the country.

1987 FMC - The Mulroney Era

The 1987 FMC was the last constitutionally required FMC on Aboriginal Matters. A federal-provincial Proposed Constitutional Accord on delegated self-government was once again rejected by the Four National Aboriginal Organizations.

Unknown to the Aboriginal FMC participants at the time, Prime Minister Mulroney had started secret discussions with Quebec Premier Bourassa, which would lead to the Meech Lake Accord.

1987 Meech Lake Accord

Following the final FMC on Aboriginal Matters, the Meech Lake Accord was struck over the opposition of Aboriginal representatives, signaling a side-lining of Aboriginal constitutional matters and introducing a broader constitutional agenda.

The Meech Lake Accord set into motion a three year constitutional amendment process requiring unanimous consent by the 10 provinces.

1990 The Watershed Year

In June 1990, the Liberals elected Jean Chrétien as their Leader in Calgary, Alberta. The Liberal Convention also created the Aboriginal Peoples Commission of the Liberal Party of Canada.

At the same time the Liberal Convention was held, Elijah Harper refused to give unanimous consent in the Manitoba Legislature causing the failure of Meech Lake Accords constitutional amendment.

The failure of the Meech Lake Accord led to anger among many Quebec citizens and politicians, including Premier Robert Bourassa.

On July 11, 1990, the Government of Quebec allowed a police SWAT Team to attack a Mohawk blockade, set up to stop an expansion of a golf course onto Mohawk lands, which included a burial site.

The attack on Mohawks left one policeman dead and lead to a 78 day stand-off between the Mohawks, police, and eventually the Canadian Army.

When Parliament resumed in September 1990, Brian Mulroney began the session by announcing his Four Pillars of Native Policy.

1990 Mulroneys Four Pillars

Land claims;

The economic and social conditions on Reserves;

The relationships between Aboriginal Peoples and governments;

Concerns of Canadas Aboriginal Peoples in contemporary Canadian life.

In 1991, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney also announced: the establishment of a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which began its work later that year; the establishment of an Indian Claims Commission to review Specific Claims; the establishment of a BC Task Force on Claims, which would form the basis for the BC Treaty Commission Process.

1992 Charlottetown Accord

Aboriginal organizations and the federal government agreed, as part of the 1992 Charlottetown Accord, on amendments to the Constitution Act, 1982 that would have included recognition of the inherent right

of self-government for Aboriginal people. For the first time, Aboriginal organizations had been full participants in the talks; however, the Accord was rejected in a national referendum.

1993 Liberal Aboriginal Platform

The 1993 Federal Election saw the Liberals, headed by Jean Chrétien, decimate the Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals 1993 electoral promises on Aboriginal issues were included in two documents, Chapter 7 of the 1993 Red Book, and a longer Aboriginal Platform released in Saskatchewan on October 8, 1993, during the campaign. The Liberals made the following promises:

~ Act on the premise that the Inherent Right to Self-Government is an existing Aboriginal & Treaty Right within the meaning of section 35.

~ Create, in cooperation with aboriginal peoples, an independent claims commission. The government will engage the provinces in redressing the grievances of aboriginal peoples over land and resource rights, including negotiating agreements for resource revenue sharing.

~ Seek the advice of treaty First Nations on how to achieve a mutually acceptable process to interpret the treaties in contemporary terms, while still giving full recognition to their original spirit and intent.

~ Explore new fiscal arrangements with aboriginal people. It does not make sense for the federal government to be unilaterally making policy or budgetary decisions that affect the lives of aboriginal people without their consent.

~ A liberal government will be committed to building a new partnership with aboriginal peoples that is based on trust, mutual respect and participation in the decision making process. It does not make sense for the federal government to be making policy decisions that affect the lives of aboriginal people without their involvement. A liberal government will develop a more comprehensive process for consultation between federal ministers and aboriginal representatives with respect to decision making that directly affects first nations.

~ A liberal government is committed to winding down the Department of Indian Affairs at a pace agreed upon by First Nations, while maintaining the federal fiduciary responsibility. We will work with aboriginal peoples to identify where existing federal expenditures can be redirected into more productive uses.

~ Initiate a comprehensive health policy, designed by and for aboriginal peoples, which supports an integrated approach to dealing with physical and mental health issues and incorporates traditional healing methods perhaps most importantly aboriginal children will grow up in secure families and healthy communities, with the opportunity to take their full place in Canada.

~ Will remove the cap on Post Secondary education specifically to provide adequate funding for aboriginal students accepted at colleges, universities and vocational institutes and in adult education programs and professional degree programs. A review of the Post Secondary Education Program will also be undertaken with Aboriginal Peoples to determine fair criteria for eligibility and special needs including adequate child care for students in need of such a service.

~ Will establish an Aboriginal Education Institute to specialize in curriculum development, teacher orientation, distance education, standards development.

~ Will work with aboriginal peoples to develop an approach to housing that emphasizes community control, local resources, and flexibility in design and labour requirements.

~ We must define and undertake together creative initiatives designed to achieve fairness, mutual respect and recognition of rights. The role of the liberal government will be to provide aboriginal people with the necessary tools to become self-sufficient and self-governing. Our priority will be to assist aboriginal communities in their efforts to address the obstacles and to their development and to help them marshall the human and physical resources necessary to build and sustain vibrant communities.

1995 Inherent Right Policy

In 1995, the Chrétien government broke the promise to recognize the inherent right to self-government by adopting an Aboriginal Self-Government Policy, which recognizes the right in an abstract sense but doesnt recognize that any particular First Nation has the right on the ground.

David Nahwegahbow, former Co-Chair of the Liberals Aboriginal Peoples Commission describes the 1995 Self-Government policy as follows:

In 1995, Irwin released the federal policy on self-government. Though it purported to fulfill the Aboriginal Platform commitment to recognize the inherent right of self-government, in fact, the policy was hollow. It recognized the existence of the inherent right in the abstract, but refused to recognize that First Nations actually possessed this right. The policy required First Nations to negotiate with the federal government before the right of self-government would be recognized or exercised. Moreover, the policy contained numerous conditions and restrictions on these negotiations.

Contrary to the promises in the Aboriginal Platform, the federal self-government policy was developed without the consultation and cooperation of First Nations. Understandably, it was rejected by the Assembly of First Nations right after it was introduced.

1996 Indian Act Amendments

In 1996, Ron Irwin, then Minister of Indian Affairs, initiated a process to amend the Indian Act, even though it wasnt part of the 1993 Liberal Aboriginal Platform.

In response, the Assembly of First Nations conducted a review of the amendment package and recommended to First Nations that they reject the Indian Act amendments as regressive and unconstitutional.

1996 RCAP Report Dismissed

In the Fall of 1996 the Final Report & Recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was made public. The report involved 5 volumes with some 440 recommendations.

The Chrétien government dismissed the RCAP report and recommendations as too costly, and asserted that Liberal policies already addressed much of what was in the RCAP Report.

Burning the 1993 Red Book

David Nahwegahbow, former Liberal Aboriginal Commission Co-Chair, describes the reaction to Chrčtiens record of betrayal and broken promises as follows:

I, and several other members of the Aboriginal Commission Marilyn Buffalo and Russell Diabo finally came to the conclusion that Mr. Chrétien did not intend to honor his promises in the Aboriginal Platform.

So, we broke with the Liberal Party and denounced Chrétien for not honoring his election promises to First Nations. We joined Ovide Mercredi, then National Chief, in burning the Redbook. At the time, Finance Minister Paul Martin did not escape our criticism either, though I acknowledge that Indian Affairs was not his portfolio, and as such there were limits on what he could do to implement the Platform.

Bill C-79 - Indian Act II

In December of 1996, then Minister of Indian Affairs, Ron Irwin, introduced Bill C-79 into Parliament over the objections of First Nations. The Bill died on the order paper in June 1997, when a federal election was called.

By the fall of 1997, with a new Minister of Indian Affairs, Jane Stewart, and a new AFN National Chief, Phil Fontaine, a compromise deal was then struck between AFN and the federal government on a watered down federal response to the RCAP Report & recommendations.

1998 Gathering Strength Policy

In January of 1998, the federal government issued a Statement of Reconciliation regarding the residential schools. All national; Aboriginal organizations, except the Native Womens Association of Canada, accepted the federal response on Residential Schools. Many Residential School Survivors also rejected the federal Statement.

The federal RCAP response was contained in the policy statement Gathering Strength and another policy statement called An Agenda for Action with First Nations. The Gathering Strength and Agenda for Action statements merely built on existing federal policies and negotiation processes and didnt fundamentally change the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and the Crown governments as the RCAP report had recommended.

2003 - Suite of Legislation

In 2003, while ignoring the Liberal promises of 1993, and the 1996 RCAP recommendations, Robert Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs, proceeded to introduce three Bills into Parliament.

Ţ Bill C-6: The Specific Claims Resolution Act;

Ţ Bill C-7: The First Nations Governance Act;

Ţ Bill C-19: The First Nations Fiscal & Statistical Management Act.

These Bills were called a suite of legislation by Nault, and were rejected by a majority of First Nations across Canada because they violated the Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of First Nations.

Bill C-6 - Specific Claims Act

^ Narrows the definition of claims;

^ Caps claims to $10 million to go to proposed claims tribunal, despite vast majority of claims are estimated to be over the cap;

^ Claims over $10 million will lose access to the independent inquiries and reports;

^ The federal government reneged on its commitment to the Joint Task Force Report and model mutually agreed upon by First Nations and the Department of Indian Affairs.

^ Claims Body will not be independent or impartial, because federal government unilaterally controls the appointment of Commissioners and members of Tribunal despite a Liberal Red Book promise to a joint First Nation-federal appointment process;

^ Will lead to more delays, not less, federal delays are authorized and rewarded.

Bill C-7 - FNGA

The First Nations Governance Act (FNGA):

~ Created with improper and deceptive consultations;

~ Imposed the exact opposite of Self- Government, which is continued federal domination and control over our lives;

~ Didnt address the real needs of First Nations, such as health, housing, education, employment;

~ Would have terminated the existence of Indian Bands, Chiefs and Councils by imposing a corporate, municipal status;

~ Would have legislatively terminated the existence of custom First Nations;

~ Would have eroded and undermined collective rights by imposing the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms;

~ Would have been enforced by Canadas police forces and/or the Canadian Army, in conjunction with Canadas new security law, upon all First Nations (custom & elective systems);

~ Restricted First Nations lawmaking to delegated municipal powers on Indian Act Reserves only, not traditional/treaty territories;

~ Increased not decreased the powers of the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, federal officials and the federal Cabinet over all First Nations, by granting the federal government powers to develop and approve in secret, national regulations regarding leadership selection, and governance.

Bill C-19 - Fiscal Institutions Act

Chief Roberta Jamieson, Portfolio Holder for the Chiefs of Ontario on the Suite of Legislation, and Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River, summarizes the negative impacts of the proposed First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act, Bill C-23 (formerly C-19) as follows:

· Become like municipalities with property tax system.

· Gives rights to non-member taxpayers on reserve.

· Increased federal control over financial affairs with imposition of more rules & regulations.

· Promotes culture of compliance with increased accountability to outside governments & not to our people.

· Reduced federal liability.

· Reduced federal funding transfers.

1969 - 2003 Federal Objectives

From the 1969 White Paper, the Buffalo Jump Report right up to the 2003 Suite of Legislation, the Liberal (and Conservative) government has maintained the following objectives:

Ţ Assimilation of First Nations.

Ţ Remove legislative recognition.

Ţ Neutralize constitutional status.

Ţ Impose taxation.

Ţ Encourage provincial encroachment.

Ţ Eliminate Reserve lands & extinguish Aboriginal Title.

Ţ Economic underdevelopment.

Ţ Dismantle Treaties.

Paul Martin Keeps Chrčtien Policies

Since his swearing-in as Prime Minister on December 12, 2003, Paul Martin has used Aboriginal ceremonies and events in an attempt to create a public image of benevolence towards Aboriginal peoples.

However, the actions of the Martin government to date indicate that Paul Martins new relationship with Aboriginal Peoples is symbolic and not substantive.

Like Jean Chrčtien, Paul Martin is ignoring the 1993 Liberal promises and most of the RCAP recommendations, in favour of maintaining Jean Chrčtiens Aboriginal Legacy policies of assimilation and termination.

The so-called Canada-Aboriginal Roundtable of April 19, 2004, offered simply a process for tinkering with programs and services.

The federal objectives outlined above remain unchanged under Paul Martins government. As outlined in the last issue of the Bulletin, there is a federal melting plot for Aboriginal-Canadians being implemented by Paul Martins Liberals.

Reproduced from Friends of Grassy Narrows.