Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, No 74 (28 September 1983)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Parliament, Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, No 74 (28 September 1983).
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Thirty-second Parliament, 1980-81-82-83
SENATE OF CANADA
Proceedings of the Standing
Senate Committee on
The Honourable JOAN NEIMAN
Wednesday, September 28, 1983
Issue No. 74
Sixth proceedings on
The subject-matter of the Constitution
Amendment Proclamation, 1983
(See back cover)
THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
The Honourable Joan Neiman, Chairman
The Honourable Richard A. Donahoe, Deputy Chairman
The Honourable Senators
*Ex Officio Members
ORDER OF REFERENCE
Extract from the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Senate, June 29, 1983:
Pursuant to the Order of the Day, the Senate resumed the debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Frith, seconded by the Honourable Senator Petten:
Whereas the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and resolutions of the legislative assemblies as provided for in section 38 thereof:
And Whereas the Constitution of Canada, reflecting the country and Canadian society, continues to develop and strengthen the rights and freedoms that it guarantees;
And Whereas, after a gradual transition of Canada from colonial status to the status of an independent and sovereign state, Canadians have, as of April 17, 1982, full authority to amend their Constitution in Canada;
And Whereas historically and equitably it is fitting that the early exercise of that full authority should relate to the rights and freedoms of the first inhabitants of Canada, the aboriginal peoples;
Now Therefore the Senate of Canada resolves that His Excellency the Governor General be authorized to issue a proclamation under the Great Seal of Canada amending the Constitution of Canada as follows:
PROCLAMATION AMENDING THE
CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
1. Paragraph 25(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982 is repealed and the following substituted therefor:
“(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.”
2. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is amended by adding thereto the following subsections:
“(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons”.
3. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto, immediately after section 35 thereof, the following section:
“35.1 The government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to section 25 of this Act or to this Part,
(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and
(b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.”
4. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto, immediately after section 37 thereof, the following Part:
“PART IV.1 CONSTITUTIONNAL
37.1 (1) In addition to the conference convened in March 1983, at least two constitutional conferences composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces shall be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada, the first within three years after April 17, 1982 and the second withing five years after that date.
(2) Each conference convened under subsection (1) shall have included in its agenda constitutional matters that directly affect the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the Prime Minister of Canada shall invite representatives of those peoples to participate in the discussions on those matters.
(3) The Prime Minister of Canada shall invite elected representatives of the governments of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories to participate in the discussions on any item on the agenda of a conference convened under subsection (1) that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, directly affects the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed so as to derogate from subsection 35(1).”
5. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto, immediately after section 54 thereof, the following section:
“54.1 Part IV.1 and this section are repealed on April 18, 1987.
6. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto the following section:
“61. A reference to the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982 shall be deemed to include a reference to the Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983.”
7. This Proclamation may be cited as the Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983.
With leave of the Senate,
In amendment, the Honourable Senator Steuart moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator McElman, that the motion be not now adopted but that the subject-matter thereof be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for consideration and report.
After debate, and—
The question being put on the motion in amendment, it was—
Resolved in the affirmative.
Charles A. Lussier
Clerk of the Senate
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 1983
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met this day at 4:05 p.m., the Chairman, the Honourable Senator Joan B. Neiman, presiding.
Present: The Honourable Senators Bosa, Croll, Deschatelets, Donahoe, Haidasz, Neiman, Robichaud, Rousseau, Stollery and Tremblay. (10)
Present but not of the Committee: The Honourable Senators McElman and Steuart.
In attendance: Mr. Bruce Carson and Mrs. Barbara Plant Reynolds, Research Officers, Research Branch, Library of Parliament.
From the Hobbema Tribal Council:
Mr. Wilton Littlechild, Legal Counsel;
Mr. Rodney Soonias, Legal Counsel.
From the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:
Mr. Joe Guy Wood, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of Chiefs.
Messrs. Littlechild and Wood made a statement and they and Mr. Soonias, answered questions.
On motion by the Honourable Senator Stollery, it was agreed, —That the exhibit of the Constitutional Committee of Chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, entitled: “Presentation of the Indian Nations of Hobbema to the S.37(1) Conference on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights (March 15-16, 1983).” be tabled.
At 5:35 p.m., the Committee adjourned until 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 29, 1983.
Clerk of the Committee
Ottawa, Wednesday, September 28, 1983
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred the subject matter of the Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983, met this day at 4 p.m. to consider the said subject matter.
Senator Joan Neiman (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, continuing our study of the subject matter of the Constitution Amendment Proclamation this afternoon, we will be hearing from two groups of witnesses. However, before inviting our witnesses to make their presentations, I should like to read into the record a letter I have just received from Mr. James D. Horsman, Q.C., Minister of Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Alberta.
I think the letter will be of interest to our witnesses as well.
Dear Senator Neiman:
Thank you for your July 21, 1983, letter to Premier Lougheed inquiring about Alberta’s views on certain of the planned aboriginal constitutional amendments arising from the March 15-16, 1983, First Ministers’ Conference on Aboriginal Constitutional Matters. The Premier has asked me to respond on his behalf.
Several of the questions posed by your letter relate to the planned new subsection 35(3) and also the amended subsection 25(b). Our intention in supporting these amendments was to give the same constitutional protection, as is provided for existing treaty rights, to rights arising from future land claims agreements which are, in effect, modern treaties. We did not anticipage that these rights would impinge on provincial jurisdiction over property any more than existing treaty rights would impinge on provincial jurisdiction over property.
On your final question, we expect that once it is entrenched in the Constitution, subsection 35(4) will override subsection 12(I(b) of the Indian Act.
I hope that these brief comments prove useful to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Yours very truly,
James D. Horsman, Q.C.
I thought Mr. Horsman’s views would be of interest to you and that you might wish to have them form part of the record so that we could consider them at a later date.
Honourable senators, our first group of witnesses this afternoon comes from the Hobbema Tribal Council. Their main spokesmen are Mr. Wilton Littlechild, legal counsel, and Mr. Rodney Soonias, also legal counsel. I understand Mr. Little-
child will present the brief, after which both gentlemen will entertain questions from the committee.
Mr. Wilton Littlechild, Legal Counsel, Hobbema Tribal Council: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. Before I read my statement into the record may I please introduce the rest of the delegation?
The Chairman: Certainly.
Mr. Littlechild: Chief Leo Cattleman, Montana Band; Dick Currie, councillor, Montana Band; Agnes Tootoosis, Executive Secretary, Four Band Indian Act; Violet Omeasoo, councillor, Ermineskin Band; Raymond Cutknife, councillor, Samson Band; Richard Litticchild, Administrator, Ermineskin Band; Louis Raine, Lands and Natural Resources Administration, Louis Bull Band; and Harrison Bull, Interim Co-ordinator, Chairman, Four Band Constitution Committee. My name is Willie Littlechild and I am with the Ermineskin Band in Hobbema.
Madam Chairman and honourable senators, it is indeed a privilege for us to appear here today to say a few words on the first amendments of the Canadian Constitution. We need hardly say how appropriate it is that this first amendment should focus on establishing a proper relationship between Canada and the First Nations of this land.
The heart of what we want to share with you today is a summary of the submission which we prepared for the First Ministers’ Conference. In this statement we review the broad goals of the Hobbema Nations in terms of the constitutional process. We begin with the spiritual relation of the First Nations to the land. We look at our treaty relationship with the Crown, and we come down to some very practical and concrete considerations such as resource development on our land and a provision that the very limited protections now in the Constitution will not be altered without our consent.
We want to share with you a summary of what we prepared for the first ministers, because we believe that is the best way to show you the size of the whole loaf of which the resolution with which you are seized in this committee is but half.
Madam Chairman, we should like to table here the submission we made to the first conference. What we ended with was this Accord, but then, finally, you have something different again in front of you. As you see, therefore, we will probably end up with a more complete perspective of at least Hobbema’s position.
After centuries of bad faith and broken promises, we view the present conference, at a time of constitutional renewal, as a unique opportunity to forge a new relationship between Indian Nations and Canadians based on mutual respect and pluralism. For us the term “pluralism” recognizes a certain interdependence of our societies, but an interdependence which recognizes, as the Constitution Act, 1982 affirms in sections 25 and 35, tha we have authentic aboriginal and treaty rights of our own. These rights form the basis for our distinctive
political and social institutions, and for a renewed relationship which can give rise to a trust which has been virutally destroyed by past governmental actions.
Recognizing the need to give more substantive content to the rights enumerated in the Constitution Act, the following papers primarily focus on specific, as well as some general, areas which need to be defined and clarified.
The substance of each paper referred to below, together with recommendations relating thereto, has been summarized to facilitate a general review of the pertinent issues.
The firs major topic is “Indian spirituality as it relates to Indian cultural sovereignty.” By way of summary, the discussion of Indian spirituality compares the Indian view of the world to that of the Euro-Canadian. Whereas the latter emphasizes a fragmented, analytical and a generally narrowlybased philosophy, our way is to perceive all institutions, from the spiritual and cultural to the political and legal, as merely different ways of approaching the same ultimate reality.
Indian tribes across Canada have differences in languages, customs and traditions, but underlying these differences is a spiritual unity with the Great Spirit and a sharing of the same fundamental outlook about nature.
The sacred Stem Ceremony, which is performed only rarely and represents the absolute binding together of the Nations, symbolizes this interrelationship of the spiritual and temporal dimensions of our existence. The ceremony was conducted by our leaders at the signing of the treaties and in all succeeding occasions of great significance and it is appropriate that it once again be used during this time of constitutional dialogue.
The recommendations under that particular heading, Madam Chairman, were, first, that in the process of identifying and defining treaty and aboriginal rights the negotiations must be conducted in the context of the all-encompassing scope of Indian spirituality and unity; second, in order that this vitally important concept should be better expressed, we suggest a preamble be added to the definition of “aboriginal and treaty rights” similar in intent to the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law … “. In the case of the definition of Indian rights, the preamble might read:
Whereas Indian peoples see the presence of the Great Spirit underlying the diversity of man and nature, it is hereby recognized and affirmed that the following aboriginal and treaty rights are the foundations upon which the integrity and wholeness of Indian society and government is based.
The second major area was on a proposal bilateral process. Of major concern to the Indian Nations participating in this conference is the need to establish an ongoing bilateral process to carry out the work of defining aboriginal title and treaty rights and entrenching them without qualification in the Constitution.
At the beginning of 1983, we felt that the identification and definition of the various aboriginal and treaty rights of the Indian, Inuit and Metis people would be determined at this March 1983 Constitution Conference, but once the present section 37 was repealed in April 1983, by operation of section 54 of the Constitution Act, no obligation would remain to convene another conference to deal with such matters.
The present amending formula contained in Part V of the Constitution Act requires the approval of the federal government and at least seven of the provinces containing at least 50 per cent of the population of all the provinces. No provision is made for the mandatory requirement of Indian consent before there is a constitutional amendment abrogating, or derogating from, our treaty and aboriginal rights and this once again leaves us in a most vulnerable position.
There are five recommendations with respect to this bilateral process. A formal bilateral process must be established to continue independently any ongoing process which may arise from the March Constitutional Conference. As you know, this matter was dealt with somewhat in the Accord. We propose that an Office of Indian Rights Protection (OIRP) be created as soon as possible. Its initial task would be to implement a workable bilateral process between the First Nations and the Government of Canada.
We require a formal commitment by the federal government to obtain Indian consent before approving any constitutional amendments affecting our rights. Our aboriginal and treaty rights could, by reference, be incorporated into the Constitution by means of one or more schedules identifying and defining the rights of the various aboriginal peoples. There is precedent for this in sections 80 and 108 of the British North America Act, 1867. Failing agreement on incorporating a definition of our rights by reference, we propose an amendment to entrench an ongoing series of constitutional conferences to define and entrench our rights. We therefore propose that the Constitution Act, 1982 be amended to replace the existing section 37 with a new section 37. You will note again that this matter was dealt with in the Accord. However, it may be of interest to you to know that according to our initial proposal the new section 37 would have read as follows:
37(1) A constitutional conference composed of the Prime Minister of Canada, representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the first ministers of the provinces shall be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada … once a year for five years following the coming into force of this Part.
(2) The conference(s) convened under subsection (1) shall consider constitutional matters that directly affect the aboriginal peoples of Canada, including the identification and definition of the rights of those peoples to be included in the Constitution of Canada.
(3) The Constitution of Canada may be amended following the final conference convened under subsection (1) to include the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aborigi-
nal peoples of Canada only with the approval of the authorized representatives of those aboriginal peoples.
(4) The Parliament of Canada shall establish an office to provide for the protection of the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada.
(5) Section 38(3) of the Constitution Act, 1982 shall not apply to any amendment made under subsection (3) of this section.
(6) The Prime Minister of Canada shall invite elected representatives of the Governments of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories to participate in the discussions on any item on the agenda of the conference convened under subsection (1) that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, directly affects the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.
As I am sure you realize, and as I mentioned earlier, this matter was dealt with at the first conference, but just let me give you an idea of what our proposal was and what we still propose. We propose that the Constitution Act be amended to provide for the consent of the aboriginal peoples affected by amendments derogating from their aboriginal and treaty rights by adding a new section 38(5) as follows:
38.(5) An amendment to the Constitution of Canada that derogates from the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada shall require the consent of the authorized representatives of those aboriginal peoples affected by any such amendment.
As an alternative, a provision for Indian consent could be built into a later stage of the constitutional amendment process through an amendment to section 48 of the Constitution Act. This proposal is designed to reflect the federal government’s role in the bilateral process with the Indian Nations. This would include a commitment by the federal government to obtain Indian consent before approving any future constitutional amendments affecting our rights.
We propose that section 48 be amended as follows:
48.(1) Subject to subsection (2), the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada shall advise the Governor Gen to issue a proclamation under this Part forthwith on the adoption of the resolutions required for an amendment made by proclamation under this Part.
(2) The Queen’s Privy Council for Canada shall not advise the Governor Gen to issue a proclamation under this Part where an amendment derogates from the aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples without first obtaining the consent of the authorized representatives of those peoples affected by any such amendment.
We are also concerned that the Constitution Act does not allow amendments to be initiated by the Indian Nations. We therefore propose that the present section 46 be amended to add the following subsection:
46.(2) The authorized representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada may initiate the procedure for amendment under sections 38, 41, 42 and 43 in relation to any constitutional matters directly affecting the aboriginal and treaty rights of those peoples.
Again, as mentioned, Madam Chairman, recommendations I and 5 have been dealt with by the accord, but others of concern, especially those of consent, are still relevant.
With respect to Indian self-determination, as distinct peoples with a tradition extending back for thousands of years before the time of European contact, we possess an inherent right to self-determination, along with the related right to determine freely the form of our association with the existing Canadian state.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica distinguishes the two meanings of the term “self-determination.” The first reads as follows:
First, a state is said to have the right to self-determination in the sense of having the right to choose freely its political, economic, social and cultural systems. Second, the right to self-determination is defined as the right of a people to constitute itself in a state or otherwise freely determine the form of its association with an existing state.
Both meanings have their basis in the Charter. It is the second meaning, as quoted above, to which Indian people would particularly subscribe. There can be no doubt that Indians are and have always been a distinct “people” within the contemplations of Articles 1(2), and 55(1) of the United Nations Charter, and aspire to “freely determine the form of (their) association with an existing state”, as provided for in the second branch of the definition in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
We have never relinguished our right of self-government, which throughout the continent has taken a variety of forms, and has been acknowledged by successive British and Canadian governments. A characteristic feature of Indian self-government would be that it proceeded by consensus presided over by community leaders, without a formal opposition as developed in the Westminster-style parliamentary model of government. After a thorough discussion of all sides of the issue being considered, the final result of the deliberation will be announced by the chiefs.
We regard this right to self-determination as both an aboriginal and a treaty right. It has been established by long historical practice, and has been recognized by treaty. For example, Treaty No. 6, signed in 1876 with the Plains and Wood Cree Indians, provides:
They (the Indians) promise and engage that they will in all respects obey and abide by the law, and they will maintain peace and good order between each other, and also between themselves and other tribes of Indians—
Treaty No. 7, signed in 1877 with the Blackfeet of Bow River and Fort MacLeod, provides:
They will maintain peace and good order between each other and between themselves and other tribes of Indians, and between themselves and others of Her Majesty’s subjects, whether Indians, Half Breeds or Whites, now inhabiting or hereafter to inhabit, any part of the said ceded tract—
The direction in the above treaties to maintain peace and order was a general mandate in treaties which acknowledged—as did many of the instruments establishing British colonial self-government—the right of the Indian people to preserve public order and govern themselves. It is not too much to say that such a right has executive, legislative and judicial dimensions. While we remain an original people within the Canadian confederation, we also make and administer our own laws, and resort to our own dispute-resolving processes in accordance with the treaties and traditional pratices.
To effect a third form of government within confederation and in conformity with our political and cultural history, the following are the powers which we must have in order to make our government effective:
1. Executive and legislative powers.
2. The power to administer justice and enforce laws.
3. The powers of taxation.
4. The power to regulate domestic relations.
5. The power to regulate property use.
6. The power relating to social programs.
7. The power to determine the official language.
8. The power to delegate.
9. The power to define indian status and membership.
With respect to natural resources, our rights to the land and the minerals thereof, which arose prior to the creation of either Canada or any of the prairie provinces, are based on aboriginal title which is confirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Since we have never alienated our rights by public transfer as stipulated by the Proclamation, such rights continue to be our exclusive property. Further, since at the signing of the treaties it was understood by our leaders that only enough soil, the topsoil, as was required for agricultural purposes was surrendered to the Crown, we retain everything that is underneath.
While we recognize that section 92A(1) of the Constitution Act does not speak in terms of provincial ownership of natural resources, it does, however, confer exclusive law-making powers over non-renewable resources to the provinces without the requirement of advice or consent of the Indians who own a fair share of these resources. To prevent this from happening, we propose incorporation of a new subsection (7), which would read as follows:
92A(7) None of the foregoing provisions shall in any way affect or derogate from Indian ownership of nonrenewable natural resources either on or off Indian reserves.
With respect to treaty and aboriginal rights, the precise meaning to be ascribed to treaty and aboriginal rights has long evaded legislative and judicial bodies in Canada. In their dogged efforts they have nearly always failed to consider the understandings of our leaders at the treaty signing, and have consistently used foreign laws and European models to try to arrive at the proper breadth and scope of our rights.
We strongly maintain that our rights cannot be accurately portrayed by simply examining the written texts of the treaties and negotiations, and that it is absolutely necessary to understand the spirit within which these convenants were made and also what our leaders understood to be the essence of the treaties.
To occupy this land for thousands of years we possessed all the powers necessary to carry out our way of life. These rights were not surrendered upon European occupation nor upon entering into treaty. These treaty rights include the following:
(i) Self-determination, including judicial organizations, tribal court, police, culture and language;
(ii) Hunting, fishing and trappings;
(iv) Health and Medicine;
(v) Social and Economic Development, including employment programs and welfare;
(vi) Exemptions from Taxation and Seizure;
(vii) Natural Resources:
To the impact of charter provisions on Indian rights, our position as Indian people has been consistent, that we possess all the rights that other Canadians have, but that additionally we possess rights which are unique because of our aboriginal and treaty origins. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms contained in sections 1 to 34 is predicated on the premise of equal rights for everybody in Canada. How this is going to affect our unique rights is conjectural.
It is our opinion that sections 1, 2, 15, 16 to 23, 24(1), 25, 28, 33, 35 and 38 could be used by courts to derogate from our unique status.
There is considerable debate in Canada as to the precise meaning of the word “existing” as it is found in section 35(1). Trying to reach a consensus on the definition of aboriginal and treaty rights has to date not been very successful. The addition of the word “existing” merely adds to this uncertainty. We are therefore still not confident that our rights are protected from
past encroachments. Our recommendation is that the word “existing” be deleted from section 35(1) because it does not benefit us in any way, but will in fact detract from the rights we presently enjoy.
As to the removal of section 12(1 )(b) of the Indian Act from the constitution agenda, section 12(1)(b) is an artifically imposed Indian status restriction by Parliament without Indian consultation. Since its enactment, considerable hardship has been caused for Indian communities because, in many instances, the entire family unit has been at worst fragmented and dislocated and at the least irretrievably altered.
Unfortunately, a simple repeal of the offending section is not now possible because in the succeeding generations since its enactment, the question of Indian status has come to be inextricably bound with other weighty political and economic considerations. Repeal of section 12(1)(b) without provision for the resolution of associated problems could, instead of improving the life of the Indian community, actually cause an even greater injustice to occur.
Indian Nations are intimately knowledgeable of their own people and communities and it must accordingly be left up to them to resolve the question as to who is an Indian and also of membership in an Indian tribe. This is the way that was done in the past and it must continue to be.
The foregoing statement is intended to be a summary of the relevant materials relating to the subject matter referred to therein. However, a further discussion of the subject matters is contained in the attached papers and it is recommended that senators avail themselves of them.
Madam Chairman, honourable senators, we hope that we have given you a clearer sense of the overall position with which we went into the First Ministers’ Conference last March.
We hope our position has deepened and broadened since then, but we have shared it with you today because it has not fundamentally changed. We hope that, in sharing it with you, you have seen the roots of the Accord which resulted in the belated amendments which are before you now.
We want to add one word here about the importance of the consent clause. We know that Senator Steuart has pointed out that it is important to establish a precedent for thorough study of constitutional amendments here in the Senate, because future amendments may not be as favourable to us as is this one. This is exactly why we need a consent clause requiring our consent on any matter affecting Part II of the Constitution.
Without this protection, which is not provided in the present amendments, our sole protection against future governments removing the small gains we have made in the patriation
package and here in this resolution will be the intervention of the Senate. While we are grateful for your intervention, we are also aware of the limits of your ability to stop a government that had, the determination to make such an amendment with the blessing of the provinces.
We thank you for your courtesy in hearing us. You have now heard from the third perspective to the extent that you have now heard from us at the reserve level.
Senator Steuart: Let me congratulate you on the briefs that you have presented to us. They certainly give us a clear and concise outline of your position and the position you took at the First Ministers’ Conference.
I believe this is the first time that some of the demands of requests in regard to Indian self-government have been outlined in as much detail. We certainly appreciate that.
You are members of the Assembly of First Nations, are you not?
Mr. Littlechild: Yes.
Senator Steuart: Are you aware that we heard from another group of status Indians that were not members of the Assembly of First Nations?
Mr. Littlechild: Yes.
Senator Steuart: That leads me to another question. As members of the Assembly, do you desire us to support the Accord even though you do not agree with everything in it? It is your desire that we pass it as quickly as possible; is that right?
Mr. Littlechild: Yes.
Senator Steuart: I just want you to make that clear. Only one group has appeared before us, which told us that they had no interest in whether we passed it or not. All other groups have asked us to pass it.
You placed great emphasis on the consent clause, and you talked about the authorized representatives of the aboriginal people. How is the government to know who are the authorized representatives of the Indian people? Two groups have appeared before us, each expressing different views on this first amendment which, I would point out, is a relatively simple amendment compared to some that you people are opposing. Supposing the government wanted to make an amendment that affected the treaties and status Indians, how would it know which group it should listen to?
Mr. Littlechild: In our statements of our pritkciples, we agreed that our nations would honour and respect each other’s position. I think the proper party to address is the one which would be affected by the amendment. In other words, if we felt an amendment was to be made which afected the four bands and the four nations of Hobbema, we would be the ones to consult so far as consent is concerned.
Senator Steuart: I can understand that being the case if the amendment were only to affect your four bands or if it
affected only, say, the Inuit of the western Arctic. The other groups who appeared before us have indicated that they would not demand that we go through the whole constitutional process in both houses of Parliament with the consent of the necessary number of provinces having at least 50 per cent of the population. I understand that there could be an amendment to your treaties with mutual consent between you and the government and between the government and other native people concerned.
However, I am thinking of a larger amendment that might affect all Indians and all treaties. You want a consent clause that specifies that there will be no change and no reduction in rights without the consent of the proper representatives of the Indian people. Have you worked out any formula whereby the government will know who speaks for the treaty Indians? I am talking of an amendment that would affect all treaties.
Mr. Littlechild: We will work it out.
Senator Steuart: You have benefited from the mineral resources in your area. Has anyone questioned your ownership of those mineral resources under your reserves? Have you dealt with that?
Mr. Littlechild: That is exactly our position: We have full ownership of the minerals.
Senator Steuart: Dealing with western Canada, for example, are you not laying a claim in your brief to all the mineral resources? As I understand it, Treaty No. 6 or Treaty No. 7 dealt only with the topsoil for agricultural purposes. Are you claiming that everything below that the First Nations never gave up, and that they in fact really own them?
Mr. Rodney Soonias, Legal Counsel, Hobbema Tribal Council: Yes, we are saying we are entitled to a share of those resources. The understanding always conveyed by the old people, the historians from the reserves, is that during treaty negotiations it was quite clear that the negotiations involved only the topsoil for the purposes of agriculture, and that is the position we are advancing today too.
Senator Steuart: But that is not specified in Treaty No. 6, for example?
Mr. Soonias: It is not specified in the written text of Treaty No. 6. When we talk about “treaty,” it includes the written text as well as oral negotiations and the spirit in which the treaty was written at that time. Taking all those three factors into consideration, it is quite clear to us that we are entitled to a fair share of the resources off the reserve.
Senator Steuart: You want some of the Heritage Fund. I feel quite strongly that many positive things have come out of these hearings. One of the most positive things has been, and will continue to be, the education process that certainly I and all senators have benefited from, in being presented with these briefs from the various groups. While I may not necessarily agree with everything in your brief, I appreciate the way you
have presented it and the way you have answered the questions. Those are all the questions I have for the moment.
Senator Croll: At the top of page 12 of your brief you say:
It is our opinion that sections—
You then enumerate the sections, and you say:
… could be used by courts to derogate from our unique status.
What do those sections say in particular that led you to say that?
Mr. Soonias: I believe our concern with this section—and it is a concern that we have always had—is that at any time issues are adjudicated upon, it is always by Canadian courts and according to Canadian law, based on European models. For instance, section 1 talks about reasonable limits prescribed by law. Nowhere in the constitutional document do you find anything relating to how Indians feel about how laws should be determined. In the case of the sections we have enumerated, basically it is our position that they manifest how Canadian laws are set up in exclusion to Indian purposes. We believe that they have already derogated, and will derogate even more in the future, from the rights that we have today.
Senator Croll: You are claiming protection under the Constitution. Are you not bound by the law that follows that? You need not answer that question now. You can do so on some future occasion.
The Chairman: It is a philosophical question and a difficult one to answer, because it is difficult, for the Indian nations and other Canadians, to grasp how one can claim the protection, benefits and rights of certain parts of the Constitution but not of others. There will be other people who are in exactly the same position, who will argue those points. As an example, you have said that section 2 concerns you. Perhaps you could take a look at section 2 of the Constitution Act and tell us why you believe that might derogate from your unique status as Indians.
Mr. Soonias: It is hard to reply in connection with each one of those sections. As I have said, the basic premise in Canada, in a democratic society, is that everyone is equal. But Indians have treaty and aboriginal rights, and in general the Canadian legal and political system is not in accord with that. It is more a question of equality for everyone; but what happens about treaty rights which are special?
Senator Croll: In effect you are arguing that you do not want everything equal because you have something on your side that you want to retain, despite what others have. Is that what you are arguing?
Mr. Soonias: Yes.
Senator Steuart: In other words, you are not prepared to relinquish any of the rights you are claiming, or any other
rights that you may acquire through an extension of those treaties. You are not prepared to extinguish those rights, as in the case of the James Bay Agreement, where they gave up their general claim for a specific amount of land. Your argument is that your ancestors did not do that when they signed the treaty.
Mr. Soonias: That’s right.
Mr. Littlechild: I might address Senator Croll’s question from a different angle. With regard to the sections we have enumerated, the fact that we do not have any say in how those sections will be amended puts us in a weak position, in the sense that the House of Commons could legislate away our rights without our having any say whatsoever.
Senator Croll: Could they not do that with me also, as well as you?
Mr. Soonias: You do not have treaty rights.
Senator Croll: But they could deal with whatever rights I have in any way they like. If I take it to the courts, then the courts can deal with it. You say that you want to preserve your rights. But someone has to be the judge, and surely the judge should be the courts. Surely someone should have that right.
Mr. Littlechild: Are you happy with the existing situation, that someone else can do away with your rights?
Senator Croll: I am happy to let the government or the country deal with my rights under the Constitution.
Mr. Littlechild: But you must understand, senator, that that is your system. That is the difference. If I were to ask you to come before me and have me determine your rights, and I did so according to my own language and laws, without any input from you, would you be happy with that situation?
Senator Croll: Of course not; but that is not what we are asking you to do.
Mr. Littlechild: In effect you are, when you say “Follow our laws and nothing else”.
Senator Croll: You say that the Constitution gives you certain rights. That is fine. But then you say that you do not like the courts to interpret them, which is the practice under the Constitution.
Mr. Littlechild: But it has always been the British legal system and English language that determines our rights. We are saying “When are the courts going to start listening to the Indian Side?”
Senator Croll: Well, they listened to you in connection with the Constitution. You are included in it now. You are now part of the whole. You have been included in. Now there arc certain rules that you have to be bound by. When you question the right of the courts to deal with matters, you are testing the fundamental purpose of the Constitution.
Senator Deschatelets: Mr. Chairman, may I pursue this a little further? I do not want to quarrel with the stand taken by the witnesses, but I would like to have a clear understanding. If occasionally your rights were contested and someone said
“We do not recognize certain of your claims”, do I understand that you would not recognize the court system that we have in order to deal with any of your claims?
Mr. Littlechild: I think that is one of the reasons why we suggested an Indian rights protection office. If you will look at our recommendations, it is dealt with in the second one, which is one of the reasons why we have presented the recommendations.
The Chairman: Is it not a part of this on-going constitutional consultative process that, first, your rights will be defined in a way and manner satisfactory to you, as to the rest of all Canadians, so that you will know and the rest of us will know what is agreed to as being your aboriginal treaty rights? Secondly, it seems to me that within the Constitution and with this type of amendment you have more than a good argument that that kind of clause in the Constitution might very well take precedence over a philosophical statement such as the one contained in section 2. However, you are seeking a very specific enunciation in some form or another of your rights. It seems to me that you will have a very clear type of protection through the constitutional process. I feel that, hopefully, some of the fears you have expressed will not be realized and that they will be dissipated through this constitutional consultative process.
Mr. Littlechild: Yes, Madam Chairman, I too hope that our fears will not come about. Nevertheless, that is the reason we have to table our concerns in front of this committee and for that we thank you very much.
Senator McElman: Mr. Littlechild, were you at the First Ministers’ Conference as one of the representatives of your people?
Mr. Littlechild: Yes.
Senator McElman: It has been contended by the Premier of my province, the province of New Brunswick, and has been supported by testimony before this committee with respect to the section dealing with equality, that following the understanding reached the drafters changed the terminology making it different from the understanding that was reached. The Premier of my province claimed that without reading he signed the Accord. Is it your understanding that there was a change in the terminology of that section relating to equality?
Mr. Littlechild: I did not have the advantage of being with the drafting groups. However, I feel that if the Premier signed it, then his authorization is still restricted by our ratification by cabinet, is it not? In light of the fact that he signed it, would he not have to bring it back to his legislature and ratify it?
Senator McElman: It has been ratified by the New Brunswick legislature. As a matter of fact, we have the very strange circumstance that he presented the Accord to the legislature by resolution, urging all members of the legislature to vote in favour of it, but because of what he believed to be the change he himself voted against it. It was a 50-odd to one vote in favour. It has been approved by resolution of the New Brunswick legislature. However, the Premier of New Brunswick still
maintains that a change was made. I thought perhaps you could give additional testimony with respect to that.
Mr. Littlechild: No, unfortunately, I cannot. As I said, I was not within that drafting group. I was in attendance at the conference, however.
Senator McElman: With respect to the other question that was just discussed, you referred to section 2, amongst other sections. That, of course, is the section dealing with fundamental freedoms. As the Charter now exists within the Constitution, those fundamental freedoms and rights are granted to all people in Canada including yourselves. You are now acquiring additional rights under agreements reached previously. You are acquiring additional rights that are part of this Accord but which are not available to the people of Canada at large, other than the aboriginal peoples. That is correct, is it not?
Mr. Littlechild: Yes.
Senator McElman: So you already have all of the additional rights and freedoms which are accorded to all Canadians plus the ones which are now part of this Accord. What you have presented here today calls for additional rights beyond that again, in accordance with your religion and culture. That is correct, is it not?
Mr. Littlechild: I am not so sure we are asking for anything additional. What we are saying is that we have certain rights as aboriginal people and we retain a great many of those rights. What we are also saying is that you recognize all of our rights. We are not asking for more.
Senator McElman: In effect, then, what your are saying is that at the further conferences which are provided for in this Accord you wish to have these, specifically included by a further Accord in the Constitution. That seems very clear, Madam Chaifman, and our purpose here today is not discuss those matters further.
Senator Bosa: Madam Chairman, I apologize for having missed part of the presentation of these two gentlemen. I am not sure whether my question has been dealt with or not. However, I caught the tail end of a question and answer which dealt with the objection by the gentlemen to having a constitutional amendment without the consent of the aboriginal people. My question is: Since there is no unanimity among the aborginal peoples in Canada, would you suggest that constitutional amendments be entered into with the consent of each individual band?
The Chairman: Would one of you gentlemen care to speak to that question?
Mr. Soonias: I think it is unrealistic to expect every band to sanction every amendment which is to take place. As Mr. Littlechild said earlier, I belive it is up to the Indians to work that out with respect to whom they will select as their official spokesman. Except in cases where a band, or a group of bands, are specifically affected by certain amendments, only then will they be heard. I think otherwise we would work that out. We would work out who our representative body will be.
Senator Bosa: We have heard from a great many witnesses, from the Coalition of Indian Nations and from the Assembly of First Nations, which are diametrically opposed to this particular issue. Would you suggest that if there were to be a change made in the amending formula it have specific agreements with two separate entities or be moulded into two separate entities? Who speaks for whom?
Senator Steuart: Madam Chairman, I asked that question and the answer I was given was that they intend to work that out through negotiations.
The Chairman: Yes, Senator Steuart, the question was asked before and the answer was that this is one of the areas that will have to be worked out through negotiation with the various representative groups.
Senator Bosa: So can I take it that the gentleman is not happy with the present provisions in the amending formula—that is, the government consult Indian bands? I take it that he is not satisfied with that?
The Chairman: That is true. I think that has been the position taken by most of the witnesses who have appeared before us. They want the right to consent rather than just consultation.
Are there any other questions? I should like to thank on behalf of honourable senators the witnesses who have appeared before us today. As Senator Steuart has said, their testimony was very succinct.
Before we proceed to hearing our next witnesses, Mr. Littlechild has given me a document which is quite substantial and contains the full submission made to the First Ministers’ Conference held in March of 1983. Could I have a motion from the floor that this be tabled as an exhibit, which means that it will not be printed but be made available to anyone wishing to see it?
Senator Stollery: I so move, Madam Chairman.
The Chairman: We will now hear from the Constitutional Committee of the Chiefs of Manitoba. I shall ask Chief Wood to introduce his colleague and make his opening statement.
Chief Joe Guy Wood, Chairman, Constitutional Committee of Chiefs, a Standing Committee of the Assembly of Manitoba Chief: Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Honourable senators, it is an honour to be here this afternoon to start a new working relationship between the Indian people of Manitoba and the Senate of Canada. I was very much encouraged by what I heard earlier this afternoon. I hope that discussions of that sort will continue.
I am Chief of the Northern Manitoba St. Theresa Point Reservation. As you can see, there are not too many of us who have attended from Manitoba, that being a poor province. I have one colleague with me, Mr. Allan Torbitt, Policy Ana lysist, Assembly of Manitoba Chief, All-Chiefs’ Budget, Committee.
The 1983 Constitutional Accord on Aboriginal Rights requires Resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons
and resolutions of the Legislative Assemblies to authorize a proclamation issued by the Governor Gen under the Great Seal of Canada to amend the Constitution Act, 1982. The proposed resolution, the subject matter of this committee’s hearings, flow from the 1983 Constitutional Accord on Aboriginal Rights which expresses and contains the consensus reached between the First Ministers and the leaders of Aboriginal people at the March 15-16, 1983 Constitutional Conference.
Our belief and expectation as Chiefs of Manitoba, and, indeed the hope of all our people, is that the proposed resolution on aboriginal amendments will be given swift passage in the Senate as has already been done by several provincial legislatures across Canada and by the House of Commons.
Your responsibility with respect to this proposed resolution is to ensure that commitments made by your people to our people in your forums do in fact get implemented without further debate and negotiations between yourselves that may alter or change in any way an undertaking and commitment between our peoples. We, as leaders of the Indian people, share the frustration of all our people each time the Treaties are abrogated and diminished by the unilateral action of the federal and provincial governments or your courts. It would be an unfortunate breach of faith if the Senate were to make unilateral amendments for the 1983 Constitutional Accord on Aboriginal, Rights. In our experience, commitments made in the past have not always been honoured. However, the ongoing constitutional discussions and the constitutional processes now in place to deal with treaty and aboriginal rights and other constitutional matters affecting our people give you an opportunity to do justice.
Despite the curtailment of treaty rights, we continue to have an abiding faith in humanity. We believe the people of Canada have a strong sense of right and wrong and of fairness and justice, and in our quest to correct past mistakes and wrongs, it is to the Canadian people we turn for assistance and support to stop the deplorable erosion of our treaty and aboriginal rights, and to restore our rights through constitutional recognition- renewal and entrenchment.
The 1983 constitutional accord signed by the Prime Minister, all Premiers, except that of Quebec, elected representatives of the territorial governments and leaders of aboriginal groups, provides that certain amendments to the Constitution Act, 1982 will be initiated by activating section 38, the amendment clause of that act. In additon, the conference agenda of March 15 and 16, 1983, not fully considered at that meeting, is to be included in future constitutional conferences on treaty and aboriginal rights.
The Accord commits the signatories—premiers and Prime Minister—to introduce resolutions in the Legislative Assemblies and in Parliament, respectively, prior to December 31, 1983, to authorize a proclamation by the Governor Gen under the Great Seal of Canada to amend the Constitution Act, 1982.
It also requires the Prime Minister to convene a constitutional conference consisting of First Ministers, elected territorial government representatives, and representatives of aboriginal people within one year of the March 15-16, 1983 constitutional conference. In addition, preparatory meetings for the future constitutional conference are to be convened at least annually composed of ministers of the Government of Canada and the provinces, representatives of the aboriginal peoples and elected representatives of the territorial governments. These preparatory meetings are in addition to the constitutional conferences the Prime Minister will be required, by law, to convene.
The Accord also contemplates bilateral discussions that have been or may be established between the Government of Canada and the aboriginal peoples of Canada. It also contemplates bilateral discussions or agreements between governments and the aboriginal peoples.
In the context of our province, this means that aboriginal people and the Manitoba government have flexibility with respect to establishing bilateral constitutional discussions and with respect to conducting “business as usual” on any subject matter involving this province and Indians such as land entitlement, resource issues and job creation. In the context of Canada, that option is available to continue the special federal- Indian relationship on any subject matter.
However, the constitutional conferences and preparatory meetings leading to such constitutional conferences will be undertaken with the involvement of the provinces. In essence, the constitutional Accord and this resolution ensure the participation of aboriginal people in constitutional matters that directly affect them, and accept the political and legal reality that provincial governments must participate in discussions of these constitutional matters.
They ensure continuing discussions and some preparation between your governments and our people on the entrenchment of treaty and aboriginal rights, As you know, the Constitution of Canada, the supreme law of Canada, cannot be amended without the consent of provincial governments as provided for in the amendment provisions of the Constitution. We hope that this power to amend will not be exercised in a manner inconsistent with the principle of fairness and justice.
The proposed resolution attached to the constitutional Accord contains, as does your resolution, authorization to amend the Constitution Act, 1982 as follows:
1. Paragraph 25(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982 is repealed and substituted by the following amendment:
“(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.”
2. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is amended by adding the following subsection:
“(3) for greater certainty, in subsection (1), ‘treaty rights’ includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.”
3. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is further amended by adding the following subsection:
“(4) notwithstanding any other provision of this act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”
4. The said act is further amended to entrench the principle of participation by aboriginal peoples in constitutional discussions at future constitutional conferences relating to any proposed amendments made to class 29 of section 91 of the British North America Act, 1867, to sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
5. Section 37 of the said act is further amended to provide for an ongoing constitutional process which will be repealed on April 18, 1987. Under this section, a non-derogation clause is added, presumably as direction to the interpretation of the existing rights referred to in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, stating that section 37 is not to be construed as derogating from subsection 35(1).
The process of constitutional renewal provided for in the resolution on aboriginal amendments gives the opportunity for a political settlement, rather than interpretation by adjudication, on the meaning of constitutional provisions respecting aboriginal peoples. It was agreed at the last constitutional conference that future constitutional conferences and preparations leading to such conferences will consider for inclusion in the Constitution of Canada agenda items identified in the Accord.
The meaning of substantive provision, such as existing rights and the amendments contained in the resolution, is to be determined by the process of political discussions and some agreements. In our view, to insist on the resolution of substantive issues now would signify a lack of understanding of the intent of constitutional renewal and of the ongoing constitution process. This is not to suggest that no person should question the meaning of constitutional provision respecting aboriginal people, but only to advise that answers may not be available but will definitely become apparent as the constitutional renewal process resumes the goal of identifying treaty and aboriginal rights for constitutional recognition and protection.
Those of us who were observers or participants in the constitutional discussions in March 1983 know that the identification and definition of aboriginal and treaty rights must remain in the political forum, and will take time. The resolution before your house is but a simple step to facilitate that political process of constitutional renewal by politicians instead of by courts.
In Manitoba, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs established a standing committee called the Constitutional Committee of Chiefs to undertake and be responsible for all matters related to aboriginal rights, treaty rights and other constitutional matters for all Indian bands that belong to the First Nations Confederacy and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. Those are the two political bodies in Manitoba.
The Province of Manitoba and the Constitutional Committee of Chiefs along with the Manitoba Metis Federation, established a year ago a mechanism for bilateral discussions and consultations related to aboriginal and treaty rights. In all of Canada, only the Province of Manitoba has such a mechanism to ensure the visibility and participation of Indian people throughout all the preparations for and as official delegates at the constitutional conference in March. Other provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, did convene informal meetings with Indian leaders and had in their official delegation provincial Indian representatives.
The success of the provincial constitutional preparatory process can be attributed to its essential features: consultation, consensus, co-operation, co-ordination and the political will to make the constitutional renewal process work to the advantage of the aboriginal people.
This is not to imply that the Province of Manitoba is always supportive and understanding of our positions on aboriginal and treaty rights. In our view, all governments in this matter need to be, must be, and will be educated by aboriginal peoples. It was evident, however, to all at the March constitutional conference, that meaningful Indian-Metis-provincial government consultation and co-operation in the development of an official government position on treaty and aboriginal rights can generate goodwill and the political will to do justice. We look forward to renewing the bilateral discussion in the province of Manitoba in preparation for the next constitutional conference to be convened before March 1984.
In closing, we would repeat our request for the swift passage of this resolution. Given this description of the constitutional process, you can all appreciate that it would be inappropriate to seek or demand finite resolutions to substantive issues at this time. Questions relating to the meaning of the amendments can and will be addressed in the constitutional process now in place.
Thank you for your kind attention.
The Chairman: Thank you, Chief Wood. Before I ask for questions, I should like to clarify one point. Does the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs include all the chiefs in Manitoba or are there some who do not belong?
Chief Wood: The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has signed an accord with the chiefs of northern and southern Manitoba. But that excludes the chiefs from the Interlake area. They are part of the Coalition of First Nations.
The Chairman: And you are part of the Assembly of First Nations?
Chief Wood: Yes.
The Chairman: Can you give us the approximate number? What proportion would be in your group, roughly?
Chief Wood: There are 61 bands in Manitoba, and Interlake has eight; so that is approximately 53.
The Chairman: So you have 53 bands in the Assembly and the Coalition represents eight.
Senator Stollery: I wish to say that this is an interesting and useful brief, because it explains some of the questions that we asked at the beginning. I am sorry that I did not see this brief at the very beginning, as it would have explained some of the vagueness-because there is an element of vagueness in all of this. The brief addresses that very well. This is not really a question, but merely a comment.
The Chairman: I have a question. Since you are part of the Assembly of First Nations, I made a note of a couple of comments that you made. You seem to take a slightly different stand from that taken by some of our previous witnesses. At the bottom of page 3 of the brief you say in effect that your Assembly:
. . .accepts the political and legal reality that Provincial Governments must participate in discussions of these Constitutional matters.
As you may be aware, some of the witnesses felt that the provinces should not be involved. They wanted to deal directly with the federal government in all matters. I am under the impression that other than the Coalition expressed the same view.
Chief Wood: If I could comment on that, to clarify the paragraph, in Manitoba we had preparatory meetings prior to the 1983 constitutional conference. We went right to the community for those discussions on which way the Manitoba chiefs should go on this issue. The people in the various communities made it clear that they would like to maintain the rights they have as Indian people. They said that “In order to do that, since we are part of the present system, we have to obtain support from wherever possible; we have to educate provincial governments, politicians, members of the Senate, and the person on the street corner, in order to solicit support; because this issue will be dealt with on a national level by all of the people.” The reason why at times there is no support for the Indian cause is that there is no common understanding of what we are talking about. That message was made very clear by the elders and members of the communities of all of the northern bands that we went to. They said “Get the support, talk to the provincial and federal people, talk to the Senate, talk to the different groups, including church groups, and so on, and explain what we are talking about”. In that way we will get away from the idea that the Indian people want to take over the whole of Canada. That is not the issue. That is the reason why that paragraph is there. We will continue to educate provincial governments to understand exactly what we
are talking about. In that way they will not have any problems. They did not have any problem passing this resolution in the legislative assembly, because we had done our homework. That is our position in Manitoba, that we will work with everyone and make our point understood by the other groups, so that when the time comes when we need support, we shall have that support, because they have understood us. It is a great task, but nothing is impossible.
Senator Steuart: Chief Wood, you have probably answered my question. This is the first treaty organization that has talked about involvement with the provincial government, in helping them, and in helping them assist you in presenting your brief. You are the first group, I believe, that has worked with Metis Federation. In the development of your position, you have worked, and will continue to work, with the Metis Federation; is that so?
Chief Wood: I forgot to mention that. I should have included the Metis Federation. We had formal meetings with them, with the mayors of the different towns, with the non-status groups, because their concerns are here also and we have to support each other. We have that mechanism in place in Manitoba.
Senator Steuart: The FSI, as you probably know, has taken a different stand. They say they must look after their own rights. In fact, they speak strongly about having bilateral meetings between only the treaty Indians and federal government and not between the federal government and, for instance, the Metis organizations.
Chief Wood: Manitoba fully supports the position of Saskatchewan on that bilateral process; but we go a little further than that, to include different groups of people.
Senator McElman: In the discussions prior to the March conference, you had meetings with the provincial authorities. Were the chiefs of the eight Interlake bands involved at that time?
Chief Woods: No, they were not. Their position was made prior to that.
Senator McElman: So they, as part of the Coalition, said they did not want the provincial governments involved.
Chief Wood: Yes; that is their position.
Senator McElman: And that is why they are not members of the Assembly of First Nations.
Chief Wood: Yes. But there is work being done at this time to crystallize the differences, because if Indians work as a group, even the two groups, there is no reason why the two groups should not work together. Their concern is also our concern but we work within the system to try to crystallize the differences and support those differences.
Senator McElman: Do the chiefs of those eight Interlake bands give any other reason for being part of the Coalition
beyond the fact that they do not agree that the provinces should be involved? Do they have any other specific reason in Manitoba?
Chief Wood: No. But I am not here to speak for them.
Senator McElman: I understand that.
Chief Wood: I think that what they are saying is that the treaties were made between the Indian nations and the federal government, the representatives of the Queen, and they would like to maintain that.
Senator McElman: So there is no reason specific to Manitoba?
Chief Wood: Not that I know of.
Senator Bosa: I would like to ask one question in order to clarify the reference Chief Wood made to the elders’ desire to inform all Canadians that it is not the intention of Indian people to take over Canada. Have you embarked on a public relations campaign in Manitoba to inform the people, particularly those neighbours who may be apprehensive, of the dialogue which is now going on in Canada?
Chief Wood: It would be good to plan something like that but everything costs money. What we do is try to use any forum whatsoever to try to address these issues. Right now there are issues in Manitoba which the provincial and federal governments are working on, for example, the land entitlement question. There is publicity coming out of that issue which we use to make the Indian point known. This sometimes takes place through the newspapers. The same thing is happening with respect to the language issue. We have our point, too, with respect to that. In this way the general population of Manitoba will understand what the Indian viewpoint is. This is the only format we have right now, except within our own local newspapers and radio stations.
Senator Bosa: So you rely on this indirect form of publicity for informing the people of Manitoba, and Canadians in general, of the objectives of the Indian people in these discussions with the federal and provincial governments. What about the Assembly of First Nations? Do they have a public relations program to inform Canadians of their demands?
The Chairman: They will be here tomorrow morning.
Chief Wood: I cannot say exactly what the programming is. It is almost October now and there will be the First Ministers’ Conference and we are starting to compaign right now. The international chief will be able to answer what form that compaigning will take.
The Chairman: I would also comment, too, that your position seems to differ from that of some of your colleagues with respect to the question of consent. On page 4 of your brief you seem to accept the present constitutional provisions which do not include the requirement of the consent of the aboriginal peoples to any changes which may occur in the future. Is that correct, Chief Wood?
Chief Wood: In our paper we talk about the consent of the provincial government. I have not dealt with the consent on the Indian issue because I think there will have to be more discussion on that in order to have a realistic mechanism in place which will be workable. I think that will require more discussion with the Indian people and also with the governments.
The Chairman: I think all honourable senators will agree that your brief is realistic; it has been very helpful. We are grateful to you for having taken the time to come here today to present your brief to us.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Chief Wood: Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. As I said in my opening remarks, I hope that this is the beginning of another relationship with the Senate and that we will have an understanding which will enable us to work together.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, before we adjourn I should remind you that our final hearings on this proposed amendment will take place tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock in room 356. It is possible that I would ask you to stay for a short time after tomorrow morning’s proceedings to go over a draft of a report so that we will be in the position to make it next week.
The committee adjourned.
From the Hobbema Tribal Council:
Mr. Wilton Littlechild, Legal Counsel;
Mr. Rodney Soonias, Legal Counsel.
From the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:
Mr. Joe Guy Wood, Chairman of the Constitutional Committee of Chiefs.
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