Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, No 13 (4 March 1983)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Parliament, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, No 13 (4 March 1983).
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HOUSE OF COMMONS
Issue No. 13
In Regina, Saskatchewan
Friday, March 4, 1983
Chairman: Mr. Keith Penner
Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence
of the Special Committee on
The status, development and responsibilities of Band
governments on Indian reserves, as well as the financial
relationships between the Government of Canada and
(See back cover)
First Session of the
Thirty-second Parliament, 1980-81-82-83
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON
Chairman: Mr. Keith Penner
Vice-Chairman: Mr. Stan Schellenberger
Clerk of the Special Committee
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 1983
The Special Committee on Indian Self-Government met in Regina, Saskatchewan at 9:58 o’clock a.m., this day, the Vice-Chairman, Mr. Schellenberger presiding.
Members of the Committee present: Messrs. Gingras, Manly and Schellenberger.
Ex-officio member present: From the Assembly of First Nations: Ms Roberta Jamieson.
Liaison members present: From the Native Women’s Association of Canada: Ms Sandra Isaac. From the Native Council of Canada: Mr. Clem Chartier.
In attendance: From the Research Branch of the Library of Parliament: Mrs. Barbara Reynolds.
Witnesses: From the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan: Mr. Jim Sinclair, President; Mr. Jim Durocher, Provincial Treasurer and Mr. Rob Millen, Legal Counsel. From the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association: Ms Georgina Fisher, President; Ms Myrelene Ranville, Consultant; Ms Vicky Wilson, Northern Co-ordinator and Ms Leona Blondeau, Executive Director. From the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments: Mr. Michael J. Blackman, Chairman; Mr. Max Morin, Vice-Chairman; Mr. George Smith, Overseer, Pinehouse Local Community Authority N°9 and Mr. Lawrence Yew, M.L.A., Cumberland Constituency.
The Committee resumed consideration of its Order of Reference dated Wednesday, December 22. 1982. (See Minutes of Proceedings, Wednesday. December 22, 1982, Issue N°1.)
Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Durocher each made a statement and, with Mr. Millen, answered questions.
In accordance with a motion of the Committee at the meeting held on Wednesday, December 22, 1982, the Chairman authorized that the following documents tabled by Mr. Durocher be filed as an exhibit with the Clerk of the Committee: (Exhibit “O”)
i) Letter to all Members of Parliament and Senate of Canada
ii) Brief to the Special Committee on Indian Self-Government of the House of Commons
(iii) Charter of Rights and Freedom of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
iv) Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program
v) Federal-Provincial Meeting of First Ministers on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters
vi) Revised Charter of Rights of the Metis
Ms Fisher made a statement and, with Ms Ranville, Ms Wilson and Ms Blondeau, answered questions.
At 12:34 o’clock pm., the sitting was suspended.
At 12:46 o’clock p.m., the sitting resumed. Mr. Blackman and Mr. Morin each made a statement.
Mr. Smith, through the interpretation of Mr. Yew, made a statement.
Mr. Yew made a statement.
Mr. Blackman and Mr. Morin each made another statement.
In accordance with a motion of the Committee at the Meeting held on Wednesday, December 22, 1982, the Chairman authorized that the copy of Bill C-61, An Act respecting Local Government in Northern Saskatchewan tabled by the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Government be filed as an exhibit with the Clerk of the Committee (Exhibit “P”).
At 1:57 o’clock p.m., the Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.
Clerk of the Committee
(Recorded by Electronic Apparatus)
Friday, March 4, 1983
The Vice-Chairman: We had an early morning ending to our hearings last night in Saskatoon, but we all look surprisingly fresh and ready to go.
The Special Committee on Indian Self-Government was formed by parliamentary order. We have the terms of reference and we are intending to complete our hearings across Canada sometimes in June. We hope to make a report to Parliament by September 15. That is presently our schedule.
We have members of Parliament from each of the three political parties: Mr. Jim Manly from British Columbia, representing the New Democratic Party; Mr. René Gingras from Abitibi, Quebec. representing the Liberal Party; and myself, Stan Schellenberger, representing the Conservative Party, from Wetaskawin, Alberta.
We also have on this committee for the first time something that the committee demanded to help us in our deliberations, an ex officio member from the Assembly of First Nations, Ms Roberta Jamieson. She has all the powers of a member of Parliament on the committee, except she does not have the power to vote. We could not give that to her at the present time. She is of great assistance to us as we cross the country because of the ability that we do not have of being an Indian.
We also have with us two liaison members—the terms are confusing—from the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Sandra Isaac, and from the Native Council of Canada, Mr. Clem Chartier. The proposal is working very well and we are pleased to have these members with the parliamentary committee.
We would now like to ask our first witnesses, from the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan, to present to us their brief: Mr. Jim Sinclair, President; Mr. Jim Durocher, Provincial Treasurer; and Mr. Rob Milen, who is the Legal Counsel.
Welcome to the committee. If you would like now to proceed, that would be in order.
Mr. Jim Sinclair (President, Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians): We are glad to meet with you people today. I think first of all Mr. Durocher will read the presentation, and then I will comment on it, because we want to bring you up to date on what has been happening to yesterday or as early as this morning. Then we would like people maybe to ask us some questions. But first of all, what is your usual time limit for the presentation in terms of the total presentation of questions and answers?
The Vice-Chairman: We are usually within an hour to an hour and a half, depending on . . .
Mr. Sinclair: We will not be that long. I will then have Mr. Durocher read the written part of our proposal and I will comment verbally on it.
Mr. Jim Durocher (Provincial Treasurer, Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians):
Mr. Chairman, members of the special committee, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for giving us this opportunity to be able to present this paper here this morning.
I have one paper that I would like to read; it is not really that long. It will be followed by a letter which was sent to the members of Parliament and the Senate of Canada, and it is only about a page and a half. So I will now proceed with the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan brief.
First of all, the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan is the last in a long line of self-help and self-defence organizations established by the Métis, stretching back to the popular movements in the 18th and 19th Century led by Cuthbert Grant, Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and others. And I have three papers which I have already given to your clerk on my way in.
Today, it is estimated that the Métis Society of Saskatchewan or the Métis Association of Non-Status Indians represents approximately 65,000 individuals, of whom approximately 10,000 are voting members affiliated in 122 locals spread through 11 regions across Saskatchewan.
The objectives of the Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan are to support the Métis and Non-Status Indians in their struggle for a land base and self-government—a struggle for economic and political control over their own lives.
The association carries on its business at the local level in four languages: Cree, Chipewyan, French and English.
AMNSIS administers an annual budget in excess of $4 million. This does not include the moneys spent by our 122 locals on projects in their own areas and locals.
Our interests and programs cover concerns such as aboriginal rights research. We study and research the history of the loss of land by Métis people and the whole question of a fair land claims settlement.
Education and cultural protection: we have founded the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Applied Arts and Science, a post-secondary educational institution designed to serve the goals and needs of Saskatchewan’s Métis and Non-Status Indian peoples.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would like to table the SUNTEP . . . We gave it to your clerk as we were on our way in. We also have a Gabriel Dumont information pamphlet, which was . . . and the STEP program, as well, which was also submitted to your clerk.
Communications: we publish a regular monthly magazine, the New Breed. We are currently expanding into radio and television programming.
Economic development: we are incorporating an economic development foundation to help develop small-scale aboriginal businesses and other ventures to provide economic independence.
Employment Outreach: this is a program to bring Métis and Non-Status Indian people looking for work together with employers in need of the skills our people can offer. We are prepared to offer on-the-job training to benefit both.
Housing: this program provides and develops acceptable housing for Métis and non-status Indian people.
Native Alcohol Council: we are using aboriginal people to educate and rehabilitate people of aboriginal ancestry who desire treatment for alcoholism.
The rights of the Métis: at the current constitutional talks, the Métis are elaborating upon their rights to a land base and self-government. The principle of a Métis land base is a key element of self-government.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would like to table our charter of rights and a statement of principle. That also has been left to your clerk on the way in.
Principles applying to a Métis land base: Métis peoples have the right to ownership of land and its resources, including surface and subsurface rights.
Métis lands and resources will be owned collectively and will only be disposed of with the consent of the collective.
The lands and resources, including surface and subsurface rights, are exempt from taxation from any federal, provincial or municipal government.
The right to Métis local government to raise and collect taxes on community-owned land and resources.
Principles applying to Métis self-government:
(i) Métis self-government, to be guaranteed as a right, must be provided for in the Constitution. It must be entrenched in the Constitution.
(ii) Métis self-government rights would apply both on and off the Métis land base.
(iii) Métis self-government will be representative, democratically elected government accountable to its own electors.
(iv) Métis self-government is necessary to maintain the political and cultural survival of the Métis as a distinct people.
(v) Métis self-government will require adequate fiscal arrangements with the provincial and/or federal
governments to ensure the viability of Métis self-government.
With that, sir, I would like to table the Métis self-government paper that we have, and Métis land base as well. Those are both with the clerk.
The question of non-status Indians: the association is very much aware that non-status Indian people like the Metis ardently desire a land base and self-government to achieve economic and political control over their own lives. Non-status Indians at present have no land base.
There have always been provisions in the Indian Act providing for Indian self-government by Indian bands within their reserves. In theory, this provides for a form of local self-government similar to a local municipal government. The roles and responsibilities of band councils and the make-up of these councils are quite similar to the provisions for local government in this province.
However, the Department of Indian Affairs has a great deal more authority than the provincial government has to step in and take over responsibility for the administrative functions of the local government and for the provision of services that are local in nature. In theory, the decision-making power always remained with the Indian band; in practice, the Indian agent traditionally wielded a great deal of influence in discouraging Indians from exercising meaningful self-determination.
This paternalism must stop. We support the endeavours of organizations such as the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations to achieve economic and political control over their own lives. We are prepared to work with them, to co-operate with them in realizing the dreams and goals of their people.
But one potential stumbling-block remains: the question of the so-called non-status Indians. In its unyielding grasp for total administration and control over Indian people, the Department of Indian Affairs has maintained an iron grip on control of membership of Indian bands through the provisions of the Indian Act.
The new Charter of Rights thankfully now prevents future discrimination based on Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act. The question then remains of who continues to suffer from these discriminatory provisions, since the scope of the Charter of Rights has no retroactive provision.
The Métis believe in the inherent right to self-determination for all people and the right to control the membership of their own nation. This obviously includes Indian people. Now, however, that the Constitution recognizes three groups of aboriginal peoples—the Indians, the Inuit and the Métis—what is to happen to the so-called non-status Indians?
It is clear that Section 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 identifies aboriginal peoples as Indians, Inuit and Métis. The act does not identify an aboriginal class of people called non-status Indians. Our view is that the term “Indian” includes both status and non-status Indians.
The association is structured to represent both Métis and non-status Indian people. The rights of the Métis will be dealt with at the first ministers conference. The rights of the non-status Indians must be dealt with through the hearings of this committee and through discussions with groups representing status Indians.
Similarly, there will be non-status Indians who will want to be identified as Indians and admitted to band lists. We endorse and support the position of the Native Council of Canada that such reinstatement be automatic upon the choice of the individuals so affected. Once this has been accomplished, Indian governments must be allowed as a matter of right to determine and control their own membership. Our caveat to full acceptance of this most basic of principles is that the question of non-status Indians must be resolved immediately in the manner we have just stated.
In order for this to have any meaning, the size of the Indian reserves will have to be expanded to accommodate this new membership. If Indian bands are expected to welcome and adopt these people into their homelands as members of their bands without a corresponding increase in land and resources, then chaos will result. Bands will be most reluctant to accept these people back into their membership if all it means is that their present state of poverty will be perpetually entrenched.
In northern Saskatchewan a major potential threat is looming which may prevent an expansion of the Indian land base. This potential threat could seriously affect the settlement of outstanding treaty land entitlement. This potential threat could seriously inhibit the provision of a land base for the Métis.
This threat is contained in the proposed Northern Municipalities Act, prepared by the Saskatchewan government. The act provides, in essence, for the establishment of local governments in the north. The powers and characteristics of the proposed municipalities are similar in scope to those which exist in southern Saskatchewan municipalities, complete with territorial jurisdiction.
This act does not provide, however, for there being any interests recognized other than that of the provincial and federal Crowns. For example, the only aboriginal interest recognized is that of existing Indian reserves being exempt from taxation and excluded from the tax base, as in the case of legislation setting up southern municipalities.
If this act is to be passed and these northern municipalities are established, apprehended vested interests and perceived rights of ownership begin to accrue to councils, et cetera,
making the acquisition of the aboriginal land base and sphere of jurisdiction much more difficult to establish.
We urge this committee to review thoroughly and act quickly upon the threat imposed by this proposed legislation.
To review: we know that the federal and provincial governments have on their own created this problem of non-status Indians. Governments, through arbitrary legislation, have denied people their identity. These are the same governments which control virtually all the great wealth and natural resources which make up this country. They can well afford to pay for their mistakes by earmarking funds to expand the present resource base of Indian bands to accept this new membership.
This then will be rightfully seen by the aboriginal people as a step in the right direction to correct a glaring injustice. By providing bands with adequate resources, this problem can be resolved by the Metis and Indian leadership and the people.
Such a process of dialogue towards resolution is under way in Manitoba. It has commenced in Saskatchewan. We are prepared to demonstrate to non-aboriginal governments that Métis governments and Indian governments can resolve the crisis solely created, nurtured and fuelled by Canadian governments if these governments will provide the necessary resources and enabling legislation to readmit non-status Indians under the provisions of the Indian Act.
We are prepared to resolve the problem which you have created.
That is the conclusion of our position paper, Mr. Chairman, and now I would like, with your permission, to read a letter to the members of Parliament and the Senate of Canada regarding Louis Riel, which we have also tabled, sir. It is dated March 2, 1983:
To All Members of Parliament and Senate of Canada
As the question of Louis Riel’s activities a century ago continue to mount, the situation of the Metis Peoples of Canada remains unaltered. That Louis Riel did not sacrifice his life in vain is reflected in the continued struggle of the Métis. The Constitutional Rights fought for in 1885 are the very same being addressed today.
Recent attempts to gain Louis Riel a pardon are unequivocally opposed by our Association. The action of the Metis in 1885 in defending the National Rights and homeland of our people against the oppressive expansionism of the occupying forces was totally justifiable.
We are not interested in negative symbolism. If Parliament is sincere in correcting past injustices, then the Rights for which our people died should now be entrenched in the Constitution Act, 1982, along with the return of our
lands. It is only on this basis that an apology will be accepted. In addition, we are only open to discussing an acquittal of the charges against Louis Riel, not a pardon.
On another front, there are currently a number of plans by various segments of the Canadian public for activities to mark the Centenary of the armed conflict between the Canadian/British military and the Metis at Batoche. To the Metis of Saskatchewan, unless the Rights to our homeland and Self-Government are constitutionally recognized, 1985 will have no more meaning than 1983, other than being an additional two years of continued oppression, genocide and ethnocide.
If that must be the case, Parliament and the people of Canada can celebrate 1985, if they can find anything noble in an oppressive act of a majority against a minority, particularly an Indigenous Population whose Rights and lands have been usurped by a colonial process.
However, being cognizant of the growing World public order with respect to National Rights and the principle of Self-Determination, coupled with Canada’s leading role in this area, we are confident that the Political will exists to rectify these injustices and give expression to the Rights of the Metis.
With that, sir, thank you very much.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Durocher.
Mr. Sinclair, you wish to comment on these briefs?
Mr. Sinclair: Yes, I wanted to add a few things to the brief.
The Metis and non-status Indians of this province were given a grant in the early 1970s or the late 1960s from the Secretary of State to organize our people and to be able to present the views of our people. Our organization has attempted to do that. We have brought our organization about as far as we can go, as far as legislation or the Constitution at this time permits. We have a one-person, one-vote system. We have 11 areas, as someone said, and we have an executive. The polls are at the community level. In each community people 16 and over, men and women, have the right to vote.
Of course, we write budgets and proposals for our people in the fall, as governments do. We present those budgets and proposals to governments. However, our people do not have control over the funds that come from the governments. They control the purse-strings, As a result, we can never have a budget or a program that will suit the needs of our people. Governments can say yes; they can say no.
The other problem we have, of course, which has to be resolved in this new Constitution, and in Indian government, is the fact that the funds that are earmarked for our people never get to our people; or a limited amount gets to our people. Sometimes maybe even as little as 5¢ out of a dollar may come to our people. As a result, you have a continued fight between the federal and provincial governments for control of the funds that come to the Métis and non-status Indians in this province.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Many people talk about the great industry in Saskatchewan. They talk about the industry of potash. They talk about the industry of uranium. But the biggest industry in Saskatchewan is the people who live off the backs of the poverty of the native people in this province. That has become a big industry. We have a huge social service or welfare system. We have a huge jail system, foster-care system, a court system that spends a lot of money on keeping our people in jail and running them through the courts.
That is the kind of system we have been forced to live with. The money that is spent on our people is not spent to promote our people or to help them towards self-determination, but to keep them incarcerated and to keep them under the complete control of the governments.
We then move into, of course, the present-day problem we have, the fact that we are dealing with a new Constitution. The initial meeting will take place on March 15 and 16. We have some problems with that as well. I feel that self-government must be entrenched in that new Constitution. That basic right has to be entrenched in that new Constitution. And I want to emphasize that along with self-government, of course you must have a land base. No people, no nation, can exist without a land base.
So we are saying we have a right to a homeland. We have the right to self-government.
There is also the problem of the fact that we are denied at this time a right to go to that table to represent the Métis point of view. As you recall, Louis Riel was elected to Parliament three times. Once out of the three times he tried to take his chair in Parliament and he was refused. We are 100 years past that time. The Métis are also at this time being denied a place at that table. To me any attempt to deal with the new Constitution under those conditions would be a complete farce. The Métis are now included in the Constitution. They are one of the three aboriginal groups included in the Constitution, and without their representation in the Constitution, talks will be meaningless.
As late as yesterday we had calls from the Prime Ministers Office and the Justice department in Ottawa telling us it is an internal affair with the Native Council of Canada and the Prime Minister does not want to interfere. But let me remind you that if any one of us non-status or Métis were to do any business or build a unit or a house, or interfere in any way with an Indian government on a reservation, we could be, by law, taken to court and jailed. Yet the same federal government is asking us to sit with registered Indians at a table who will occupy the same seat as us, and to come to a conclusion, or decision-making, that will affect both groups. That is impossible not only by politics at this time, but even by law.
We are not responsible for the division of our people. The division of our people was caused by governments and entrenched by law. We are saying that until that division is wiped out we have to represent our case; that the Métis have a right to be represented at constitutional talks.
The thing I want to make clear, again, is that the position we have taken forward is not one of sovereignty. It is not a reason to leave us out of the constitutional talks. We have taken a position where we want to have jurisdiction over our lands, jurisdiction over those programs that affect us. We want the kind of control that will help us to develop economically. Rights in the Constitution will mean little if they do not put in a foundation that will provide us with the opportunities to continue our Dumont Institute, our communications program, to expand our economic development, expand our training, give us the opportunity to train our people for jobs, give us the opportunity to develop our communities under new economic development strategies, in order that our people will take a responsible position and that we will have a economic and political wallop in this provice, not because we have rights but because we have economic power, which everyone in this room knows is what speaks when you are bargaining with governments—your economic power.
I think the other thing I wanted to mention is the fact that the constitutional talks that are going to take place in Ottawa—in our latest call last night—and I am glad you people are MPs—the Prime Minister in his remarks through Justice asked us that we should not rock the boat by asking or demanding that seat at the Constitutional committee. Word came out that he has invited the premiers, he has invited the Indian organizations, and he himself has made the arrangements; that if we were to take out a court injunction at this time, we would prevent those premiers from going to that conference.
Let me remind you, I do not see anywhere in Sections 35 and 37 that we are there to discuss the problems of the federal government or the provincial governments. Let me remind you that it is the aboriginal people the conference is called to deal with, and without the presence of the aboriginal people the conference means little. So again, I want it to be made very clear at this meeting that we are still prepared to call a court injunction, probably by Tuesday, if we must, to stop the conference if we are not there.
This is our last stand. I think it was made very clear in the past few days that we have been railroaded simply because the federal government, up until last week, had said it does not have any responsibility for the Métis. The provinces are saying that Métis rights must be given by the goodwill of the government and that they must be put on the back burner temporarily, while governments sort out the issues of the Métis. Let me remind you again, it was told to us in 1885 that they would sort out the problems of the Métis; and the way they sorted out the problems of the Métis was with the gallows.
Again I want to make it very clear, we are not going to this constitutional conference to agree to the articles of surrender. We are going to this constitutional conference to agree on a foundation for the future of our people. Without that kind of agreement, without that kind of spirit, this constitutional conference will not work; without Saskatchewan—and I am not going to include the other provinces—where the final conflict took place at Batoche, you will have a farce at the constitutional table, because the final conflict took place here In Saskatchewan. The bitterness remains here in Saskatchewan. The racism is dominant in this province.
The poverty of our people in this province can be shown by the unemployment, the welfare schemes that are made to control us, and the fact that we occupy the jails to capacity in this province. I cannot speak for other provinces on that, but I speak for Saskatchewan, because we know the conditions in this province. No one knows it better than we do. Our position has been one of responsibility. We have demonstrated, occupied buildings when we had to, set up roadblocks and blocked bridges when we had to. We have gone to court, simply because we bought trailers for our people who were living in tents, when it was 50 degrees below in northern Saskatchewan, and because the Constitution did not allow us to do that type of thing; it would sooner have people freeze to death, because that was not against the law. But it was against the law to house people.
That is the kind of thing we want to get through to you, the way the laws affect us, the fact that they are not made to promote our people or to help our people. The laws are made to oppress us. I want to remind you about that, because this is important when we are talking about self-government.
Again, I want to remind you that we want to lay down the foundation for our future. The squabbles amongst native people in Canada which people talk about certainly have come into the limelight, but you must remember that it is only in the past less than 10 years that aboriginal people from across Canada have ever seen one another. They have lived as close as 100 miles, 200 miles apart, and have never had a chance to meet other groups. Yet people suddenly ask that we should come together and come to a constitutional table with one position, when not only have we not had a chance to communicate, but, as was mentioned before, governments have divided us as well.
I want to remind you that the Métis have enough problems of their own, dealing with their own problems, without other aboriginal groups imposing on them and asking them to do certain things, or to compromise their aboriginal groups. I think our compromising, if any, will be done with governments, the federal and provincial, at the constitutional table. But I do not think we should compromise our position with anyone else. We have been asked to compromise our position with everyone, in order to get to that table, and if that compromising takes place, there is no point in going to the table.
I want to remind you again that this is important; this is the meeting that will set the foundation. The rights of our people must be entrenched in the Constitution and the legislation that flows from those rights must continue to benefit our people. If we are to go at the whim of legislation only, and not by the rights entrenched in the Constitution, we are vulnerable and will live in a day-to-day crisis, as we have lived in the past 100 years.
With that, I hope you people will convey this message back to government. We are still in the negotiating process. We are prepared to meet with anyone who is prepared to sit down with us and talk about the constitutional conference, the right of our people to attend that conference because, as I said here, we have two basic principles, the right to a homeland and the right to self-determination.
It seems to me, now, that we have one more important issue, the right even to attend the conference. If we must take an injunction against the government to get to that conference. then we are already using the courts. We assured the government that we were not prepared to use the courts. We wanted a political solution, and a political solution meant to sit down with the governments and work out some basic principles which would lead to rights being entrenched in the Constitution. If we must use the courts at this time . . . and people will condemn us for using the courts to try to get to the table—then there is no value even in going to the table, if you must use the courts even to get to the table. I am sure that after that they would tell us to go to the courts and try to get our rights defined by the courts. As I said before, the courts have never worked for us; we need a political solution.
We have tabled a statement of principles, as well, and we want to see it in the Constitution. We are hoping you people will use some of your political law, at least, to get this message across very early next week, by Monday, or even to your parties today.
I am prepared to answer questions, if anyone wants to ask questions.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Sinclair, for those words. I think an impression has been made on the members of Parliament regarding the struggle for a seat at the conference.
Before I ask members whether they are prepared to ask questions, I want to ask members’ whether they would agree to the documents that have been tabled being submitted as exhibits, and that they be listed in the evidence today so those members who were not able to make it, or any other members of Parliament, will have them available. Is that agreed?
Some hon. Members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chairman: Well, now, we are open for questions, and I have Mr. Manly as my first questioner.
Mr. Manly: Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the representatives from AMNSIS for appearing before us.
One of the most basic concerns in your presentation is the need for a land base, and I wonder if you have given much thought as to what that land base should be, whether or not you would think in terms of the Saskatchewan formula that has been worked out with Indian people, on the basis of 128 acres per person, or do you have some other concept as to how this should be established?
Mr. Sinclair: I think the concept or the idea we are looking at right now is that this right of a land base should be entrenched in the Constitution. In the process, we will deal with how much land we would acquire, or we would need to survive, the location of the land and the type of land we want. I think that is something we are prepared to negotiate and would negotiate in the process; I think there are several options that can be used. We have tried to throw out some feelers on the table, but it seems to me that governments are against the land base simply because, at this time, they pretend they do not know what we want. But through the years of negotiations with government and through the proposals we have sent to them, the briefs we have sent to them, they are aware of about what we are asking for. We are asking, I suppose, based on our population again, based on the percentage of people in this province—and I have used the fact that we number 10% of this province—we want to try for 10% of the land. I think that is reasonable, to begin negotiations.
Mr. Manly: But basically you want to have the principle recognized in the Constitution?
Mr. Sinclair: Yes, it must be recognized in the Constitution. If it is up to the goodwill of government—there is no such thing as the goodwill of any government. I think any government, in dealing with other nations or even dealing with its own electorate. changes its ideas, and they change governments, so the most we could last under that kind of a deal would be maybe less than four years. How long does it take to change a government?
Mr. Manly: You indicate you would want to see this land held collectively. How would that relate to individual Metis families?
Mr. Sinclair: I want to see some land collectively owned that is never for sale. That is where your original self-governments must be particularly involved. However, in the case of Regina, where you have maybe 25,000 native people, many of them are Metis. We must have some kind of administration of the programs—the housing, the economic development, the training—which must be a spinoff to give them control over these kinds of programs. Again, I say the programs that are targeted for the aboriginal people should go directly to the aboriginal people.
Now, presently you have a problem with the purse-strings, where the government says, we have to answer to the electorate for public money. There must be new financial arrangements made so the money can be transferred to the aboriginal governments. But I must emphasize this. When you also tie in
self-government with the land base, the self-government must be a democratic one to make sure the aboriginal peoples’ electorate is able to have complete control of the aboriginal governments, to make sure the funds are accounted for and the systems are put properly in place.
So I want to make that very clear again. In the urban areas, we must also have some form of control over the programs that affect our lives. But when I talk about the land base, the self-governments and the aboriginal governments, I am talking to make sure they are tied closely together.
Mr. Bob Milen (Legal Counsel, Association of Métis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan): If I may, Mr. Manly, the Metis are very familiar with individual land grants and individual land tenure. The fraud and speculation in Metis scrip out of the constitutionally protected land rights of the Metis in Manitoba, I think, are very well documented historically. So the Metis in the past have known all too well the problem with individual land grants.
Second, in order to build your institutions of self-government, your educational institutions and so on, you need a land base upon which to found that. It is why the Metis believe there will have to be a collectively owned land base in which to build your institutions.
Mr. Sinclair: I would just add that at this time 50% of the Metis may choose not to live on that land base. Through economic development, through the moneys we plan to get, people can own land individually; people can set up businesses individually. I am saying the land base must be there for those people who want to live on a land base where they have their own government, where they can represent themselves and where they have some form of economic development.
Right now, northern Saskatchewan in particular has no control. The resources in the north are taken out—and they are very rich resources—and there are no returns to our people in terms of royalties or any money to develop themselves and their communities. The only money that comes back to the native people in northern Saskatchewan is though welfare dollars, and that is no longer acceptable to us.
Mr. Manly: I understand, historically, the Metis carried out many of their activities as a collective; and you are talking about wanting to operate as a collective in terms of land base and economic activities. Does the collective principle still maintain in your present communities? Do you still operate in a collective manner in some situations?
Mr. Sinclair: To the limited capacity we have, people in the north at this time . . . I speak about the north, where they still can have control of the local governments. The legislation in the north has not been very vague over the last number of years. In the north, for example, where you have a predominantly white community, that white community can set its own laws and has the kind of control that communities in the south have. Where you have a predominantly native community, they have never been able to make any decisions, except maybe what day is garbage day or other very small decisions in that community. They have no control whatsoever over the dollars and cents or the industry that affects our communities.
Governments have taken away all the land of our people. We do not even have the right to hunt on that land legally for domestic use; and many times, we end up stealing our own game, in a sense, to be able to survive, because of the lack of work in the north and the lack of opportunities.
Mr. Manly: I have one final question. The Indian nations from Saskatchewan have indicated very strongly—and this has been backed up by other Indian peoples across Canada—they want to deal on a bilateral basis with the federal government. They do not want involvement with the provincial government. Could you indicate the relations you would see between Metis government, provincial governments, and local municipal governments, as well as the federal government?
Mr. Sinclair: We are not asking for sovereignty in the new Constitution; we are asking for a partnership or an agreement with the federal and provincial governments to recognize our people. We are prepared to work both federally and provincially.
We feel the federal government has a responsibility to entrench the rights of our people in our national Constitution; and at the same time, we feel the province has some obligation. I think we are prepared to work on that concept at this time. However, things may change; but we would never take the onus off the federal government in terms of its responsibility to us. Our war was not with the provinces; our war was with the federal government from Ottawa, when the war took place here in Saskatchewan.
Mr. Manly: So you would maintain you have a primary relationship with the federal government.
Mr. Sinclair: Oh, yes, the federal government should be the advocate in this whole role.
Mr. Manly: Thank you very much.
Mr. Milen: If l may add to that, by entrenching the right of self-government in the Constitution, we are saying there will have to be, of course, legislation that flows out of that. But we want to entrench constitutionally the principle of Metis self-government, which then would be a third level of government in this country.
Traditionally, governments have been the federal and provincial governments at Confederation. We are saying let us entrench the principle of a third level of government. That third level of government would then have to deal with federal and provincial governments.
Mr. Manly: Could I ask a supplementary?
Indian nations have talked about another order of government; you are talking about a third level of government. Is there a significant difference in terminology here?
Mr. Sinclair: I think some of the Indians are talking about sovereignty; some of them, I think, are talking about the relationship with the federal government in regard to Indian government, without dealing with the provinces. Some people may say we are not talking about a third level of government; that we are talking about a fourth level of government. I think we are saying we want some jurisdiction; and the jurisdiction must be over our lands, ourselves, and the programs that affect us. I think we are prepared to sit down and work those out.
Those same questions are being asked at the constitutional level, in the working meetings before the constitutional conference. We have said, look, anything we talk about is hypothetical at this time, simply because that land base and self-government must be entrenched in the Constitution first before we can start dealing in terms of the type of government we will set up.
People seem to be afraid that we are asking too much and we will get too much. People who are a minority in this country cannot expect to gain the kind of control that some people are afraid of. I think we want to control our own lives and I think governments are afraid of that factor in itself.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Manly. Mr. Chartier.
Mr. Chartier: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of AMNSIS.
With respect specifically to non-status Indians, do you feel there is a trust responsibility on behalf of the Parliament of Canada through the government, under Section 91(24) of the British North America Act of 1867, to deal with the issue of non-status Indians?
Mr. Sinclair: Yes, I do; I certainly do. I think one thing Saskatchewan has done here and which our organization is prepared to do—which I do not think any other organization in Canada is prepared to do at this time—is to register our people. We are prepared to register those who want to be registered as Metis. We are prepared to register those who want to register as Indians. At the proper time, we are prepared to put the representation in its proper perspective, where the Metis will represent their own people in terms of their spokespeople; where the Indians or the non-status, during their transition to either the reservations or a new deal they are prepared to make with both Indian governments and the federal government, will then decide what process is acceptable to get back under the Indian lands or the Indian nations. I think we are working on that.
The one thing that is important to us is that we feel the government has a right to know who it is dealing with and how many it is dealing with. I would rather have us make the decision on who our people are rather than have governments impose laws on us. I think it has scared many organizations across Canada. We are prepared to register our people, and we are in that process now.
The division that will come between the so-called non-status . . . There should be no such thing as non-status at this time, because of the new Constitution; however, people still use that word. I think we in this province are making that decision to register our people, so that when we see we have to separate our ways, we will do it voluntarily; not because we want to light and separate on that basis, but because we feel it is necessary at that time for the aboriginal groups to pursue their own goals through their aboriginal organizations or councils and transfer from organizations into aboriginal governments.
Mr. Milen: If I may add to that, let me point out that what we basically say in our brief is that the new constitution recognizes three groups of aboriginal people: Indian, Inuit and Métis. The act does not identify an aboriginal class of people called non-status Indians; therefore, under the Constitution our view is that the term “Indian” includes both status and non-status Indians. Similarly, Section 91(24) of the British North America Act, referring to Indians and land reserved for Indians, does not identify non-status Indians. Our view again is that Section 91(24) includes both status and non-status Indians, and accordingly there is a federal trust responsibility for non-status Indians.
Mr. Chartier: Okay. Then to take it further, I suppose the question is as well whether or not you think there is a federal responsibility with respect to the people now identified as Métis, or in the past identified as half-breeds. Do you feel there is a federal responsibility and a trust relationship existing there as well?
Mr. Sinclair: Like I said, the war was with the Government of Canada, not with any province. I think the Government of Canada made the decision to declare war on the Métis and to disrupt their forms of self-government which already were in place. I want to remind you again that the Métis have always taken a political position. The charter of rights of 1869 is not much different from the one we have now in 1983 and, again, I feel that the federal government certainly has a responsibility. The onus must be on the federal government.
Now I get the feeling again that the federal government is having this constitutional conference simply to tell the Métis,
look, it is nice to have you here at the meeting, but you go back and you deal with the provinces. That is not the way it is going to be. The federal government is responsible to make sure that the rights of the Metis are entrenched in the Constitution. Then we can go home and deal with the provinces, knowing that the provinces have responsibility through the Constitution and not through just goodwill to set up legislation that will spell out or further those rights in the Constitution—that is, identify the role we will be playing through those rights under the Constitution.
It is very important that the land base and the self-government be there, so that governments do not misconstrue the self-government or the land base for something else—say, some kind of limited or piecemeal control, which has been put on our people for the past number of years. It has been difficult living under different political parties—in all fairness, I must say all political parties. No political party in Canada is really committed to our people, simply because elected people must go along with, or have gone along with, the popular vote. But when you are a minority in this country, the most popular vote is to be anti-native.
Mr. Milen: If I may add to that, I think it is clear from Section 91(24) that the federal government has a trust responsibility for Indians. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1939 indicates that the Inuit are a federal responsibility. We now look at the Constitution Act, which under Section 35(2) identifies the aboriginal peoples as Indian, Inuit and Métis. I think, therefore, by linking the Metis with the other two aboriginal peoples who are also a federal responsibility, and by looking at the definition of “Indian” at the time of Confederation, we take the view that Metis are a federal responsibility.
Mr. Chartier: Okay. I have one further question. In glancing at this Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and, of course, being unfamiliar with it, I find there is a reference to the applicability of the charter. It states that
every aboriginal individual is equally entitled to individual and collective aboriginal rights to which he/she is otherwise eligible without discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, age, marital status or mental or physical disability.
I suppose this in a sense addresses the issue of those Indian women who have lost status and may lose status, and I suppose it talks about the equality of women and men. Could you maybe go into that a bit and just explain what the AMNSIS position is, if any, with respect to women’s rights?
Mr. Sinclair: All right. The reason we have done that, of course, is to make sure that the rights are equal amongst both
men and women. I think the women, in the past, have been discriminated against, of course, by the same laws which discriminated against the men, and we want to make sure that all persons are equal in terms of aboriginal people. We must not set up one group with more rights than another. That has caused the problems in the past. So somehow or other, we must place those rights on a par with other aboriginal groups. And rather than down-grade any group, we must reach at least the level they now have in terms of recognition; we do not want any discrimination against any of our people. We tried to spell out our thinking in such a way that it would not be discriminatory to either men or women.
Certainly, in the argument of our own people, the problems that we have faced over the past number of years have been so severe that it has been hard to recognize the different problems between men and women. Remember that when you face poverty in general, when you face oppression in general, when you face racism—they comprise so basic a problem that it is hard to separate from it all the other problems which exist between men and women. Therefore we have not had the opportunity of acting middle-class and having many of our people going off in a direction of fighting for various causes. The fight we are in is of very basic rights which affect not only men and women, but children as well.
Many of our children have been taken from foster homes in Saskatchewan here, in Canada, and even sent to the United States, without our permission. That type of thing goes on. Our children have been taken and put in white foster homes where they were denied the use of their languages, denied their nationhood—their Indianness) . . . and I think that has hurt our people and taken away the responsibility of our people as well. So we want to make sure there is no discrimination against anyone, whether they be men, women or children.
Mr. Chartier: Thank you, Mr. Sinclair.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Vice-Chairman: Mr. Gingras.
Mr. Gingras: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Usually before a nation writes a constitution, the people live on tradition for many, many hundreds of years. They have some traditions and decide, okay, we will put those things on paper. We want things a certain way. In Canada, we have certain traditions. Sometimes there is a bad tradition; the Metis and Indian cases are good examples. So today we want to put in the Constitution some things that are not in the tradition.
You see, you have written a statement of principle, and I would like to know how it would work to have, let us say in
(e) Self-government rights would apply both on and off the Métis land base.
And in (h):
Métis government will be a representative democratically elected government, accountable to its own electors.
Let us assume you are making your survey and you register your people, how would that work physically?
Mr. Sinclair: The land base and the self-government for our people on the lands is no problem. I think there are Indian governments right now on Indian lands which exist. There is some form of Metis government in the Metis colonies in Alberta. The important question, though, I think, which has to be addressed, is this. We know from past experience, and even now, that many people will not leave the cities or some of the urban centres or some other communities to go back to the Métis land base—although some will. Without getting into too much argument, if you were to say that half live on the land base and half in the urban centres who want to continue in their jobs or professions or whatever they want to do, we say that we do not want to superimpose another government on, say, the Regina City Council. I mean just that they must have control over those programs which affect them.
Not all the money should go to the Métis land base. People who live in the urban centres should have the right to training. We have our Gabriel Dumont Institute at this time in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. We do not want land in Regina, Saskatoon, or Prince Albert. We do not want to fight for land in downtown Regina, for example, or Saskatoon or Prince Albert.
We do want the right to have control over the programs which affect our lives in these communities. We want the right to the transfer payments which come from the federal government to the provinces, and have them come directly to our people, so that we do not lose that money in the shuffle and are not denied the money for training or denied the money for housing or denied the money for anything else. We want to make sure that it comes directly to our people.
I say again that I am not expecting that government to be exactly the same off the land base as it would be on the land base. Obviously there are differences, because when you are talking about land and resources, you are talking about control over those resources. You are talking about setting up some laws in those lands which will affect not only native people but non-native people who want to come onto those lands. But if you are living in a city, you cannot make those kinds of laws, because you have laws already in the urban centres.
We are trying to be realistic about it. You are not the only persons dwelling on that aspect, but I am disappointed that people would want to pick at that part of it and in a sense try
to deny us the right to that government by asking, look, what are you going to do outside the land base? If you pay more attention to the land base and the government we are trying to set up there, the spinoff of that government, of course, must affect people in the urban centres as well, where they must control their own lives in terms of some of the programs which affect them.
The other thing I think you mentioned is tradition. The only tradition I have seen in Canada is the tradition of racism and oppression. That is the only tradition we have seen.
Mr. Gingras: That is what I meant.
Mr. Sinclair: Yes. And we want to change that. I want to remind you again that Quebec and the federal government fought over the rights of the Metis in the western war. I think John A. Macdonald is quoted as saying that he would hang Riel though every dog in Quebec bark. I think it is time that Rene Levesque started to bark. I think he should speak up for the rights of the Metis, because it is not a provincial issue. I met with him and he said it was a provincial issue. But this is a national issue. And I think the Quebec people must speak up now on behalf of the Metis. They have been denied their rights in a sense in the Constitution to some degree, yet they have a lot more control than do, say, the Metis in western Canada. So I would like to see some support from the Quebec people as well.
Mr. Gingras: Would you say that we have put ourselves in a dead-end with the Indian issue; that as a tradition—from the Crown . . . it is a federal problem: they meet with the premier and the Prime Minister and they say that to change that Constitution, even on Indian rights, there will be needed a certain consent of the province? Do you find that difficult?
Mr. Sinclair: I find it difficult, but I think rather than the provinces and the federal government trying to pass the buck and saying it is a federal problem and a provincial problem, this is a problem Canada has to face. I think Canada has a problem. Because Canada has a problem with native people, native people have a problem with Canada. So it is in both ways.
On our international trips to other nations abroad in the last couple of years, talking to other nations, there was a commitment by Canada to deal with its first people, its aboriginal people. That commitment was set in the British Parliament. We have talked to people in Britain, we have talked to people in Geneva, Switzerland, we have talked to people outside of Canada who supported us and to whom Canada made a commitment that it would deal with its native people. This constitutional conference that is coming up on March 15 and I6 must set that foundation. So Canada must not slough off, for one reason or another, our people or our rights. It must deal with those rights and must deal with them head on.
That is one of the reasons why we are not using the word—and this may be the difference we have with other aboriginal groups across Canada . . . we are not fighting for our land on the basis of aboriginal title. We have aboriginal title; it is already in Section 35. But because this meeting is called as a Section 37 conference to spell out the rights of the aboriginal people, and it is a political meeting, we are saying that we are not going to talk aboriginal title, because every time we talked aboriginal title all they did was send us to the courts. We are talking very clearly—a land base for the Metis, self-government for the Metis—in very clear words that the general public will understand.
It seems to me that when you put things in terms that clear, the government has trouble understanding. If I were to talk in wishy-washy terms, such as those politicians like to use, they might want to deal with it. I want to be very clear.
Mr. Milen: The question of consent is paramount as well. The reason why we want the rights entrenched in the Constitution is the difficulty . . . they would not be subject to arbitrary federal or provincial unilateral changes—the Indian Act being a classic example, in Section 12(1)(b), where the federal government passes a piece of legislation and the federal government arbitrarily denies someone the right to an identity.
What we are saying is that we want the rights of the Metis to a land base and self-government, and other additional rights, entrenched in the Constitution along with a consent clause, so that there may be no additional changes made to that Constitution by which the rights of the Metis, or the rights of the Indians, or the rights of the Inuit could be arbitrarily taken out by a combination of federal and provincial governments.
Mr. Gingras: I will wait, if I have something, until later.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you.
Ms Jamieson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I enjoyed the brief very much.
I have a couple of areas that require clarification. You have outlined one thing very, very clearly, and I think it is important for this committee to take note of it, and that is that the history, the position, of the Metis people is quite different from that of Indian governments, Indian first nations in this country. You have given us some useful information on the constitutional conference on that.
I wonder whether I could explore something, though, in your statement of principles in Métis self-government. You have a list of principles that are particular to the Metis people. Then we have, tabled, a number of amendments and charters and freedoms that refer to all aboriginal people of Canada.
You say that the Metis people do not want to compromise with any other aboriginal people, they do not want to interfere with one another, they do not want to be dealt with in that
fashion, they want to be dealt with separately, as the Metis people. Could you help me by clarifying how the two fit together?
Mr. Sinclair: The compromise I am referring to is the compromise of going to a table, a constitutional table, with another organization that may represent what is not the Métis view. If you go through the Constitution again, there are three groups identified—and I try to make that clear. . . the Inuit, the Indians and the Metis. The Metis have a right to two seats. There is no doubt about that. The Metis have the right to two seats.
The government, over the past number of years, has tended to push the Metis and other aboriginal people—including the native women, including some of the non-status Indians, including some registered Indians who have had troubles with their own organizations . . . into being lumped as one organization. They said, no, we will not fund you unless you get together as one organization. So for the purpose of getting some funds to be able to do some research and at least get some papers ready to send to the governments in terms of our problems and solutions, we have had to get together.
I told the federal government—Jean Chretien, last year, in my final meetings with him while he was still Minister of Justice-that changes must immediately take place in terms of the delivery of programs, they must take place in terms of understanding that the Metis must have their separate organization and place to deal at the Constitution table, there must be some position dealt with through the Indian organizations and the governments in terms of the representation of the non-status and in terms of ensuring that the women have their rights back. Something had to be done about that, because if we did not do anything and tried to go to a conference, we would have problems even having a conference, because of the differences.
Those are the kinds of differences I am talking about, the reasons, again, why we are talking in terms of the foundation on which to build our nations—a land base and self-government. The Indian people are asking for the same thing, basically. The Inuit are asking for the same thing. There is really no difference. That very foundation is basic to any nation that wants to develop—that is, self-government and a land base. That is what wars and revolutions are all about—land. It is just as very clear and simple as that.
Ms Jamieson: Let me pursue this just a bit, not talking about the seats at the conference. I see that you have a separate statement of principles for Metis self-government and you speak of a Metis schedule to the Constitution. Is that what you seek, a separate schedule to the Constitution dealing with Metis principles and Metis rights?
Mr. Sinclair: We do not actually seek a separate schedule, necessarily. The AFN are talking about a separate schedule. To accommodate the AFN, I think once the principles or the rights are entrenched in the Constitution, the schedules are the process of those rights. The definition of those rights I think the AFN could deal with themselves, because they want to identify what they want to do and how they want to do it, and
the process they want to use. The Metis, I suppose, must do the same thing.
I feel, again, that once the basic rights are spelled out, the people know what they want and they are on that agenda and they are dealt with, they will decide the schedules, and if the schedules have to be separate, then the schedules should be separate.
I do not argue with that. I am not going to interfere or impose. You must understand that you have a number of different governments across Canada, you have a number of different political organizations across Canada and political parties. As a result, you may have the same democratic system but you have different ways of implementing that, you have different views, you have different ideologies, and that is allowed. We are not going to impose one ideology or one idea right across the nation. I think people have to build on the basic principles, or the basic rights. Some of those may be done a little differently, but they have the right to do that.
That is the one thing I want to say about native people across Canada: they have always been asked to get together, they have always been asked to come up with unity. At the same time, you cannot get that same kind of unity within the federal system or the provincial system. We are asked to do something that no one else has been able to do. I do not see why we should be different from anyone else.
Mr. Milen: If I may add to that, the Metis have not rejected the concept of separate schedules. We feel that there is merit in the suggestion put forward by the Assembly of First Nations. It may be that at the constitutional conference, if the Metis are there, and the other aboriginal peoples can agree on certain common principles, in order to define further and spell those principles out, it will be necessary to have three separate schedules attached to the Constitution—one spelling out the further rights of the Indians, one of the Metis, and one of the Inuit.
Ms Jamieson: Thank you. That clarification is helpful. I picked that out of the document that was tabled with us from the federal-provincial meeting of officials, the statement of principles and the reference to the Métis schedule to the Constitution, and that is a helpful clarification.
Well, I will leave the other question, of the Charter of Rights dealing with all aboriginal people, because I am not sure it still fits, but I want to ask one or two other questions.
Leaving the Metis issue for the moment, and going to something in your brief that you make reference to, at the end of your brief you say that Indian governments and other governments are prepared to resolve the crisis created by outside governments, if the outside governments provide those resources. And earlier on in your statement you ask for immediate or automatic reinstatement of certain people who have lost status.
We have had a number of Indian governments appear before us. and Indian witnesses appear before us, and we and other members have asked them questions on citizenship. Here is their answer, and I wonder if you would comment on it.
They say that Indian governments have the right to determine citizenship. For any outside government to impose any kind of rules, automatic reinstatement or otherwise, is out of order, because that is committing another wrong, which is not going to fix the first wrong, and the fundamental resolution of that issue lies with the Indian government concerned. Now, you at the end of your brief say: “We are prepared to resolve the problem which you created”. Could you comment on that and fit those things together for me so I can understand your view?
Mr. Sinclair: I will try to do my best on that. That is a difficult one.
As I said, we are not responsible for making the laws that divided Indian people to begin with. I think when you talk sovereignty—and someone can correct me if I am wrong, because I am not too good sometimes at definitions . . . I think you have the right to identify your own people; you have the right to identify those people who belong to your nation.
We have taken the idea that we are Metis, or we are Indians, because of our aboriginal ancestry; nothing else. I know you are relating to the question of Indian women. It has been unfair to the women that they must leave the reservations when they marry a non-Indian; that they must leave their reservations and their rights. As a result, their families, who are then Metis, I suppose, or half-breeds, if you want to call them that, in this province have lost their rights as well.
At the same time the men have been allowed to marry white women, take them onto a reservation and take the place of the Indian women who have left. I have never believed that was fair, I will be honest with you. I never believed that was fair, because I have seen white women who have married Indian men and who have left their men and have had white children and those white children are status Indians today. That is not fair to Indians, because when you set up an Indian Act or legislation that will not only benefit the Indian but is also there to benefit the white man, to give him a choice that he can be Indian or non-Indian, you deny the choice to Indians to be Indians, and then we face some difficulties.
The other thing I should make very clear, and I have had arguments with the Indian organizations or the Indian groups on this, is it is not fair for aboriginal people to discriminate against one another. If they are trying for self-government, if they are trying for self-determination, if they are trying for fair play, then they should be prepared to deal with their own people and not discriminate against their own people, because when you discriminate against your own people, and you are asking for that right to discriminate, I do not believe it is fair coming from any government, if it is Indian or even if it is Metis governments that will do that. That is why we want to ensure there is no discrimination in this new Constitution, so that men, women and children of aboriginal ancestry will have
their rights protected forever and not just until they get married or for some other reason they may lose their rights.
In the past some of them lost their rights because they wanted to vote. And if that is a right that you must lose a right because you want to vote, then the whole thing is a farce.
And that is why I say that the Indian Act is not only subject to change by the white man, and the Indians, this time, it is subject to change by the Indians. period. Whether they be treaty or non-treaty, those people who are Indians have a right to change that act, instead of the new legislation or entrenched rights in the Constitution.
Ms Jamieson: My question was not so much one of whether or not there was discrimination in the past. I think many Indian governments would agree with that. The question is where the responsibility lies to rectify that situation. Indian governments and Indian first nations assert that it is their right as nations to determine citizenship. They are not asking for the right to discriminate. I think that is a bit of discrimination-baiting . .. what they are asking for. What they are saying they have is the right to determine citizenship; and there is a fundamental difference.
Mr. Sinclair: When you raised that question at a meeting in Winnipeg, when we talked about the issue of Indian women losing their status, it was then the Indian nations told us that they had the right of selective citizenship, to determine their citizenship within their bands. So it was used in that context at the meeting. And there was no other reason, because there was no talk yet about Indian men or other Indians who had been left out; it was really the topic of Indian women.
Ms Jamieson: No, that is not . . .
Mr. Sinclair: Well, I was at the meeting, unless you were. I was there at the meeting with Chief Ahenakew, with Mr. Sol Sanderson, with the groups that are now in Ontario, some of the Quebec leaders, and the leaders from British Columbia. It was a meeting of First Nations and the non-status nations in Winnipeg to discuss the Constitution.
I am not going to try to get into an argument about who is right or wrong, I am just saying again that it is difficult. I know the sovereignty issue is important to the Indian people. However, at this time I feel that because of Quebec losing the sovereignty issue—and they are 8 million people in Canada and have a lot of political power and political wallop, and our people are very few—we number less maybe than 10%—it is going to be difficult to talk sovereignty in this country, and I think I want to be realistic when I go to the table.
I am talking of a partnership with government. I am talking about a rightful place in Canada, and not trying to get sovereignty. I could only talk sovereignty if I had an army to back me up . . . if I had the kind of backing I could take to the table—but I have nothing but the poverty and the problems of our people in the past as an issue to take to the table to tell
governments what little we have and what we must do to become part of this country.
We have nowhere else to go. There is no such thing as exile for us, as many people do in other countries when they are exiled to Canada or the United States. We have no place to go. Our struggle and our battle are here. They must remain here. We must do what we can to alleviate the problems we face and try to have our rights entrenched in the Constitution.
I think the problem you are talking about is not a minor one, in a sense. It is a basic fundamental, and I think we have put it In our proposal that we want the rights of all aboriginal people to be equal. The Indian governments must accommodate that. It is a basic principle. The Métis governments must accommodate that, the Inuit governments must accommodate that.
Ms Jamieson: Thank you.
I have just one comment and that is that many Indian witnesses have gone to great pains before this committee, referring specifically to the Quebec situation, to dissociate themselves from that kind of taint of sovereignty, and have said over and over in this committee that they want to build Canada, not dismember it.
I have one final question, and that is do you see in the future the need for a task force or a special committee to look at Metis self-government?
Mr. Sinclair: I do not see any task force to do that, except the new Constitution spelled out the fact that there are Métis. The Métis representation will decide whether it needs a task force, and if that task force is set up, it will be set up by Métis people talking about Métis issues. Over the last 20 or 30 years I have had enough of task forces which have done nothing but look at problems, and by the time they put their proposals back to government, new problems have arisen and the old ones are forgotten about. To me, task forces have never really done their jobs. The only reason we are actually here is because the constitution conference is only a couple of weeks away.
Ms Jamieson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Millen: Mr. Chairman, if I may, on a point of order, we had earlier tabled an early draft of the charter of rights of the Metis. During this constitutional process, many of the aboriginal groups have been tabling different papers. Regrettably, we did not table the last draft, entitled “The Revised Charter of Rights of the Metis”, dated February 15 and 16, 1983. That will be coming over right away. I wonder if that could be entered as an exhibit, and the former draft charter withdrawn so we can enter the proper one.
The Vice-Chairman: That is possible, and I will make note of that. When we received it, we will order that be done.
Mr. Millen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Vice-Chairman: Seeing no further questions… I am sorry, Sandra.
Ms Isaac: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is with regard to the non-status problem. Let us assume that sexual discrimination is corrected eventually, but let us assume they do not deal with the reinstatement, that they just correct it from whatever day onward. Let us assume they do not deal with reinstatement of those women who have lost status, and they are not dealt with at the First Ministers’ Conference under, as you suggested, representing the status Indians, falling under that category, what solutions do you see for them?
Mr. Sinclair: First of all, I think the women themselves have done a good job in representing their case to governments and to people across Canada. They have worked hard and they have done a good job. I think people across Canada understand the discrimination that has been against women. I think the government is prepared to deal with that at this time. In fact, it is going to deal with it at the next First Ministers’ Conference on March 15 and 16. It is one of the items they call for early resolution.
However, I want to make it very clear again that I am leery of a government that will say that it wants to recognize these people’s rights. You know that when they recognize a specific group of people’s rights it almost means that others are going to be left out, and I am afraid of that. That is why we have tried to put in our paper that we want the rights of all aboriginal people recognized, so that when those rights are entrenched in the Constitution, if a woman marries outside the reservation she belongs to, she does not lose her basic rights because she is an aboriginal person, she has those rights in the Constitution. I want to make sure that happens.
I think it is going to cause some problems with a follow-up. I think there are going to have to be meetings between Indian nations and Métis nations with regard to the so-called non-status. The non-status are in a very vulnerable position because they have to depend a lot on Indian governments; they are going to have to depend a lot on the support of the Metis; and of course they are going to have to depend on the governments in terms of making sure the negotiations are carried out, that they will have their rights entrenched and protected, that they will be able to take their place in their communities or homes.
I suppose we must turn to our own people and hope that we will be in a position to deal with those problems. I know it is going to be a long, difficult process, but we are going to have to face it. I think the Metis have tried to face it from a position of strength, because the women who have lost their rights, and because the Metis have also lost their rights, and the non-status have lost their rights, it is only in strengthening their own position will they force governments and other aboriginal people to deal with them.
Ms Isaac: Thank you very much.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you, Sandra.
I just have one question myself; all the others have been addressed. You mentioned a difficulty with financial arrangements, and you stated the five cents on the dollar. Does some of your funding come other than directly from the federal government? How is the funding lost to you as it comes from the federal government? Is it through a bureaucratic maze? Could you just explain how you feel that the money is not flowing in its total to the Métis people?
Mr. Sinclair: Let me just give you one example which I think stands out even now, the $345 million phantom fund that was supposedly available for the native people in western Canada. Chrétien said that this money was available; Allan MacEachen, the Deputy Prime Minister, also said that these funds were available. They were going to embark on an economic development scheme that would provide us with money and funds to develop ourselves, but again we found that other people are fighting for that money. I understand the mayor of this community, Larry Schneider, is asking for some of that money to build his pipeline. Other people are asking for that money. The federal government has said that it cannot deliver the money because there is no delivery mechanism. Again, my argument is that all programs that affect native people, and have been allocated or targetted for native people, must temporarily come through the organizations that are set up in a democratic structure so that we can immediately start taking control of those programs so there will be some immediate success in terms of the Constitution, because this Constitution is not going to alleviate the problems tomorrow, or next week, or April 1; they are going to continue on until they are worked out, and they are going to be worked out bit by bit. That is why I say those principles must be entrenched in that Constitution. The funding arrangements must change. The programming must change in the federal government to make sure that the funds are sent directly to the native groups.
Another example is the federal Canada Manpower. They agreed to work on a program, and we worked several years in getting money for training for our people. We set up our Gabriel Dumont Institute in anticipation of that money. When the money was finally going to be sent out, or given to our people, the minister, Mr. Axworthy, came to Saskatchewan. met with us and made a big announcement: the money is here. But suddenly they said, well, the only thing you have to do now is convince the province to give you that money. They gave the money to the province; the province said, well, we are going to decide how to spend that money. They looked at our proposal—and it is a pretty good proposal—and said that they liked our proposal, were 100% for it, but they did not have theirs ready yet. So they more or less used our proposal to get their proposal ready and then said, look, you can throw in a budget here and there. That is the type of thing we have been living with.
In 1970, 1971 and 1972 we met with the former Minister of Justice, Ron Basford, who was the Minister of Housing at that time. We had presented several papers on housing, the lack of housing in Saskatchewan. We had had several demonstrations. The federal government announced to us that it was going to allocate 50,000 units to native people across Canada. Again,
when that program came to be delivered, they said they would give the units to the province and the province would decide what role we would play in the delivery of those units.
Those are the kinds of conditions we have been living under, and this new Constitution must change in terms of the financial structures and the financial services to our people, and the delivery mechanisms to our people, and that can change immediately. It does not have to wait until the Metis governments are spelled out or the Indian governments are spelled out; that can happen immediately.
That is one of the reasons why we want self-government, to make sure those programs come through our people or our organizations. I think the one problem we are having with other aboriginal people, who are talking maybe more sovereignty than they are economics, is that some of them are saying that they are not interested in program delivery. We understand the difference between programs and rights. At the same time, we understand that we will never have any control over those programs unless our rights are entrenched in the Constitution, so that is important to us.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you very much for a very thorough presentation and for answering our questions. We appreciate that. We have taken note of the exhibits, and all other members will be aware of those. Thank you again for your brief to our committee.
I will now call the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association to come forward and participate.
The Vice-Chairman: Welcome to the committee on Indian Self-Government.
We have as witnesses from the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association President Georgina Fisher; Leona Blondeau, Executive Director; Myrelene Ranville, Consultant; and Vicky Wilson, Northern Co-ordinator.
It would be in order, then, if you would like to proceed, Georgina. You have a brief that you would like to present.
Ms Georgina Fisher (President, Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association): Yes. We thank you for giving us this opportunity to present our brief. I will be reading the position paper, and my colleagues will be available to answer questions from the committee.
Traditionally, Indian women held respected and honoured positions within Indian society as the mothers and providers of life. Their roles included those of mother, wife, medicine woman, elder, teacher and many others. They were respected for their contributions to tribal life. Throughout the years, despite the many upheavals and changes in native society, the role of native women has remained constant as mothers and
providers of life. We are strong and we are survivors, who can and will accomplish what is best for our families.
Today native women are in many different walks of life. They are community leaders, home-makers, participants in all native organizations, employees of federal and provincial governments, and professional women. However, far too many native women face the frustrations of living in poverty. There are needs that must be fulfilled to minimize these frustrations.
The Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is an organization that is attempting to minimize these frustrations. The frustrations of native women are amplified by discrimination based on sex, race, single-parenthood, lack of education, lack of skills. More basically, women are still suffering from a protectionist syndrome by the male native population.
The Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association was organized to demonstrate and reinforce native women’s ability to continue to fulfil the traditional roles of native women. The association was incorporated in 1971, and the founding membership was composed of treaty status women, Métis women, and non-status Indian women. The association continues to reflect a membership from all native communities. namely Indian reserves, Métis communities, urban native women, and non-status Indian women.
The objectives of the association are to unite native women to deal with the problems and issues facing women and children; to provide a forum from which native women’s issues and concerns can be raised collectively: to promote better living standards for native people through the promotion of better housing, education, training, and economic development opportunities by becoming involved in the organization’s work to meet the social, economic, political, spiritual, and cultural needs of native people; to promote a better understanding of native women and to offset discrimination and stereotyping of native people through greater participation within all aspects of Canadian life; to promote and develop leadership skills among native women; to work with other organizations whose aims and objectives are similar to ours and who are working towards the betterment of native people.
The Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association provides the overall direction for the organization in matters relative to political, economic, social, and cultural concerns. The Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is divided equally between status treaty Indian women and Métis and non-status women.
The Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association has 33 local groups throughout the province, and the locals are the service arms of the political organization.
The Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association, in meeting its objective of promoting and developing leadership skills among native women, has conducted a series of seminars to inform its 3,000 membership on issues facing the native population. As a result of the seminars, the most critical issue
facing women currently is the question of membership within the Indian native context.
The membership issue must be resolved so that any movement toward the broader issue of self-determination can be accomplished with a clear view of its citizenship. It has to be recognized and accepted that before any structures are established to meet and accomplish a self-determining native community, a governing body must know who it is governing, and further, that the responsibilities of the governors and the governed must be clearly identified and understood.
About membership, the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is resolved to have all discriminatory sections of the Indian Act as they have been applied to men and women be repealed. All women who lost their Indian status through marriage to a non-Indian should have their Indian status reinstated, retroactive to the first dates of the enforcement of the discriminatory sections of the Indian Act. All non-Indian women marrying status Indian men should no longer gain Indian status. All Indian women, upon marriage to a non-Indian, should retain their status. All Indian women must have the right to retain membership in their bands or to gain membership in their spouse’s band, by choice. All non-Indian women who gained Indian status through marriage prior to April, 1982 should retain their Indian status. All children descended from a marriage between a status Indian man/woman and non-Indian man/woman should gain Indian status. All illegitimate children descended from a person entitled to Indian status should have Indian status. All Indian men affected by application of the discriminatory sections of the Indian Act should regain their Indian status, equally with Indian women. All persons who voluntarily enfranchised since the coming into effect of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should not be entitled to be registered.
For the record, the resolution is Saskatchewan native women have taken the view that the determination of Indianness is a right accruing to the original inhabitants of Canada and their descendants.
Native women are also of the view that such determination is subject to the principles of equality.
To that effect, and in light of the provisions of the Indian Act which provided for legislatively sanctioned discrimination with respect to Indian women and their descendants, Saskatchewan native women are of the opinion that Indianness shall be determined according to the following provisions:
A person shall be entitled to be registered as an Indian for the purposes of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
1. That person has the right to be registered as an Indian under the laws in effect on May 26, 1874.
2. Is a member of a band which has had land set aside for it by government or is a member of a band which has been promised land by treaty.
3. Is a member of a band which has been said to be a band by the government.
4. Is a person who is a direct descendant of a person described in paragraphs 2 or 3.
5. Is the child of a person described in paragraphs 1, 2 or 3. The word “child” shall include illegitimate as well as legitimate.
The following persons shall not be entitled to be registered:
1. A person who has voluntarily enfranchised since the coming into effect of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2. A non-native person married to a person described in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 above, same and except for those persons who are entitled to be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Act.
Therefore, the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is of the view that the determination of Indianness must be subject to the principles of equality within the context of Indian government and within the Canadian fabric, as well as meeting international covenants, and further financial considerations should definitely not be the basis for decisions respecting reinstatement.
With the resolution of the membership issues, the future interests of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association for our people are:
1. Cultural and language rights: The educational systems must reflect the culture and language of our ancestors and institutions and systems currently in existence must continue and be enhanced by adequate fiscal support. The mother tongues of our people must be ensured equally, as are the minority languages’ educational rights within the charter.
2. Democratic rights: The right to participate in the democratic process within the context of Indian government and within the Canadian fabric shall in no way affect the Indianness of our people.
3. Mobility rights: The mobility rights of the descendants of the aboriginal people shall be ensured both within and without aboriginal communities and, further, mobility is not affected by boundaries such as the 49th parallel.
4. Legal rights: The legal protection rights that safeguard us in our dealings with the state and its judicial system shall apply equally within the context of Indian government and within the Canadian fabric and that any changes to the system extant in aboriginal communities be made with and only after full consultation with the membership, men and women, has occurred. Therefore, the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association resolves that fiscal support be given to our association to begin to develop positions on Indian government.
5. Enforcement: The Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association, having identified an equitable means of establishing membership, shall establish the necessary mechanisms to protect its membership, particularly minor children. The mechanisms shall be developed in consultation with the membership, men and women.
6. Treaty and aboriginal rights: The aboriginal people—Indian, Metis and Inuit . . A must have the right to improve and continue their lifestyle through hunting, fishing and development of all renewable and non-renewable resources and, further, these rights are subject to the principles of equality.
The overall position of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is that the membership is the sole responsibility of the aboriginal people as aboriginal people and that it is essential to ensure that such membership is to be determined in accordance with the principle of equality.
Such a position should not be interpreted to detract from the concept of Indian government except in that individual participation in a forum of Indian or aboriginal government should not be the sole determining factor of Indianness.
Our position is not unlike that of former Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, who said:
For here, I want the marble to remain the marble; the granite to remain the granite; the oak to remain the oak; and out of all of these elements, I would build a nation great among the nations of the world.
Therefore the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is saying: for here, we want the Indian to remain the Indian; the Metis to remain the Metis; the Inuit to remain the Inuit; and out of all of these elements, we will build a nation great among the nations of the world.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you very much for that presentation. Is there anything further you would like to add before we go to questions? No? All right, my first questioner will be Roberta.
Ms Jamieson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I would like to thank the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association for such a comprehensive brief. I have only one question, really. I do not know if you have been following Hansard on this committee, but this committee has been struggling with one or two things over a period of time, and some of the issues you raise in your brief are right on point. Let me say that I understand that your brief says that you feel—and I assume it is based on this premise—that Indian women in the past have, in many cases, been treated unfairly and that this should be rectified. You then go on to endorse and declare support for Indian governments. You also endorse the principle, which is widely accepted in Canada today among non-Indian people, of equality and say that equality should be
interpreted in the Indian community and applied but it should not detract from Indian government. This is my problem.
If we have an overriding principle of equality, whether it is in the Constitution, which many people are suggesting, or whether it is in some form of legislation that will be imposed on Indian people, what happens to these cases? In many areas of this country, traditional Indian government is still practised. In my area, for example, in southern Ontario, the Iroquois people still practise traditional Indian government. I know in British Columbia as well . . . I picked those two because they practise it along the lines of, in British Columbia in particular, a matriarchal system.
In the Iroquois Confederacy form of government—and I am going to be very simplistic in the examples I use because it is very complicated and I will just pick one issue to make the point—the traditional role that women did and do play is to effectively choose, monitor, evaluate and dehorn chiefs if they are not performing their leadership responsibilities in the best interests of the people. In those systems, elders have their role and youth have their role, and they are all very important roles and they all make that system of government work and that community work and are important for the survival of that nation.
If the standards of equality are applied, what will happen to that kind of government? Under the current situation, with the equality as we understand it in the non-Indian world, in the English language, this is what it would mean: men would be entitled to be clan mothers; youth would be entitled to take the position of elders; and so on. Now, I do not think that is what you are saying. I do not think that is the result the Native Women’s Association wants to create. I have had this discussion with other native women’s organizations because what that will do, in effect, is disrupt those traditional Indian governments and ultimately destroy them because these roles will be, by the very nature of the principle of equality, interchangeable, and I do not think that is what you want.
Would you speak to that point, please?
Ms Myrelene Ranville (Consultant, Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association): I think the women are saying that they are in no way supportive of disrupting any positions or traditions that exist currently within native societies. The application of the equality principle in this case would mean that women will continue those roles that they have played in those societies. I think there is no intent to disrupt current or traditional governments, as they exist, but it is imperative that those kinds of systems are identified by the people themselves or the people who are affected,
Ms Jamieson: Thank you. I will just follow that a little. I understand what you are saying and these are the words the come to my mind. You want to make sure that women play a vital, important role, I ask you to give some thought to the effect, although unintended on your part, of using the word “equality principle” or “equality” because it does not mean . . .
The effects that it is going to have are not, I think, what you intend. And I just ask that you give some thought to that because in the courts, which I have had the fortune or misfortune of—I have some knowledge in that area . . . they are going to interpret it, in my view, the way that I have given you that example. They will say that anybody in that community has a legitimate right to be treated equally, men or women, for any role in that society. That is what equality means. And I just suggest that you think about it in those terms. I think you do not intend those results, I am sure you do not, because the women have traditionally said they support Indian governments and traditional Indian governments, if that is what the people choose to operate. I just wanted to make those comments, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman: Did you wish to . . . ?
Ms Ranville: The point being made was made very well, and I think the intent of our position was to take into consideration the things that you have mentioned. So I think the group would be in agreement to further clarify that. but I think the committee should also accept that in a presentation or brief to any committee, we cannot cover all the principles or issues involved. But our intent is to, as I say, respect governments or traditional governments as they exist.
The Vice-Chairman: Your point is well taken and that is why members like to ask questions, because often it is difficult to put meanings and everything into a brief. Sometimes we appreciate short briefs so that we can ask more questions, and yours certainly fits that.
My next questioner will be Sandra.
Ms Isaac: I thought there were others so I was not exactly prepared. But in terms of program services or delivery of programs, how do you see that fitting into the whole context of self-government? Do you see total control or, even as an interim measure, how do you see those being taken over? And which ones do you think would be the most pending or crucial to take over, in terms of finding a sort of quick solution?
Ms Vicky Wilson (Northern Co-ordinator, Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association): I believe so far we have had problems of saying, who has responsibility for whom regarding whatever status you were, and I do not think it should be a question. I think it should be determined once the Indian self-government have decided their… I do not think it should mean that much. I think the question here is the determining of the Indian self-governments and the aboriginal . . .
Ms Isaac: In terms of economic development, could you tell us what role you see the women taking in that regard and what have you done in your area?
Ms Leona Blondeau (Executive Director, Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association): Some of the areas of program delivery done by native women in Saskatchewan are support
services. We have many support services within our communities, some of them helping young mothers. In the City of Regina we work presently in the area of fund raising to build a building, to have a centre, and this is on money given by private sectors. We did not go to government to ask for money. We felt, let us try and do something on our own, and so far it is working quite well. Out of this centre we shall have . . . We will be doing things with daycare, health and welfare, many, many areas. We have transit homes for women who are battered wives and I feel we, as women—the things we are doing in the communities are a support to the community.
Concerning the economic situation, we feel we have to do these things in order to survive and help each other. It is not a question of who is going to deliver a service. It is the things we set out to do. Our philosophy behind our association is family orientation, keeping the family together and helping one another. I feel the program . . . I guess that it is something we would have to probably look at and we would want to definitely continue in the work we do. We would not want to see anything happen.
Ms Isaac: Thank you. I will let it go for now, but I do have a question for later.
The Vice-Chairman: Mr. Manly.
Mr. Manly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank the members from the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association for their brief. I think it is helpful and it raises some interesting concerns. I think there is a general concern about the whole question of membership in Indian bands that members of Parliament have had to face and are going to have to face in the next little while again. And as you know, this brings into conflict two principles. I think members in this committee generally recognize the principle of the right of Indian nations to determine their own membership and the right of people not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex. We have had it pointed out to us many times that this is a problem that has been created by non-Indian governments and we know that. You are suggesting that membership provisions should be subject to the equality principle, but as I read your brief, you are not saying that the equality principle should be written into the aboriginal rights section of the Constitution and that that has to apply to everything with regard to aboriginal rights. You are saying that the equality principle has to apply to membership. Is that your position?
Ms Ranville: That is a lengthy question or preamble into the question. I think the position of Saskatchewan native women, with respect to membership, is that any rules or regulations that apply to membership are subject to equality, equal application to men and women.
Mr. Manly: One of the concerns that Indian nations have expressed is that this could destroy their culture. How would you respond to that concern?
Ms Ranville: Are you asking whether the application of the equality principle will destroy native communities?
Mr. Manly: I am saying this is a concern that has been raised by some of the Indian nations. Do you think the application of the equality principle in terms of membership would destroy Indian culture?
Ms Ranville: I do not believe so. The position of Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is that being Indian or being a member of an Indian community cannot be regulated. Indianness is a state of being and cannot be legislated, defined or subject to any principles except equality.
Mr. Manly: It is true Indianness is a state of being, but there is also membership in a community. If I understand correctly some of the concerns expressed to this committee, there is a feeling that, by allowing women who have married non-Indians to maintain their membership in the community, somehow this will destroy or dilute the cultural values of the community and of the nation.
Ms Ranville: I think women in Saskatchewan are saying—and it is in the resolution they passed at one of their assemblies—people who have gained status previous to a certain date or the coming into effect of the charter should retain those rights. Their position is that you cannot correct a past error by another error. These people have gained status rightly or wrongly; and I think they have probably learned, by association within those communities, what Indians are or what the state of Indianness is. I believe they cannot detract in any way from that being.
Mr. Manly: So you are saying—and you say this quite clearly in your brief—that any non-Indian woman who is married to an Indian man should not lose status, if the marriage took place before the proclamation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But the question I was asking was: regarding an Indian woman who marries a non-Indian, there is some fear in Indian communities that, if she retains her membership in the community and in the Indian nation, this is going to destroy the Indian culture.
I have heard members of Parliament being accused of wanting to destroy the Indian nations by advocating that this discriminatory section be done away with and there be a principle of reinstatement. I would like you to address that question.
Ms Blondeau: I am a non-status Indian who lost my status through marriage to a Métis. It is the principle behind Section 12.(1)(b) of the Indian Act. It is not as if we are all going to race back to the reserve. We realize the economic situation; we have relatives still there. As a result of my marriage, I have six children who have lived in urban centres all their lives; and I do not think you would see people flocking back to the reservations.
As I said, for me it is the principle. We still retain our cultural identity. We respect our nations; and as far as I am concerned, I could not see that happening, where it is a complete takeover by non-status women. It is just the principle behind the matter; and I do not think there is any fear this is what would happen, especially in Saskatchewan.
Ms Ranville: Might I just add something on the question of marriage of an Indian to a non-Indian? Obviously, in any relationship there is a compatibility of views between individuals. Had I decided to marry a non-native person, I would hope that man would understand my Indianness or at least appreciate it.
So I would suggest that would not be a concern of mine and it should not be a concern of the native community. Hopefully, our feelings for our Indianness are stronger than just to be affected by the state of marriage.
Mr. Manly: This is a very strong view which we have received from some Indian leaders in some parts of the country and not in others; but in some parts of the country, yes. Have you any suggestions as to how this fear could be eased? Do you think this reflects the general thinking of the Indian people as a whole, or is it of the leadership or what?
Ms Ranville: I do not think the association is prepared to say those positions being taken in other parts of the country are correct or incorrect. We are saying we are strong enough to withstand those; but there is a need for information, for discussion, dialogue or whatever you want to call it, between ourselves so we can try to alleviate some of those concerns. My mother, who is a Métis, has become a very firm believer in being an Indian, and there is no way you can take that away from her now.
Mr. Manly: I agree that dialogue is very important. Are there any ways in which dialogue can be structured around this issue?
Ms Ranville: I think one of the processes, certainly, is being undertaken by the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association in conducting workshops and in providing information to their membership on legislation that affects them, in which ways it has affected them and the results of legislation such as the Indian Act.
Mr. Manly: I think that would be helpful.
I have just one final question. On page 6, at the bottom of the second last paragraph, you say further financial considerations should definitely not be the bases for decisions respecting reinstatement.” I would like some elaboration on that.
Do you feel there are some legitimate band concerns about financial considerations, about land entitlement, that should be addressed by the government at the same time as reinstatement, or do you feel the two processes are quite separate?
Ms Ranville: I think, certainly, the question of land will become an issue. But I think the Saskatchewan native women want to make it very clear that financial considerations should not be the basis of reinstatement of people. We are aware of the document produced by the Department of Indian Affairs respecting the financial considerations with respect to reinstatement. As Leona has already mentioned, it is quite likely that a lot of women, such as herself and myself, will not be returning to native communities. So I think the financial considerations will certainly have to be addressed, but I do not think should be the basis of reinstatement.
Mr. Manly: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: Mr. Chartier.
Mr. Chartier: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association. I am glad to have had your presence here this morning. I am sorry I had to leave for a moment. Nature called. I guess we are natural people and we have to respond. Anyway, I missed the opening remarks, but I would just like to state I think it is reflective of the work the women in Saskatchewan have been doing that in Regina the mayor has proclaimed this week Native Women’s Week. I think that is a testimony to the great work done by native women in this province and in this city.
With that, I just want to follow up on what Mr. Manly has been saying, and what Roberta brought up. It is a problem, and we have been hearing a lot of apprehension with respect to equality. I would just like to start off with a comment that Roberta made with respect to the Iroquois Confederacy or, as they call themselves, the Haudenshoney. Those are the traditional Indians of the Iroquois Confederacy, and they certainly do not accept government legislation. In fact, they condemn the Indian Act, and in no way subscribe to the way membership is done and are totally against it. So I think the Haudenshone, at least, would support the views you put forward.
The other point I just want to make, first of all, I think you may agree that the view currently existing is actually a sexist view, if one looks at it from the point of view that there is apprehension about white males coming onto a reserve, but it is okay for white females to come onto a reserve. It would seem they feel the threat of women is not as great as the threat of men. I think that would be kind of a sexist view.
But, be that as it may, do you feel—I know there are several non-status women present here—do you feel that upon marriage, that somehow your beliefs and values change automatically upon marriage? And a second part to that: do you think that upon marriage the great spirit becomes suddenly different and you lose the great spirit of being a status Indian and you gain a great spirit of being a non-status Indian? Are there two great spirits?
Ms Wilson: I do not believe you lose that, whatever status the government has determined upon us. Speaking for myself,
naturally, I suffered discrimination. There I was an Indian, and I was classified by law; I am all of a sudden a white person. I am still suffering discriminatory practice. What is happening to my own people? Even if I was in an urban setting . . . Sure, you do not lose it, it is there. It does not mean that if you are an Indian you have to go on the reserve to practice, to have the great spirit with you. That is not what we are saying and that is not what it means. The great spirit: you are an Indian and he will be with you wherever you are.
Mr. Chartier: The other point I would like to ask of you people is: where do you think that Indianness is perpetuated? Do you think it comes through the female persons or does it come through the male persons, that feeling of Indianness?
Ms Blondeau: It is through the parents. Basically the mother, I think, is where you practice your culture and learn within the home, because usually your husband is not around that much due to working. I feel, within our family, we have great respect for the Indian culture. My children have learned about it. They study about it and there has never been anything discriminating about my children or who we are, where we belong. We just know we are Indian. There has never been … we respect. My husband is Métis, as I said, and we respect all the culture that is there. It is a family principle, I suppose. It is something that is there and could never be taken away, whatever happens and wherever we are living.
Ms Fisher: Just to add further to that, I would have to say that it is something which is handed down from our grandparents. It is instilled in us to be proud of the Indian blood that is within you, no matter what side it has come from. And it is something we would hope to pass on to our children as well, to be proud of your Indian heritage.
Ms Wilson: I would like to add on something else. A lot of times, for one thing in Saskatchewan, our sun dances were outlawed. That is not in our curriculum. That is history. That should be taught to everybody; I think a lot of that. My parents were afraid. We could not even speak our own language for a while, because they were afraid of the Indian agent. We could not even have gatherings. Any more than four people gathering on a reservation were arrested. That is not in our school curriculum, but that is something all children should learn about. And that fear. They took us away to school, about 300 miles away. They cut our hair. We were not allowed to speak our languages. We were not allowed to pray in our own way and we had to pray just one day a week, which was set aside for prayers, and we were not accustomed to that. It should be noted how the churches disrupted the families, and it was the woman who was the stronger, she was teaching her children. Naturally, a lot of that was passed on by our grandparents. The majority of that fear was held by our grandparents as well.
Ms Fisher: I can recall quite a number of years ago that a delegation of us went to Ottawa. Here we were, Indian women, and we were sitting in this room. This white woman walked in, very elegantly dressed. She sat down and classified herself as a
treaty Indian woman. Now, here we had our own women who had lost their status. Now, you tell me. is that fair for this white woman to be a treaty Indian while our women are sitting there trying to fight for their rights? It is not fair. It is not equal. There is no justice in it, really. Things like that are of concern to our membership here in the Province of Saskatchewan. This is the kind of thing we are trying to get across—the point we are trying to get across. It is the discrimination against Indian women.
Mr. Chartier: The reason I brought that up is maybe just from a personal point of view. What I remember from being a child is that the body that fed me was a brown body, an Indian body, a warm body; the voice that spoke to me was a Cree voice. Those are the things I remember. Possibly the Indian Act may have been wrong in that it accepted a white woman as an Indian but rejected an Indian mother as an Indian because the values and traditions may not in fact have come out through that other process. But I suppose that is just a sort of philosophical point.
The other thing we have problems with is: if there is equality, does that destroy Indian tradition and Indian culture? I think what I have been hearing from native women where we have been is that what is really wanted is the right to participate in the aboriginal community within the context of involvement as it is based on tradition and customs. In other words. if the custom of the community is that the pipe ceremony will be performed by a male, I do not think Indian women are saying that they want to take that pipe away and perform it themselves, or the sweat lodge. I think it is just that they want involvement in the community, to participate in those aspects that traditionally men, women and children have done. They just want to be involved in that community, not take away and destroy the traditions of that community. Is that fair?
Ms Fisher: What we are saying is that, generally speaking, men have not asked us our opinions regarding the important issues. What we are wanting is equality in terms of being able to sit on these boards that affect our family, our children’s lives and our economic situation, this type of thing. Of course, if it is the men’s traditional duty to perform these other ceremonies, etc., we respect that; we respect the Indian way of life and we are not in any way trying to have disrespect for that. We respect it.
Mr. Chartier: One last further question. With respect to Indian child welfare—and I use “Indian” in the broad term of all aboriginal people—what is the view of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association with respect to the whole area of child welfare? Just briefly.
Ms Blondeau: Our view is that our interest is based on our philosophy as a family, and as a native women’s association we feel that we have to be more involved in the rights of our children, and that in time to come, hopefully, we will have more information-sharing and do something to legislate that we have more control of where the children go, be it adoption or . . . It is all based on the culture rights of our children.
As the native people of Canada, we should be able to stay or be in the legislation that is there now. We should have more say in what has to happen with families and children. If we keep allowing things the way they are happening, we are not doing anything to help. We have to help more as far as children are concerned.
Mr. Chartier: Would the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association be in favour of federal legislation which would give jurisdiction back to the native community to take over that whole area?
Ms Wilson: Yes, I would certainly be in support of that, although in the past a lot of the time we did not have locals or the organization itself. We are not consulted. We only have a staff of three, and mostly to administer, provide information and deal with political issues that concern our membership. We have not had financial support to deal with this so we would support any legislation that is being put forward regarding native child apprehension.
Mr. Chartier: Thank you.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you. Mr. Gingras.
Mr. Gingras: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you know, our Standing Committee on Indian Affairs has two other references—I mean one other split in two. The first one was women and the Indian Act. Now we are on the Indian self-government. Today. as Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association is here, we are talking more about Indians and Indian women. The question I had has already been asked.
We saw and heard in Saskatoon yesterday, and we asked some questions about the principles of equality. Their leaders just told us that we do not have to interfere in Indian self-government as far as the way of living on the reserve. They say that they will do it according to their tradition. You responded to that earlier.
It is not often that groups have a chance to have a feedback on a report and have it on the record. My question is: what is your response to the recommendation of the first committee, the first committee on Indian women and the Indian Act? It was tabled in the House early last fall. If you did not have time to read it . . .
Ms Ranville: I think the group is aware of the existence of the report. They agree with the recommendations made by the report. However, I know that they are vehemently opposed to the suggestion of delisting women who have gained status through marriage. That was one of their concerns. As we have said previously, we feel that you cannot correct one wrong by doing another wrong. So the recommendations from the first subcommittee are generally acceptable to the group.
Mr. Gingras: Do you mean that they accept that recommendation?
Ms Ranville: Yes, except for the issue on delisting people who have previously gained status.
An hon. Member: That was not a recommendation, it was an issue.
Ms Ranville: It was not? Oh, I am sorry.
The Vice-Chairman: We can make sure you get a copy of that report. I am surprised one was not made available to you before this. We will make sure that one is mailed to you so you can take a look at it.
Mr. Gingras: I just want to say that there is a difference between submission and report. We heard a lot of statements, and we will hear a lot of statements in the committee, maybe 100,000 pages, but it does not mean that we accept all that is said all along the committee.
Ms Ranville: I think that if you had listened to the presentation of the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association, their position is that people who have lost status through application of legislation should regain it, and the timeframe being suggested by this group is that it goes back further than what is being suggested by the subcommittee report. I believe it is one generation, or whatever it is, but that would effectively exclude women such as Leona and Vicky.
A Witness: And many of our elders, as well.
A Witness: Exactly. So that would be in opposition to what we are suggesting.
Ms Isaac: Excuse me. I do not think it was the first generation. I thought it was that every woman who was ever on a band list would become reinstated, and her first-generation children. They had to stop at first-generation children because if those children marry a non-Indian, then it is practically over; but if they marry an Indian person, then the blood quantum is not restored again, but it reaches that level.
The Vice-Chairman: Again, as chairman I should say that is it not proper that we discuss a report in that sense unless we are aware of what is exactly in the report, and now is not the time for me as chairman, or the members of the committee, to discuss what is in the report. It is probably better that the report be given to you and that you make a submission in writing to us, if that is in order, on the recommendations, and we certainly would be prepared to received that. But the discussion is not fruitful when there is not a knowledge of what the exact recommendations are.
If there are no further questions, then thank you very much for your presentation and for the questions you received and answered so well. We appreciate that, and it will be helpful in our report. As I said, if you wish to comment on the first committee’s report, we would be very happy to receive that. Thank you very much.
We will now have a couple of minutes of a break while our next witnesses are coming to the table.
The Vice-Chairman: I will call the last session of the special committee in Saskatchewan to order and welcome the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments before the special committee.
We have with us today. and I will attempt all the pronunciations, Eugene Aubichon, Mr. Michael Blackman, Mr. Max Morin, Mr. George Smith, and Mr. Lawrence Yew. Welcome, and it would be in order now to proceed with your brief.
Mr. Michael J. Blackman (Chairman, Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the House of Commons special committee—I should say ladies and gentlemen.
I want to explain a few things that we plan to do here this afternoon before we get right into this thing. We have a general position paper from the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments to present. We hope to clarify for you people the situation that our people face in the northern part of this province. We are fortunate in that we called in one of our native sons who was recently elected to be a member of the legislature of Saskatchewan, Mr. Lawrence Yew. He also has extensive experience in local government development and the issues surrounding aboriginal peoples in our part of the province.
We have a position paper generally prepared and will be presenting that to you. We have also another position paper that will be presented by Mr. Max Morin on behalf of the community of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan, which will set out the situation that community faces and the aspirations that community has. We use that as a typical example of the situation that most of our native communities face in the northern part of this province.
I should tell you also that we will have some comments and some presentation to you in what we call the third official language of northern Saskatchewan, and that is Cree. I am going to handle the other official language part, the English part.
Now to tell you something about the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments. We formed that organization August 23, 1982, and thereafter we legally incorporated it under the Non-Profit Corporations Act, Section 6, Statutes of the Province of Saskatchewan. Our membership is really the citizens of 30 northern Saskatchewan communities as represented by their local government councils. Those local government councils are designated as local advisory councils in some smaller communities or local community authorities, which are in larger communities. and I
will have further explanation of that as we go through the document.
The Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments is also supported by the Northern Municipal Council, which is the administration agent for the local advisory councils.
We live in a particular time, with so much government around—federal, provincial and so on—that everything has a name and everything is known by the letters of that name. There is DREE and DRIP and FLIP and all that, and we recognize our local governments as LACs, LCAs, There is the Northern Municipal Council—as I refer in here, the NMC. Our organization is called the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments, and that leaves our letters as SANLG. That does not really come together to make any sort of fancy word for everybody to know us by, and people are starting to call us SLANG. They are getting it a little twisted around and we have to consider sometime down the road changing our name, I suppose. But that comes with the territory, I guess.
A I said, when we put this thing together we did not know—at that time, we were not sure whether there were ladies on this subcommittee or not. We should have really said, ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government. We said members, but anyway, I presume everybody will accept that.
On behalf of the membership of the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments, we want to thank you for this opportunity to present to you our views on this most crucial topic of self-government for aboriginal peoples. We wish to make our comments brief, but as factual as possible.
First, we would like to establish our geographic region in this Province of Saskatchewan. We come from the approximate geographic half, that is, the northern half of the Province of Saskatchewan. This region is called the Northern Administration District, and throughout this document it will be referred to as the NAD.
The NAD was created by an act of the provincial legislature in 1948. It was called The Northern Administration District Act. Interestingly enough, that is when I was created too. That is my birth date.
The Vice-Chairman: We have something in common.
Mr. Blackman: We have a little something in common there, yes.
The NAD act defined the district, the southern boundary of which runs approximately along the northern boundary of the Meadow Lake Provincial Park to the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, just south of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. I might add in there at this time that some of the most interesting and long-time historical information of the Province of Saskatchewan has taken place in what is called the Northern Administration District now. It was not called the Northern Administration District 200 years ago, but that is where some of the oldest history in the development of this province is to be
found, places like Cumberland House, Hallonquist and those places.
The Northern Administration District Act set up a provision for local and district government services and administration through a person called the northern administrator, who was until 1972 the Deputy Minister of the Department of Natural Resources, and after that and to the present, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan. So in effect that deputy minister became the Indian agent for northern Saskatchewan and non-status peoples. Thereby, each particular deputy minister became in effect the governor of the colony that we call the Northern Administration District, because that is what took place as well, a colony was set up with a governor.
Prior to the Northern Administration District Act, people lived in harmony with themselves and their neighbours. There was not a great influx of government services, government programs, government employees, rules, regulations, and all the things that come with that.
After the Northern Administration District Act it was normally the local Department of Natural Resources’ conservation officer—or field officer, as he was better known—who administered what little welfare there was, housing programs, and other programs and fielded local concerns.
Then amendments to the Northern Administration District Act in the late 1950s and early 1960s allowed for the meagre beginnings of what most Canadians accept as a modern municipal form of local government. First, there were things called the ratepayers’ associations. They were formed in some communities, communities with plenty of desire but unfortunately little funds. Then a provision of the NAD act allowed for the establishment of northern community areas, the first of which was at Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan.
These northern community areas each elected a local government council called a local community authority. Hence, the LCAs that I referred to. Presently there are nine of these northern community areas, commonly referred to as LCAs.
With the creation of the Department of Northern Saskatchewan in 1972—or what is affectionately known as DNS—the people of the Northern Administration District, through the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan, which was known as the Métis Society of Saskatchewan at that time, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, the Northern Trappers’ Association, a government appointed watchdog committee, and individually called for the establishment of a people’s council of some sort that would give them some control over their lives and their destiny.
As a result, the Northern Administration District Act was amended and the Northern Municipal Council was created and officially born October 6, 1973, the date of the first election.
I might add at this time that we have one of the survivors from the first election, Mr. Lawrence Yew, with us. He spent a great number of years on the Northern Municipal Council and
was chairman for a number of years also. He has a great deal of information about this.
According to the legislation, the Northern Municipal Council was to function like a rural municipality. However, unclear wording in the legislation and a resistance by the provincial government to turn over responsibilities and authorities that were in the bailiwick of the northern administrator, but should have properly become those of the NMC, in effect left the NMC hamstrung.
Over the years to the present, the NMC has been reduced from a funding agency advocate and program delivery agency for LCAs and LACs to primarily a bookkeeping service for LACs, which, according to provincial officials, do not have the legal authority to handle money.
Initially, the NMC consisted of five elected members, one from each of the five areas in the Northern Administration District, plus two appointees, one from AMNSIS, one from the FSI. The appointees were dropped in 1976. The elected members remain, and for your information I am one of those members.
In 1980 the then NDP provincial government proposed to go further in the development of municipal government in the Northern Administration District through providing citizens with a series of options to choose from, and those were called, appropriately enough, “Options 80”. Since that time, considerable discussion and debate have taken place about the various municipal options put forth, and all have been from the point of view that indeed new and more adequate legislation is required to better provide a place for citizens of the NAD from which they can properly control their lives and their destiny in this province called Saskatchewan and in this country called Canada.
Finally, we come to the present. Our provincial government of the day, Progressive Conservative, is currently in the process of negotiating what is called Bill 61. That is the legislation which outlines the municipal government structure of the future for the Northern Administration District.
Briefly, it allows LACs to become corporate northern hamlets and LCAs to become corporate northern villages. It provides for very small communities to be called “northern settlements” with a government administrator. The Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments does not support that government administration approach. Our feeling is that all northern communities should become autonomous. However, we do not find ourselves totally opposed to the general intent of Bill 61. We do feel, however, that there are a great number of requirements for our people that Bill 61 does not meet, and we hope before we finish here this afternoon that we will be able to outline those things.
Now, before we go into these requirements, let us look at our people in the Northern Administration District. The Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments represents some 30 communities in the Northern Administration District with an approximate total population of 15,000 souls. It can be accurately said that of that total 90% are Metis, the other 10% being non-status Indians and whites. Most family names have been here for generation upon generation. Most families have traditionally drawn their livelihood from this land, and the resulting feelings that this land is theirs and that encroachments should be controlled by themselves are very natural, very strong and very valid.
It should be noted that for most of the past 116 years of Confederation not many people, governments or companies showed much interest in the Northern Administration District. The exception, of course, is the Hudson’s Bay Company, but we will not go into that at this time since it would probably take more time than we have today.
Recently, however, the vast potential of the Northern Administration District, in terms of mineral resources and tourism development, has aroused a great degree of interest by both governments and industry. That frightens our people. They feel that they do not have any legal protection by either provincial statute or Canadian Constitution to guarantee them a part in the development and a proper share in the benefits.
The Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments wishes you to take note of that. We desperately need that situation to be changed in the people’s favour.
In number two we referred to the requirements that Bill 61 does not meet. Number one is that it does not provide for adequate corporate boundaries for our upcoming new municipalities. We do not accept the concept of our powers being restricted to within the lots and parcels that are surveyed in our communities. Many of our people rely on the outlying lands around our communities for their livelihood through trapping, fishing, hunting, wild rice growing, etc. Therefore, we need larger corporate boundaries than southern municipalities in order to protect our people’s aspirations and their needs.
Our people need a land base. They are losing their traditional lands through the northward progress of tourism, industry such as pulpwood clear-cutting and government overregulation. It must be remembered that, traditionally, native residents of the Northern Administration District have regarded the land as being open and to be used as a source of livelihood, not to be exploited and then left in a state of decay as modern industry does.
The Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments is not opposed to progress. We are not opposed to economic development, public or private. What we are opposed to, however, is development without our people playing a part in the planning, the implementation and the distribution of the benefits.
Although it is not listed in here, I would like to add at this time that Bill 61 creates what are commonly called municipalities in northern Saskatchewan, but they do not create and they do not refer to them as rural municipalities or urban municipalities. They create what is called a northern municipality, and our involvement, our discussions to date with provincial government have been to set up… They prefer to set up northern municipalities that are really urban municipalities, and our influence and our jurisdiction ends where the outward line of the surveyed lot ends.
We say that we do not want to be restricted to an urban municipality situation or to a rural municipality situation but rather a combination of both. We have communities of people. We do not have a farming community scattered around us. We have a community of people. We have trappers’ cabins around; people do not live there all the time, but they are used for their livelihood, and therefore we want to have a larger area of jurisdiction. The arguments that if we give you extra land you have to provide services there . . . water, sewer, garbage collection, power and so on . . . do not cut any ice with us. Our people know that if their cabin is 8 or 10 miles from town they are not going to expect water and sewer services. But they want to be able to have the control, through their local government, that will allow their trapline to stay in place unmolested. They want to be able to go to their local government and get approval to have a piece of land to build a cabin on so that they can use that. They want to be able to deal with their own people on it rather than trying to deal through the maze of government regulations that exist at this time. It is not even the maze of government regulations that hamper us in northern Saskatchewan right now; it is the maze of government reviews and considerations of old regulations, with this present government, that we have to deal with. It is very frustrating and we feel our hands are tied all the time.
Some of my partners here will expound on it. Bill 61 at this time does not give us the proper authority, we feel, to do the job that people are asking for. Maybe at this time I could present a copy of Bill 61 as an exhibit. We only have one copy; I am sorry.
To summarize, we have been trying to point out that our member communities of the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments have a number of pressing needs that have to be addressed with some urgency.
First, the need to have clearly legislated authority: that is, a form of autonomous self-government. Our people are ready, willing and able to tackle the task of implementing those powers and responsibilities resulting from the establishment of such authority; we know what we want, and we are prepared to take on the responsibility of doing the job, but we have to be given that chance and we have to be given the tools that will allow us to do the job properly.
Second, the need for a land base. The world in the twentieth century operates on a system of land ownership; our Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Government citizenship
needs land ownership, not the status of land renters or squatters, which it practically is at present.
All Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Government members feel very strongly that we have to possess the land-in order to do a fair and proper job for our people. As well, an autonomous, independent local self-government structure has to be put in place with the appropriate power and authority to provide the tools to do the job.
The Association of Métis and Non-status Indians of Saskatchewan has promoted the position that the Métis of Saskatchewan should finally be given, through the Constitution, the rights to land settlements, self-government and control over resources.
SANLG also, some time ago, supported that position and does so at present. SANLG has pursued these goals with the provincial government through the development of Bill 61—the municipal process. SANLG will continue to do so, but not in isolation from this constitutional process.
For our members in the northern administration district, the SANLG makes the strongest possible recommendation that the Métis come out of your subcommittee’s activities with the rights which have been denied them for so long.
Perhaps our municipal government direction is wrong. We think not. We feel, however, that the establishment of Métis reservations should not be the only option open to our people. We propose a mixture of the two—a combination which would achieve the objectives we seek—or we propose that options of that nature be given to our people in order that each community of people can decide what is best in their particular circumstances.
Before I finish, I believe it is correct to say that we have been sitting here most of the day. We have already expressed our support for the Association of Métis and Non-status Indians’ position. We should also add that we wish to express our support for the position presented by the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association. They deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done, and the independence they show and the determination. It is great.
We thank you for the chance to make these views known, and we appreciate your anticipated consideration. We submit this respectfully from the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments.
Now As I said before, we have a particular community situation which we want to present to better back up the comments we have made in our general paper. Mr. Max Morin, our Vice-Chairman, will present that.
The Vice-Chairman: Mr. Max Morin.
Mr. Max Morin (Vice-Chairman, Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments): Regarding the submission of the Pinehouse Local Community Authority No. 9 to the House of Commons Subcommittee on Indian Self-Government, there are present: George Smith, Overseer; Mary Hansen, Deputy Overseer, Nap Sanderson, Councillor; Ivan Natomagan, Councillor; and Joan Sanderson, Councillor.
Pinehouse is a Cree-speaking, Metis community of 700 people, located on the Churchill River in the geographic centre of Saskatchewan. Until four years ago the town remained unconnected by road to the rest of the province. The community’s economy is based on commercial and domestic fishing, trapping, hunting, rice and, to a lesser extent, on some pulpwood cutting, transfer payments and direct wage employment. With the exception of the latter two categories, all the wealth of the town comes from harvesting the lands and waters surrounding us.
It must be emphasized that, despite southern stereotypes and misperceptions concerning northern native economies, bush-related activities comprise by far the most important sector, as far as the generation of income goes. Almost any northerner will tell you this: bush activities are neither things of the past nor things of leisure for northerners, as many in the south believe. And the opposite… that the north no longer needs access to bush resources, because natives get lots of welfare and wage jobs—also is untrue. Yet these are things we hear all the time from the mouths of the very people who have power over our lives and who should, in everybody’s best interests, have at least a basic understanding of the northern economy.
The lack of awareness and understanding that characterizes southern industry and government agencies cannot be overstated. But one further observation will suffice to make our point for the time being. We listened closely to what forestry people had to say at the 1982 national forestry congress last June in Prince Albert. Not surprisingly, over the two days hardly a mention was made that acknowledged we even exist! A quote by F.L. Reed, Assistant Deputy Minister, Canadian Forestry Service, typifies the whole attitude of neglect:
Here are some of the perceptions held about the forest. The forest is: an obstacle to agriculture; a mine of raw materials, the base of our largest industrial employer, a source of social capital, a mystical place where one goes for inspiration, an ecological museum to keep inviolate, part of our national heritage, a wilderness as a semi-sacred place, a park for the upper middle class, a renewable resource, our property, something we borrow from our children.
Where do we, the over 30,000 human inhabitants of the province’s forest, for whom it is home, fit in? Where do we who, in Saskatchewan, form the majority over five eighths of the province’s area belong in the minds of those who have so much economical control over us?
We must here add that our conviction about the central role played by the bush in our economy is not only the subjective perception of our harvesters. There is a whole body of literature in Canada known as “land use and occupancy research” which over the last 10 years or so has consistently been confirming this. We urge that you and anybody else whose responsibility it is to make recommendations concerning northern self-government— which in itself necessarily involves making recommendations concerning access to, and protection of, renewable resources—familiarize yourselves with this literature which so strongly provides the objective/scientific verification of what we have been saying for years.
The ignorance of southern civil servants, politicians and industry people concerning such matters must partially explain the economic situation that exists in the north today. The well-intentioned but misinformed and unevenly planned “development” undertaken by provincial governments has transformed some aspects of our Community. Yet our economic base remains largely unchanged. The contradictions are gross. We now have homes with mortgages of $65,000 to $90,000, oil furnaces, municipal water and sewer systems, firehalls and trucks, recreation facilities, etc, But we have neither access to the wage jobs nor the municipal budgets with which to operate and maintain all these things, Unemployment in Pinehouse is about 95%. In short, northerners and their communities are on the edge of massive wholesale bankruptcy.
How does a town with 95% unemployment survive? We survive by turning to the only sure thing we have been able to depend on from generation to generation: the land and its renewable resources. Jobs and government funding come and go. The land is always there. We are not saying that we wish to turn back to a lifestyle that is 100% dependent upon traditional harvesting. That is impossible. And we are not saying that we can afford to give up the few wage jobs and the transfer payments we do receive. And we are also not saying that we are against development as a matter of principle, as as some perhaps would have you believe.
The southern concept of development has proven to be a very mixed blessing, to put it politely. Despite the promises and expectations of many jobs for us in the mining sector,
Pinehouse—which is the closest community to the Key Lake mine—has four people working there out of a total labour force of about 1,000. Despite years of promises regarding training programs, we lack certified people in many important areas. Without certification there is little chance of entry into the limited industrial job market. The forestry industry is almost totally peopled by southerners. The government, education, health and police sectors employ very few northerners. In short, there are two economies in the north.
These are not truly separate economies because they have very strong linkages of cause and effect. But they are superficially distinct, in that the economic development projects controlled by southerners and foreigners do not benefit northerners and seldom employ us in meaningful numbers or training/skill levels. We are not anti-development. We are, however, opposed to development projects that conflict significantly with our traditional resource base while not leaving the north with lasting benefits. We demand a role in redefining what development is all about in the north.
What we are saying is that we also demand access to, and a management input into, our renewable resources. Any concept of native self-government in northern Saskatchewan which does not acknowledge this is nonsense. And we are saying that if you do not understand these words, or if you disagree with them, then you have an important responsibility to educate yourselves on these matters. For without this understanding, you may as well pack up and go home. It is that important; it is that simple. You cannot ignore the relationship between the historical separation of northerners from their means of being able to make a living and the current state of local government. We have been denied the political power necessary to have any real control and say in resource development. So we have had no reason to develop autonomous, strong governments.
Many of us can trace our families back to hundreds of years in the Pinehouse area, hundreds of years in which we had our own forms of social, economic and governmental institutions. Because southern economic interests have traditionally largely overlooked our existence in the north, and because those southerners who must deal with us generally do not believe that a community should have the right to meaningful control over the resource base on which it depends, we have been denied the right to evolve and practise our own appropriate forms of local government over the past 78 years since Saskatchewan came into being.
Local government powers, particularly those related to land use regulation and financing, encompass the major issues we face as elected local government leaders. We in Pinehouse are currently working very hard to get those outside forces that have jurisdiction and economic interest in our land base to acknowledge and understand the crucial importance of that land to us. Building from there, we are also working hard to get some control and meaningful input into all resource-related decisions that affect the land we currently depend on. We cannot, and we will not, be ignored any longer. Every clear-cut by the pulp company impacts the local economy by scaring away game, reducing fur and meat harvests. Sometimes damage is done to important fish-spawning areas. The impacts of the mining and tourist sectors are often no better. In no instance have we ever received compensation for damaged resources or land.
With respect to all outside development sectors, we are, almost without exception, never consulted before, during or after the fact. Our files clearly speak of the long history of our struggle with outside interests to have meaningful input, true dialogue as opposed to tokenistic gestures. We cannot tolerate this any more and a history in recent years of confrontations with outside economic interests speaks of our political determination. Militancy in the north is not a matter of choice. We have no alternatives until southern people in power choose to wake up.
So we are working hard to get some more control over our lives. We, of course, support the efforts of the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan in the upcoming constitutional talks. Any struggle to try and get self-government and a land base entrenched in the Constitution we have to whole-heartedly endorse. But that strategy is one which we have a hard time contributing to directly because of the high costs of legal experts, distances to Ottawa, and so on. The effort that we in Pinehouse are currently undertaking, apart from supporting the AMNSIS fight where and when we can, involves doing a broad, in-depth planning study.
This study is taking the methods that other similar studies have successfully used to document native economies, adapting them for our use. For example, all our trappers, hunters, fishermen, rice growers and other users of the land are each sitting down with us and marking on a map where and what he or she harvests. By combining these maps and producing composites, we will be able to accurately define the geographic extent of our economic dependency on the bush.
Another example is the household survey. We will soon be doing a detailed, long-term survey of about one-third of all the households in town. Every type of question about economy will be asked which will, with analysis, let us determine the relative importance of the bush compared to wage jobs and transfer payments. Thus we will establish the relative intensity of our economic relationship to the land as well as our geographical relationship. These tools are providing us with the information which, combined with a thorough inventory of the current and potential resources in the Pinehouse area, will allow us to pursue our own concept of economic development, a concept that truly, and in a lasting way, benefits northerners.
Working with outside economic forces whenever our interests are compatible, and doing our best to exclude them when they are not, we will probably put emphasis on small-scale renewable resource projects. Whatever concept of development we end up defining for ourselves, one of its underlying principles will be to move towards self-sufficiency at every possible turn.
The strategy of the Pinehouse planning study has been to convince the provincial government that we have the right and the capabilities to do much of the planning for the 2,500 square miles, approximately, that we economically use. Specifically, we are working to encourage the government to implement existing legislation—the Planning and Development Act—which makes provisions for the minister to grant us considerable planning powers over Crown lands. Powers and provisions under the act are commonly in place in the south, but are denied to us. The planning study could also be an important potential tool in defining our corporate boundaries under the new Bill 61—Northern Municipalities Act. But since this new act is turning out to be a hollow farce, giving northern communities increased autonomy and powers without simultaneously making financial provisions for carrying out these powers, it seems we are almost wasting our time there.
It has been discouraging, trying to work with the current inaccessible and arrogant provincial government. But whether it is this government that wakes up to our needs, or the next one, or the next one, we will continue to fight until we have a meaningful say in all important resource decisions concerning our lands; until decisions about how our land is used are, to a significant degree, made in our best interests and not only in the best interests of outsiders. In other words, until we have meaningful powers of self-government.
The one positive thing about the massive unemployment in the north is that it has freed up the people’s time, so that we can come to meetings and get organized to try and change things. Our Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments is an example of the fighting organizations that appear whenever people’s circumstances grow desperate. The mood in the north is not a happy one, but is one appropriate to our times. The mood can only grow uglier, if the provincial government does not start moving much more sincerely on the inseparable twin issues of true self-government and meaningful powers over our land base.
That is the Pinehouse brief.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. George Smith (Overseer, Pinehouse Local Community Authority No. 9): I will just say this in Cree: (Witness speaks in Cree—Editor).
That is all I have to say.
Mr. Gingras: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, will it be possible to have this translated in the transcript?
The Vice-Chairman: Will you give us an idea . . . ? We have somebody on the committee who knows the language.
Mr. Blackman: Mr. Yew will make a brief explanation, or interpretation, and then he has some comments himself.
Mr. Lawrence Yew (MLA, Cumberland Constituency, Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I want to say that I am indeed very honoured to be here to provide whatever moral support I can provide for the northern group, which is making a presentation here for the northern population; northern communities.
I have a few comments, but I will reserve those for later. First of all, I want to translate what George Smith, the mayor for Pinehouse. .. George, by the way, is a very active and concerned citizen, one of our most outstanding people up north in community and northern development. I want to translate for him.
First of all, he talked about the land base in northern Saskatchewan and how important this is to the people in the area, and how alarmed and how concerned people are about the recent developments that have happened in the last number of years, namely the conflict of governments and industrial development as opposed to what people in the northern areas want and need in terms of becoming involved in self-government. He emphasized that past government and industrial development has not taken into account the people, the inhabitants of the north; people living in the Northern Administration District.
He went on to explain that we have to identify clearly local government legislation that would give the communities clear
authority over not only their communities but certain areas surrounding their communities, so that they can have program and policy input into how that land is developed in industrial development so those can be taken into account—the concerns of the people in the community, the people in the respective areas—their concerns can be taken into account and that development could proceed in an orderly fashion, taking into account the problems of the community.
He went on, as well, to talk about welfare. He mentioned that welfare is not the key thing and the right thing to have. The people in the Northern Administration District want to become involved in their own social, cultural, political, and economic institutions. He condemned the hand-outs, the welfare and payments made as such, as a Band-aid type of answer. Those really do not resolve any problem, other than to provide a living sustenance for a family at a time when the economy in a certain region is very poor. He says that welfare is not the answer. It is certainly not the answer.
In some final comments that he made, he referred to the fact that this meeting itself is very important, and the discussion following this meeting that will be held at a higher level—I take it that he suggested the constitutional talks . . . will be of importance, and the issues presented here are very valid and they should be taken into account.
If I have missed any portion of George’s presentation, I am sure that some of my colleagues may want to help. If not, maybe I can go on. Okay. That was George’s presentation.
I just want, again, to commend the group for travelling such a vast distance to make its presentation here. The brief presented initially by Mr. Mike Blackman—the presentation made here was quite brief in itself, but very actual of accounts that have transpired over recent years in northern Saskatchewan. I recall the days when the government of the time introduced the single-agency concept. Following that concept we had large northern area meetings to study that concept, and we also pressured for a watchdog committee to study this council referred to as the Northern Municipal Council.
The history that was presented here is quite accurate, and the evolution of various developments is quite accurate. I know it would interest—the concern expressed by the group, the local governments versus industrial development and how this is a concern, as opposed to the type of developments people direly need in northern Saskatchewan in getting involved in the mainstream of society, regarding the social, cultural, political, and economic institutions .. This is a very important part of an objective and a concern that northerners have. The past developments have always proved that they have been left out on the sidelines.
I just wanted to note, as an example, back in 1953—I was only 12 years old at the time—a major agreement transpired in those days which was very hard on a group of people. The federal-provincial agreement in 1953 did not provide—the people in the communities of James Bay, Cold Lake, Canoe Lake, Beauval, Waterhen, St. Gregor Village, Michel Village, Dillon, Big Head Reserve, and a vast number of other
communities. the federal and provincial governments in those days did not provide any collective bargaining for those communities. In fact, it was such that people in those days did not understand or talk English, write English; they did not understand the language, did not read the language, and the agreement was still imposed on them without any representation whatsoever. In those days we had no representative such as we have today. Today we have local councils in each respective community, and from there we have native organizations that represent minority groups, such as the Métis society of Saskatchewan. We have the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; we have, to my left side and the right side of me, the Native Council of Canada; we have various organizations that can lobby for us these days. But in those days there was no representation whatsoever and the federal and provincial governments simply went ahead and imposed this 30-year agreement on the people.
To conclude, what has happened now is that the people have lost access to resources; they have lost their way of livelihood. The people in the area that still derive their living from the traditional resource uses of trapping, forestry, etc., cannot gain access to this vast area. This area that was taken over represents somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3.5 million acres of territory, and that really hinders the people when they try to look after their own needs.
The governments in question as well did not even leave an economic alternative to replace the losses of the people in that area. That is a prime example of what has happened in recent years and what is still happening in present day society. The north has held numerous meetings, numerous discussions, to discuss ways and means of becoming involved in their own destiny by way of social, cultural and economic development.
I entered provincial politics to try to get an insight into a way that we could address ourselves better to the issues that confront us on a day-to-day basis in northern Saskatchewan. I am very proud that I am able to meet with my friends from up north and to see firsthand for myself what they have prepared to present here to this committee. I note with a lot of interest that the issues that were discussed here a decade ago are still there.
We have had two provincial governments since 1972 and many of the problems still exist. Definitely there has to be emphasis to take into account the issues and concerns raised by northerners.
We are a minority group. When it comes to politics we only represent 4% of the total voting population in this province; but then, on the other hand, we should not be imposed with stereotype developments that have traditionally been the exercise.
I just want to comment as well on an issue that was raised here just awhile ago that the member for Ile-à-la-Crosse, Max Morin, raised, a point that I was debating on earlier this morning, and that is the clear-cutting policy that exists in northern Saskatchewan. I talked to the minister responsible for DTRR, the Department of Tourism and Renewable Resources; he also holds the portfolio for DNS.
The concern that is there in northern Saskatchewan is the fact that there is in existence a clear-cutting policy. Now, I used an example to try to get my message across to the minister. This policy reminds me of the days when the United States came out with a blanket policy to slaughter the buffalo. That was an intention, a deliberate move, a deliberate attempt by the United States government to try to buckle the Indians in those days—to try to get the Indians to submit to them—to move into Indian reservations. And I see this clear-cutting policy as a similar scheme by existing industrial and governmental agencies.
What this policy does, in effect, is that it clear-cuts vast areas of northern prime land. It harms the natural environment; it does away with the wildlife habitat. With those clear-cut areas, the wildlife in northern Saskatchewan have no place to go; their shelter has been done away with. In effect what it does is it diminishes a trapper’s chance of obtaining a reasonable income out of his trapping ventures. So, in effect, it is eliminating the trappers in northern Saskatchewan; it is eliminating their trapping grounds.
Here again we have an example of them doing away with the traditional resource users and trying to get them to move into the industrial areas where the brief indicated we stand very little chance, because we have never been involved in the main cycle of those developments.
I could go on, Mr. Chairman, with the various and numerous areas that the delegation has presented here. There is a good number of valid issues and concerns expressed here, but I will not go to that extent. The briefs are quite to the point. You have them, I presume, and they will be analysed, evaluated and assessed, and recommendations will be taken out to be presented at the constitutional talks.
But in closing, I would say this much. I, for one, will do my utmost to support the groups that have made a presentation today. I certainly feel very proud to be in their company and to be able to support their briefs.
Thank you very much.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you for those words. Mr. Blackman, do you have further comments?
Mr. Blackman: We have a great number of issues that we could go on for days about, but there is one that we would like to bring up and try to expound upon somehow. It is the matter of housing, and we bring it up to you people because the housing program in northern Saskatchewan has been paid for 75% federal money and 25% provincial money. It was referred to in the document from Pinehouse, that we have people all
over northern Saskatchewan, mostly in the communities that we represent, some 1,200 of them I believe, who have been given—well, not given, they had them built for them, and the people have taken part in building them, these box homes, or bungalows, or whatever they may be called. Some of them are a storey-and-a-half, some with basements, some with no basements.
The housing issue is big. The need is still big. The ones that have been built present a great deal of problems. We deal through the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation and they say that right now our people are 87% in arrears in their mortgage payments. That means 87% of 1,200 homes, approximately. Those homeowners have not been able to pay their arrears; and we say they have not been able to because there are no jobs. If 87% of the mortgages are in arrears, we feel that is a pretty accurate figure of the degree of unemployment we have in the north, some 87%.
Every time Canada Employment and Immigration Commission—or Statistics Canada or whatever it is—releases an unemployment figure in Canada, that is great; but they do not even consider our people. As Lawrence said, we do not represent many people; there just are not many people up north. But they are not even taken into account, and the unemployment situation is really severe.
The housing problem is tied into that now. Apparently, the last agreement is up, and we look for more involvement in some consideration of a future agreement.
We find our consultations and our discussions with the provincial agencies are not getting anywhere. We have not even gotten to step number one. We have not even gotten to look through the keyhole yet, I guess. We have not gotten in the door; that is for sure.
We look for more involvement from CMHC. We look for more involvement by ourselves with CMHC. That is not to eliminate other groups that have been involved in housing before. Everyone is welcome as far as we are concerned, because we are all dealing with the same problem and dealing with the same objectives.
We do not look for a housing program in the future, whether it be in 1983 or 1984. We do not look for another housing program of that nature to be imposed upon the people without their having some say in how it is put together. We do not feel the bureaucrats in Ottawa can sit down and design a really good program within the confines of those offices and then try to implement it out in the bush country where we live.
At that point, I might add that the bush country where we live is pretty rapidly becoming prairie due to these clear-cutting policies. There are no trees planted after they cut them out. We just have to support everything Lawrence has said.
The fur is gone; the game is gone. It is going, and nobody seems to worry about it.
The interesting thing about that—I am rambling all over here—is that we tried to get our people involved in the pulp-cutting industry. We cannot get any jobs for them. We cannot get any contracts for them. But there are people coming from outside that area every day. They have jobs and contracts, and our people do not have them. So our people are. . . Well, I do not think I have to go on about it. It is in bad shape.
One thing that really bothers us is the attitude of people in the southern parts of Saskatchewan, an attitude which says: You guys are all on welfare; you do not need jobs. What are you complaining about? You have a good life.
Indeed, we have a good life. We have relatively unpolluted waters, although that is a concern we could go on about also. We have clean air and so on. But we have to have an economic base, too; and we do not have it. The fact that there is such a high degree of welfare in northern Saskatchewan is not because we have asked for it; we never asked for it. But what else is there? There is nothing else.
Maybe some of my partners here want to say something. Max.
Mr. Morin: I think the briefs indicate exactly at what the point we are. Bill 61, which was tabled, wants to make us into urban municipalities without an economic base. This is the one thing I want to stress: We want to become communities not only within a three-mile radius or a five-mile radius; we want to make sure we control the districts where our people make a living out of hunting, trapping, fishing and wild rice growing. We have to have some control over that. If we do not have control over that, our traditional way of life . . .
In hard economic times, our people are always there. The land is there; and Pinehouse states it clearly. The land is there. Programs and government funding come and go; but the land is always there, and we need the land to depend on. We need a land base and a form of self-government to determine our own future and destiny. We want to make sure you understand this clearly.
I heard you mention you are hoping to complete your report in September. Hopefully, some recommendations will go to the first ministers and the Prime Minister before the Constitution talks, telling them about some of our concerns. I think it is very crucial that some of our concerns be viewed in the First Ministers’ Conference set for March 15 and 16.
As Métis people in northern Saskatchewan, our local government represents 90% of our people who are Metis. We want to make sure we have a seat at the Constitution talks, because as Metis people, we have a different lifestyle, a
different culture; we live differently. Even our language is different. I can speak in Cree. Our language is half French and half Cree in some communities; and in some other communities, it is straight Cree.
But we have to have a seat on the Constitution talks. That has to be made very clear, because in northern Saskatchewan, trappers, organizations, fishermen . . . Every year for the last 10 years, I have been going to meetings; and every year, the same resolutions come up. Nothing is done about it, because we do not have control. If we had control of the land and the resources and a form of self-government, whatever the people want . . .
We cannot hunt in a specific area. I do not think they should cut trees in that specific area. I think people always come out with these resolutions; and yet it is done, because we do not have control.
We are a minority. We are a majority in northern Saskatchewan; yet, we are a minority in the Province of Saskatchewan. Maybe politically, we are being dismantled as a partner in northern Saskatchewan, and a lot of people felt it was working pretty good for us. Yet, the NDP in northern Saskatchewan got two seats; Progressive Conservatives got a majority of seats in Saskatchewan, and we are suffering for that politically. We cannot do anything because we are a minority.
We want to make sure we have to turn only to the federal government. I believe the federal government has accepted the responsibility of the Métis people, the Indian people and the Inuit people.
We are a forgotten people. Sometimes people ask why the Métis people are so militant and so radical. It is because we have to fight everywhere. The Indian people do not want us and the white people do not want us; we have to fight for everything we get. If we do not fight, we are not going to get anything.
The people in the north have the attitude: we have high unemployment; we have housing, sewer and water systems, no jobs and no training. Sometimes I feel the government does not want to give us training, jobs, self-sufficiency and an economic base, because they would lose control of us. As long as they keep us on welfare, we are controlled.
We would like to be free and independent, participating with the rest of Canada, being part of it instead of being a cash burden to the rest of Canada, which is the way a lot of people refer to us. We want to become part of Canada. We want to be trained: we want to participate in development. We want you to train our people so we can, as individuals, pay the taxes of the Province of Saskatchewan instead of taking tax dollars, instead of those tax dollars coming to us and people calling us a tax burden.
I think it is very important you people understand that we want to be part of the constitutional process. We want to be included there, and we want to make sure we have a form of self-government to decide our own destiny and our future for our people. Right now, the governments in Regina and Ottawa are deciding our future.
Our money is being used to build roads to our mines. Our money is being used to develop the mines, and they are saying they are going to employ native people. The only native people they employ are for pick and shovel jobs, and they do not give a damn about us. They just throw us back to the community and put us on welfare. If they talk too loudly, cut them off welfare; we will show them a lesson.
The old Diefenbaker government came up with canned meat. One guy argued with the officer and was told, do not talk loudly to me or you will not get any meat. That is exactly the same way it is happening now, and we want to make sure that changes.
Mr. Blackman: I have one general comment. We sure as hell are here today not only to try to improve the present but to try to improve the future for our children. Our children are pushing us along as well. We see that as the very key to the involvement.
The Vice-Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Blackman, Mr. Morin, Mr. Smith, Mr. Yew and Mr. Aubichon, for presenting to us your briefs and comments. They are well received and will be noted by members of the committee. I want to declare that the act you tabled with the committee will be noted as an exhibit of today’s proceedings for any who want to look at it.
Sandra or Clem, do you have any questions you would like to put to the witnesses?
Mr. Chartier: Not so much a question as a comment, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to follow on what Max Morin stated, that there is a rising sense of militancy and frustration in northern Saskatchewan. In fact, Max is one of the people who has been charged in what we call the Bridge trials for having . . .
Well, as a bit of history, in the early 1970s there were demonstrations and occupations of government buildings, the legislative buildings, saying that the people in the north have to have appropriate training to take part in the development that would be taking place. Of course, that never happened, but a year and a half ago a new facility was opened in Buffalo Narrows and was geared towards training people how to drive trucks and heavy equipment, towards possible use in the mines. The people were objecting to that.
Of course, at the time there was also the opening of a new, big multimillion dollar airport at Buffalo Narrows, and a new bridge, things which did not contribute to the community but contributed more to the industry in the north. Max and several other people blocked the bridge, As a consequence, the premier could not open the bridge or the airport, and got very upset. That is the sort of militancy that the Métis have had to resort to.
You have heard it again this morning, that the Métis are again being denied or an opportunity to discuss the Métis rights. And there is talk, not about blocking a bridge this time, but about actually seeking an injunction which would essentially block a conference.
Now, they both have ramifications. In the one, of course, you have a trial which will judge the action of the Métis who blocked it. If there is an injunction, and if it is successful, then of course history will be the judge of whether that was the right thing for the Métis to have done, because it is not only affects Métis people, it affects other aboriginal peoples who wish to put their case forward. Of course, the Métis will be viewed negatively, but all the Métis are trying to do is show and acquire a rightful place. They will not only be blocking the premier: they will be blocking the Prime Minister and premiers; but that is not the intention. The intention is to get rights. I think my colleagues in northern Saskatchewan have very well stated the position taking place in the north. I know we have had a long history of struggle in northern Saskatchewan.
I would like to thank the delegates for that great presentation.
Mr. Blackman: I would like to make one more thing clear. In regard to the Métis of Saskatchewan having representation at the constitutional meeting, our position is very simply that we have to have one: we cannot be denied. As we said before, we support it, and that is the way it goes.
The Vice-Chairman: I will certainly be taking that message back to Ottawa. I note that the Prime Minister has stated in the past that the Native Council of Canada with two members would be sufficient. I have had discussions with Mr. Chartier on that. I have noted the briefs today that have stated very clearly that is not satisfactory, and that message ought to be returned to Ottawa.
Thank you very much for coming to appear before us. As I said before, the briefs are excellent, to the point, and will be noted as we continue our deliberations on the terms of reference we have been given. We have enjoyed our visit to Saskatchewan very much. It has been tough and long, but
some very excellent reports have been put before the committee. So thank you again for taking the time to come before us and I hope that our deliberations will assist you in the upcoming months on some of the issues you have brought forward here. Thank you.
From the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan:
Mr. Jim Sinclair. President.
Mr. Jim Durocher, Provincial Treasurer.
Mr. Rob Millen, Legal Counsel.
From the Saskatchewan Native Women’s Association:
Ms. Georgina Fisher, President.
Ms. Myrelene Ranville, Consultant.
Ms. Vicky Wilson, Northern Co-ordinator.
Ms. Leona Blondeau, Executive Director.
From the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Local Governments:
Mr. Michael J. Blackman, Chairman.
Mr. Max Morin, Vice-Chairman,
Mr. George Smith, Overseer, Pinehouse Local Community Authority No. 9.
Mr. Lawrence Yew, M.L.A., Cumberland Constituency.