Sub-Committee of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Presentation for Meeting with the Subcommittee of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution (26 August 1980)
By: Del Riley (National Indian Brotherhood)
Citation: Sub-Committee of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Presentation for Meeting with the Subcommittee of the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the Constitution, Doc 830-85/003 (26 August 1980).
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National Indian Brotherhood
PRESENTATION FOR MEETING WITH THE SUBCOMITTEE OF THE CONTINUING COMMITTEE
OF MINISTERS ON THE CONSTITUTION.
There is a consensus among Indian organizations and leaders in
Canada on the need for constitutional recognition of our rights. This has
been confirmed again at the General Assembly of the National Indian
Brotherhood held two weeks ago in Calgary, Alberta.
There seem to be two common errors that non—Indians are making
about our position. The first is that there should be some reasonable
division of the issues which can be handled by legislation and those
items which should be entrenched in a revised constitution. The federal
l?nister of Indian Affairs insists that the revision of the Indian Act
and the constitutional discussions should proceed as separate and
distinct exercises. We say no. The fundamentals of our relationship with
Canada have yet to be defined. I am sure you understand that we are
dealing with some fundamental questions. We are not just dealing with
a group of urban misfits and rurar poor, but with Indian nations whose ‘
experience of nationhood long proceeded the coming of the French, the
English and the other peoples who now live on our land.
We know you have a busy agenda and hope to be able to report
progress to the First Ministers meeting in September. we have a difference
sense of time because we are intent on dealing with fundamental questions
of our political and legal status within Canada. It seems that the
present oonstitutional discussions have created a situation where
these questions can be thoughtfully considered. We arc concerned with the
Indian Act, with itspaternalism, its rigidity and its discrimination.
But we are not prepared to now deal with the Indian Act for that would
mean accepting the assumptions that lie behind it ~ that the Parliament
of Canada has complete jurisdiction over our nations and should continue
-to have such.jurisdi<:tion — that we have been conquered or overwhelmed.
We have survived. We have begun a slow and deliberate discussion of our
situation. As we are addressing fundamental questions, we trust that
you, as well, are addressing fundamental questions about our country
and will be willing to talk with us. So we hope you will understand that
we are not prepared to discuss a reasonable separation of legislative
and constitutional questions.
The second error that is commonly made about our position, again
seems very reasonable. There are some matters which directly affect
Indians and there are other matters which do not. The matters which
directly affect Indians will be included in the agenda item “Canada‘s
Native Peoples and the Qonstitution”. The Prime Hinister has indicated
certain subjects, which, in his view, would be included in that agenda
item. On those matters the Prime Minister has said we will participate
directly with the First Ministers. On other matters we would be limited
to what, perhaps, we are supposed to do today, that is, make submissions
as an outside group, excluded from direct participation in the talks.
» I would like to table two documents that have been prepared by
our staff and reflect our thinking. One examines the twelve items
that have been discussed by the Continuing Committee of Ministers on the
Constitution over the summer. The other examines a fuller range of
constitutional issues. These documents confirm the position we took at
given you our reaction to the twelve point agenda you have been
considering over the summer. Ne must make some comment on the process
involved. We have been promised “full, equal and ongoing” participation
with the First Ministers on constitutional issues that directly affect
us. Yet twelve items that directly affect us are to be discussed at
the First Ministers meeting in September here in Ottawa, without
our participation. There is a direct contradiction involved. At no
point have there been discussions about the process involved. In our
view we should he invited to participate in the September meeting of
First Ministers and in all future First Ministers meetings. In addition
in our view, we should be given a seat on the Continuing Committee of
Ministers on the Constitution, which would mean ending the need for a
special subcommittee of the CCMC on native questions.
. We are committed to the process of constitutional renewal.
As my predecessor, Hr. Noel Starblanket said in the meeting with the
steering committee of the CC!-IC on December 3rd, 1979:
we know that the process-will be long, difficult and often
‘ tedious, but we intend to participate in a patient, realistic
and determined manner.
This is still true.