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article imageUBCIC Grand Chief endorses collective vision for Canada - Part 2 Special

By Grace C. Visconti     Oct 21, 2013 in Environment
Vancouver - UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip warns that a human rights conflict is imminent if the Indian Act is dissolved, dismantling Indigenous land rights and allowing unprecedented resource development by foreign investors causing environmental consequences.
Interview with UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip Part 2
GCV: How is the dissolution of the Indian Act reshaping First Nations’ social, political, and environmental objectives across Canada? Why do you think this is happening now and is it happening too fast for First Nations people to assimilate the changes especially since they have been codependent on the current social and political system for so long?
GCSP: To begin with, the first thing Harper did was rip up the Kelowna Accord. Prime Minister Martin gave funding to the First Nations to change their living standards. But Harper went in the opposite direction. Since he has been elected, he has cut and slashed programs and services. In terms of their legislative agenda regarding First Nations people, he has adopted a paternalistic and unilateral approach. My point is, that all of the bills the Harper government has passed were done without any consultation with Aboriginal people so our rights and interests have been continuously eroded. It’s very much an adversarial and hostile relationship between the Harper government and the Aboriginal people of Canada.
The Harper government is deliberately seeking to undermine our rights and interests since the day they took power. There is no consultation or collaboration, working together on an agreed upon approach by moving out from under the Indian Act.
The impact is very detrimental because we are not being included in any of this. For example, regarding Bill S-8 for the drinking water…what this legislation does is…they opposed the bill on drinking water even though extensive submissions were made. By their unilateral approach they dumped the responsibility for having good quality water on the Band Council without any concerns for liability whatsoever. Their unilateral decisions are done by virtue of their majority.
From the very beginning, First Nations have legal rights to the land. Through the residential schools, it was purposefully genocidal. (UN Urged to Declare Canada’s Treatment Of Aboriginals ‘Genocide’). The real purpose was to destroy us as a people so they could take ownership of the land and resources of this country. The Conservatives and Liberals are no different. They want to assimilate us and it’s the purpose of all government policy legislation where we are concerned so we will no longer be able to maintain our position and our Indigenous land rights.
The hope is that if Indigenous people are assimilated, then they will wipe out our unique legal status. We have propriety interest in the land of this country. The Crown wants an unfettered legal right to the resources that they do not have due to our Indigenous legal rights. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld many court cases with respect to the land rights of Indigenous people. This war against Indigenous people has been going on a long time because they want the land and resources. The Indigenous land rights are the fundamental obstacles to resource development across Canada.
It is the thin red line of the Indigenous land rights that stand in the way of Petro state obsession and pipeline issues. Harper can’t move ahead with the land resource development for this reason.
GCV: If FIPA is ratified giving a foreign investor unprecedented rights to Canada’s natural resources at the expense of First Nations and Canadians, is there any hope that the Canada Constitution Act of 1982 and the affirmation in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples could work in our favor to stop it?
GCSP: The short answer is we have to make every effort as Indigenous people and Canadians against this blatant use of power to sell out the natural resource wealth to China. Quite frankly, it’s Chinese Economic Imperialism. It was so ironic because they had such a long dark history of being invaded and ruled by Imperial powers and now they are doing the same. Right now what they are practicing is Chinese Economic Imperialism.
The most important point is we have to stand up together. There should be such outrage across this country that we should all be in the street. It is essential that we demonstrate to the Harper government that we will not put up with the sell out of our natural resources to China. We must fight for responsible resource development strategy.
GCV: In this Digital Journal article, Senior Lawyer Jessica Clogg for West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), explains Bill C-45, First Nations Rights, and FIPA. Jessica states: “In my experience change often occurs when a configuration of political, economic, legal and social pressures come to bear. I believe that true recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights has the potential to be a force of progressive, transformative change for Canada at all levels.” Can you comment on this statement and how do you foresee a new vision for Canada coming out of this current conflict for First Nations people and Canadians?
GCSP: To begin with, there needs to be a collective vision and it can’t be self-centered or self-serving that contemplates Canada becoming a Petro power. Harper has no time to consider the environmental risks and Indigenous land rights and the fact that he pushed through 2 omnibus bills proves it.
All Canadians have to understand the fundamental values of this country are being sold out from under us. The values that make this one of the greatest countries in the world are being sold out. Environmental values, social, human rights, political, everything we cherish in this country will be wiped out if we don’t take a collective stand.
My vision of Canada is that all cultures and nationalities work together to maintain their cultural rights while maintaining a collaborative vision.
GCV: How could the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs work together with the Chiefs of Alberta if FIPA is ratified and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline rejection by B.C. is vetoed and approved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper? Since the passing of Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, is there any protection whatsoever from corporations coming on to First Nations’ properties to extract natural resources?
GCSP: This question is somewhat moot because I have been up to Fort McMurray and participated in the Tar Sands Healing Walk. Last year we had over 500 people from Canada and the US participated. The First Nations people in the Fort McMurray area organized it. We are already working on these matters.
In the event that Harper vetoes the Joint Revue Panel…if they reject the pipeline proposals because there is too much risk attached…and he declares these projects in the national interest, we have to stop this and take it to the streets. There has to be hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating their collective outrage concerning this abuse of power. We can’t sit idly by. We can’t allow Harper to prorogue parliament any time it is convenient for him to do that. We can’t allow him to abuse our human rights, Indigenous land rights, and political democratic rights. He is blatantly thumbing his nose at the democratic values and rights of this country. How much longer are we going to stand for this?
There are thousands of Canadians who died on the battlefield who protected our democratic rights and this man is squandering them in his obsession with becoming a world Petro power. For goodness sake, he is in court now with the veterans where they are being forced to fight for their rights.
GCV: In Calgary, Alberta, at one of the Idle No More rallies (December 2012) in front of Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s constituency office a Councillor from the Alberta Tsuu T’ina Nation warned the crowd about the consequences when First Nations Treaty Rights are dissolved. He addressed not only First Nations but also Canadians when he said: “We’re all in this together now.” Will collaboration between First Nations people and Canadians of each provincial and territory jurisdiction make a stronger legal case against the dissolution of our land and water rights?
GCSP: The obvious short answer is YES. Canada is a colonial construct otherwise known as a settlers’ state to complete the colonization process. They need to deal with what governments have called “the Indian problem.” If Harper calls a snap election in the spring, they would create fear in people stating that pipelines are in the economic interest of this country. This is how close to the edge we are. First Nations people are the spearhead. Our rights are reflected in Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people, enshrined in the Constitution of Canada, and have been upheld by a multitude of Supreme Court decisions. As long as the left political parties remain divided, it gives them a majority to do what they want.
Harper could draft a White Paper and through the virtue of his majority, he could wrap it in the same type of rhetoric as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau did in 1969 under the guise of equality. If this does occur then there will be an uprising from sea to sea of Indigenous people. Our Indigenous land rights represent the thin red line.
We need the active support of Canadians. Idle No More is inclusive. It isn’t an Indigenous movement but a human rights movement. We need to revitalize Idle No more.
Go to Indigenous people and land rights: The thin red line Part 1 which gives background information for this 2 part interview.
A special thank you to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip for granting me this interview. Here are my thoughts after conducting this interview. We have the ability to rise above our differences to create abundance while maintaining a balanced, safe environment. Though working towards this goal will require a united collective vision, it is possible with dialogue, transparency, creativity, innovation and a sincere collaborative effort that compromise is possible for the good of all. Maintaining honor and respect for one another and the Earth, our home, takes positive intention, dedication and focused action, values and goals surely worth living and compromising for. Truthfully, it’s all we’ve got. Armed with faith and a collaborative blueprint for positive change, we can make compromise happen. If not, I’m afraid Mother Nature won’t be so kind in return, leaving us with very few options. Grace C. Visconti
Breaking Down the Indian Act with Russell Diabo
9 questions about Idle No More (CBC, January 5, 2013)
Background: The Indian Act (CBC, May 30, 2011)
VIDEO: Chief Derek Nepinak throws out the Indian Act Status Card assigned to him
Chiefs mull issuing demand Harper scrap omnibus bills, Indian Act during planned Friday meeting (APTN National News, January 10, 2013)
Canada, first nations have a road map. It was the Kelowna Accord.
Sustaining Momentum: The Government of Canada’s Fourth and Final Report in Response to the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act 2011-12
Kelowna Accord holds key to native renewal
The Kelowna Accord, Wikipedia
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