Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MNC and Presentation to the Senate

Metis National Council


June 11, 2009

Action needed for Métis Residential School Survivors

One year after apology, vast majority of Métis Survivors still without compensation

Ottawa, ON -- Métis National Council (MNC) President Clément Chartier is calling for government action in compensating Métis residential school survivors excluded from the Indian Residential School Settlements Agreement.

While addressing a special sitting of the Senate marking the first anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology for Canada’s past assimilation policies and the Indian Residential School system, President Chartier said little progress has been made in addressing the concerns of Métis survivors who’ve been denied compensation.

“When I participated in that apology ceremony, I pledged the Métis Nation was prepared and willing to do our part in Canada’s collective journey towards healing and reconciliation,” said Chartier during his address to the Senate. “I wish I could report a strong beginning to that journey during the past year, but for most Métis survivors this is simply not true.”

While a small number of Métis who attended schools recognized by the settlement agreement are eligible for compensation, the vast majority of Métis survivors attend schools not included. These schools were church-run and government-sanctioned, but for the most part were funded by Provincial governments or religious order and not part of the federally funded Indian Residential School System.

“They were run with the same assimilationist intent and methods, and today neither the federal nor provincial governments are willing to accept responsibility for what happened,” said Chartier. “This impasse over how to deal with Métis survivors personifies in real human terms the true cost of Ottawa’s persistent refusal to accept historical, constitutional and moral responsibility for dealing with the Métis as a distinct Aboriginal people and nation.”

Chartier did commend Minister Chuck Strahl, Federal Interlocutor for Métis, for signing the Métis Nation Protocol in September 2008. The Protocol commits the Federal Government and the Métis National Council to work together on a range of bilateral issues, and where appropriate it allows for multilateral discussion with provincial governments from Ontario-westward.

Chartier said Minister Strahl has demonstrated a personal commitment to move ahead with the leadership of the Métis Nation in the year following the apology, and the Métis National Council is encouraged in its work with the Minister in area of economic development.

“Promising as these initiatives may be,” said Chartier, “they do not address the long outstanding need for justice for those who those who experienced the horrors of the Métis residential school system”

President Chartier went on to ask both chambers of Parliament to call on the federal government to assert its jurisdictional responsibility for dealing with the Métis Nation, and ensure all Métis survivors get the compensation they deserve.

For more information contact Greg Taylor, MNC Communications, at (613) 296-9263 or gregt@metisnation.ca.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Monument to Métis Who Served in WWI and WWII Announced for Juno Beach

COURSEULLES-SUR-MER, France, June 6 /CNW Telbec/ - A monument to Métis Nation citizens who fought during the two World Wars will be erected at Canada's Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France. The Métis National Council's

Minister for Veterans Affairs, David Chartrand, made the announcement today while attending commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944 liberation of Europe by Allied Forces during World War II.

"Thousands of Métis Nation citizens bravely and selflessly answered the call to serve during the World Wars," said Chartrand. "This monument will stand in eternal remembrance to those Métis who fought, who were wounded, and who died defending their people, their country, and world freedom."

The monument will consist of an exhibit highlighting the history of the Métis Nation in Canada and a Red River Cart, a widely recognized symbol of the Métis Nation currently being constructed in the Métis Nation homeland. The Red River Cart will be accompanied by Métis Nation veterans and youth to Juno Beach in November, where they will take part in its unveiling with a dedication ceremony during 2009 Remembrance Day events.

"Métis soldiers, sailors, and aircrew made incredible sacrifices for Canada's war efforts," said Chartrand. "This monument is a long overdue acknowledgement to these brave Métis men and women."

Minister Chartrand went on to thank Veterans Affairs Canada and the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis for their assistance in making the monument possible and providing resources for Métis Nation veterans and youth to participate in its dedication ceremony.

Supreme Court Application

But as of today the Globe and Mail announced that Sharon McIvor will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. The reason that we believe she is seeking the Supreme Court address is because the upper court in BC amended the first decision to only include individuals that are affected after 1985 rather then the original decision which included individuals who were effected since the 1800's. Te narrowing of the parameters effects 100's of thousands of people. In addition, we believe that she is hoping that the Supreme Court may give guidance in identifying mechanisms for the Federal Government to address the racist legislation.

Globe and Mail

By Bill Curry

Ottawa — Globe and Mail Update, Friday, Jun. 05, 2009 10:44AM EDT

The Supreme Court of Canada will be asked to decide whether thousands of Canadians should be added to the federal list of status Indians, a process that will likely pre-empt the government's plans to re-write the definition this fall.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Sharon McIvor says she will seek leave to appeal a B.C. Court of Appeal decision in a case with major implications for native communities and the federal government.

Ms. McIvor is a B.C. lawyer who first launched her legal battle against the Indian Act just months after it was re-written in 1985 – when she was still a law student - on the grounds that it continued to deny her Indian status because of her gender.

Ms. McIvor's announcement comes just days after Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl said the government would not appeal and intended to rewrite the definition of Indian status over the summer and introduce amendments to the Indian Act this fall.

“The B.C. Court of Appeal narrowed the decision so much and gave the government license to add as few people as they possibly can,” she said in a telephone interview. But even though she and her son now have status, Ms. McIvor said she will launch a costly appeal on behalf of those who have been left out.

“I won. My grandchildren will get status because that's what this was about, but you know, there are so many people out there that have been waiting and waiting and waiting and when the B.C. Court of Appeal made the decision and they narrowed it, it cut many of these people out. It's just not fair.”

The Indian Act, which was first introduced in 1876, has not had a significant update since 1985. That rewrite 24 years ago sought to end the discrimination in the definition of status Indian as it applied to women.

However, two court decisions in what is called the McIvor case have ruled that women are still treated unfairly in some scenarios when it comes to passing their status down to their grandchildren.

Ms. McIvor successfully fought the provisions on the grounds that she was originally unable to pass on status to her grandchildren because she was a woman.

The B.C. Supreme Court first issued a ruling that would have extended status to anyone who could prove discrimination in their family tree from 1876 to 1985. Ms. McIvor said that ruling, had it not been appealed, would have added about 100,000 people to the ranks of status Indians.

The B.C. Court of Appeal then ruled in April that the current definition will be struck down by April, 2010, unless Parliament passes a new definition. That ruling found a more narrow form of discrimination, limited to the period from 1985 to the present. That ruling would likely only affect a few thousand people. However, the ruling did not recommend a way for MPs to fix the problem.

Having aboriginal status qualifies a Canadian citizen for non-insured health benefits from Health Canada, as well possible federal support for post-secondary education.

Sharon McIvor is trying to take her case to the Supreme Court

On June 4, 2009 - Minister Strahl advised that the Federal Government would not be challenging the decision of the Courts of BC in relation to the Sharon McIvor court case.

Sharon McIvor's victory applauded by public-sector union

By Charlie Smith

The Public Service Alliance of Canada issued a news release today (June 4) to offer congratulations to Sharon McIvor, who waged a successful 22-year struggle to gain Indian status first for her son and later for her grandchildren.

"I am thrilled to learn that this government has finally recognized that it was futile to carry on with this systemic form of gender discrimination," PSAC president John Gordon said in the news release.

In April, a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel ruled unanimously that a section of the Indian Act violated equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the decision written by Justice Harvey Groberman, a 1985 amendment to the Indian Act was discriminatory because it denied status to a person with one Indian parent born prior to April 17, 1985, and whose grandmother was Indian and grandfather was non-Indian.

If the reverse were the case--i.e. the person's grandfather was Indian and the grandmother was non-Indian--the person would have status as an Indian under the Indian Act.

"The discrimination in this case is the result of under-inclusive legislation," Groberman wrote.

On June 2, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl announced that the government wouldn't appeal the ruling and would amend the law. Gordon declared that his union will "remain vigilant to ensure that that the forthcoming amendments to the Indian Act reflect the spirit of McIvor’s appeal and the court’s decision".

McIvor was supported by many groups during her struggle, including the Native Women's Association of Canada.

The B.C. Court of Appeal decision described McIvor's family history, which led to a peculiar circumstance. Until Strahl's announcement confirmed McIvor's victory, some of McIvor's grandchildren would have had Indian status and others wouldn't have qualified.

McIvor had two non-Indian grandfathers. One grandmother had Indian status; the other was entitled to have status.

Both of McIvor's parents were born out of wedlock to Indian mothers, who did not have status.

McIvor married a non-Indian, which automatically deprived her of status.

That's because under the Indian Act prior to the introduction of the charter's equality-rights section in 1985, an aboriginal woman who married a non-Indian male ceased to be an Indian under the law. The children from such a union were non-Indian as well.

In 1985 after the equality-rights section came into force, the Indian Act was amended. Under the law, a child who has one Indian parent and a non-Indian parent is entitled to status unless the Indian parent has a non-Indian parent.

In September 1985, McIvor applied for status on behalf of herself and her children with the Lower Nicola Band. She was granted status two years later, but it was denied to her kids. That's because McIvor had a non-Indian parent.

She appealed and according to the BC. Court of Appeal decision, the registrar conceded that the decision couldn't stand.

But there was still a problem. Her kids obtained status by virtue of McIvor's status. Her daughter was married to an Indian, so their kids would also have status.

But McIvor's son, Charles Jacob Grismer, was married to a non-Indian. Under the law, his kids couldn't have status because they had one Indian parent and their grandfather was not male.

McIvor and Grismer launched a constitutional challenge so that Grismer would be allowed to confer Indian status to his children. In 2007, they succeeded in B.C. Supreme Court; the federal government appealed.

The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling, though it narrowed the terms somewhat. And now that the federal government is not appealing, Grismer's kids--who are McIvor's grandchildren--will have status under the Indian Act.

AFN Election for National Chief

2009 is an election year for the Assembly of First Nations. First Nations Chiefs from across the country will vote for the AFN National Chief at the AFN's 30th Annual General Assembly to be held in Calgary, Alberta from July 21-23. The voting begins on July 22.

The AFN Charter and election rules are available on the AFN website at: http://www.afn.ca/article.asp?id=57
(see Articles 20 -22 and Appendix "A" for relevant information).

According to rules established under the AFN Charter, nominations for National Chief are open as of May 27 (eight weeks prior to the election) and close June 16 (five weeks prior to the election).

Shortly after the close of nominations, the AFN will announce the official candidates for the 2009 AFN election for National Chief.

The proposed candidates to succeed Fontaine are:

  • Shawn Atleo, British Columbia regional chief.
  • John Beaucage, grand chief of the Union of Ontario Indians.
  • Perry Bellegarde, former assembly vice-chief for Saskatchewan.
  • Terrance Nelson, chief of Roseau River First Nation in Manitoba.

Perry Bellegarde, former Grand Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and former Regional Vice Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. www.perrybellegarde.com

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has made innumerous contributions to the political field within his community, amongst First Nations, and in/between local, provincial, national, and international governments. Shawn is a hereditary chief of Ahousaht Nation.


Grand Council Chief John Beaucage was elected to serve the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation. John was re-elected in 2006, by acclamation, a rare occurrence in the history of one of Canada’s oldest political organizations.


Chief Terry Nelson An outspoken and controversial Manitoba chief is throwing his name in the race to replace outgoing Assembly of First Nations national chief Phil Fontaine. There appears to be no website with his campaign attached.

Proposed All Candidates Forum

What: All-Candidates Forum for AFN National Chief Election

When: Thursday June 4, 2009; 1:00 PM-3:00 PM Pacific

Where: Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver, Downtown 1110 Howe Street, Vancouver BC

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bill C-8: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act



Ottawa, Ontario (May 25, 2009) - The following statement was released by the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, on Bill C-8:

“I am extremely pleased that this piece of legislation, of great importance to First Nations women and children, was not thrown aside yesterday by a Hoist Motion from the Official Opposition. Bill C-8 will now get the discussion it deserves in the House of Commons.

“There is a lot of misinformation spread about Bill C-8 by those who seek to block this reform, which is long overdue.

“The truth is that Bill C-8, the proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, provides First Nations communities the very thing they are seeking: the mechanism to enact their own culturally relevant laws without any involvement by the federal government.

“The Bill also ensures that, in the interim, as communities develop their own laws, families will be immediately protected from the legal void that has existed for too long.

“More than 100 consultation sessions were held to give organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada ample opportunity to provide input and feedback. Numerous studies have been undertaken on the subject of matrimonial real property rights, and committees from both the House of Commons and the Senate have recommended that immediate action be taken. It is time to act.”

For more information, please contact:

Minister's Office
Ted Yeomans
Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
(819) 997-0002

Backgrounder - Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

For most Canadian couples undergoing a breakdown of their conjugal relationship, there is legal protection to ensure that assets of the marriage are distributed equitably between them. Such is not the case, however, for couples living in communities governed by the Indian Act. For either one of them, relationship breakdown could end in homelessness.

The reason is simple: the Indian Act is silent on the issue of matrimonial real property rights and provincial/territorial laws relating to this issue cannot be applied on reserves. The resulting legislative gap continues to affect women, children, and families living on reserves.

On March 4, 2008, Bill C-47, the proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act was introduced. Bill C-47 has been referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which is expected to begin its study of the bill in fall 2008. With the introduction of the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, the Government of Canada is taking practical, concrete measures to remedy an unacceptable situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

This bill follows a comprehensive, collaborative consultation process with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations. The consultation process was overseen by the Ministerial Representative, Wendy Grant-John, who was tasked to report back with a recommended legislative solution.

After undertaking nationwide consultations and dialogue sessions and hearing from First Nation members, leaders and regional and national organizations, as well as provinces and territories, the parties entered into a consensus-building phase. While arriving at a consensus on a legislative model proved to be a challenge, some shared principles emerged as priorities. These included the urgency to remedy this situation, the need to balance individual rights and the collective rights of First Nation communities, and the need for First Nations to exercise law-making powers over matrimonial real property in developing their own community-specific laws.

Over the summer and early fall of 2007, the federal government shared and worked together with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Ministerial Representative, Wendy Grant-John, and the provinces and territories, on a draft legislative solution regarding on-reserve matrimonial real property. All of those involved in the sharing process had opportunities to ensure their views and concerns were raised, and the bill is much improved as a result.

The legislation consists of a substantive federal matrimonial real property regime combined with a mechanism for First Nations to develop their own matrimonial real property laws. The federal regime will fill the legislative gap on reserves until such a time as First Nations develop their own laws on matrimonial real property. If passed by Parliament, the bill will come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Part of Métis Rights Trial Concludes Next Phase of Trial Set To Start in Fall 2009

Medicine Hat, AB (May 12, 2009) – After seven days of testimony from Métis  community witnesses from throughout the province, Alberta’s first Métis harvesting rights trial – R. v. Jones, Bates and Hirsekorn – adjourned today until the Fall of 2009.

The trial involves three Métis harvesters who were charged for hunting without a license, as a part of traditional Métis hunts near the Cypress Hills and Pincher Creek in the fall of 2007. These Métis harvesters are defending themselves based on the constitutionally protected harvesting right of the Métis in Alberta. The harvesting rights of the Métis were recognized in 2003 in a landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Powley.

Since May 4th, the Alberta Provincial Court in Medicine Hat has heard first-hand evidence about Métis culture, harvesting, way of life, mobility and kinship connections throughout Alberta.   Métis witnesses provided testimony about locations across Alberta, including, Cypress Hills, Pincher Creek, Calgary, Sundre, Tail Creek, Grand Prairie, Rocky Mountain House, High Prairie, Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, Lac St. Anne, Lac La Biche, Bonnyville, Elizabeth Métis Settlement, Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement. As well, witnesses testified about Métis mobility and connections to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Montana.

“While the Métis Nation is disappointed with the Alberta Government’s denial of Métis rights, we are pleased to be moving forward on having our rights recognized in the courts,” said Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. “Through this trial, our people have the wonderful opportunity to share our often untold story in our own voices. We look forward to having our constitutional rights recognized by the courts.”

Poitras added, “Based on this case, the Alberta Government will no longer be able to deny Métis rights exist in Alberta or take the position that Métis do not need to be consulted and accommodated on development occurring throughout this province. Government and industry need to be aware of the potential impacts flowing from Ted Morton forcing Métis into the courts.”

The trial is expected to take another 7 weeks of court time and to be finished in early 2010. The next phase of the trial is set to begin in mid-September 2009 when expert witnesses will provide testimony on the Métis of the Northwest, the fur trade, Métis genealogy and Métis culture.  

Additional Métis community witnesses will also be called in the Fall of 2009, including, the MNA President Audrey Poitras, the MNA Registrar and Métis community witnesses from northern, central and southern Alberta.

For more information about the case and Métis harvesting in Alberta    visit http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AFN National Chief “Deeply Disappointed” that Flawed Legislation on Matrimonial Real Property (Bill C-8) May Proceed

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine expressed his deep disappointment today that a motion to “hoist” Bill C-8 did not receive wide support in the House of Commons.

“I am deeply disappointed that, in spite of a motion by the Liberal Party to hoist Bill C-8, the other parties did not use this opportunity to reject this deeply flawed legislation,” National Chief Fontaine said. “This is not about partisan politics. This is about doing the right thing for First Nations families. This is about our human rights.”

Bill C-8 deals with the division of matrimonial real property (MRP) on-reserve when relationships break down. “Hoisting” the Bill would take it off the parliamentary agenda. In its place the Federal government should enable First Nations to build the capacity to properly develop a meaningful process and alternate approach that respects First Nations jurisdiction and existing First Nations processes respecting MRP.

Bill C-8 has received strong opposition from First Nations, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the AFN Women’s Council and First Nations across the country.  The Bill itself also runs contrary to the recommendations provided by the Minister of Indian Affairs’ own appointed Ministerial Representative on MRP, Wendy Grant John, who held nation-wide consultations with First Nations women and concluded that unilateral imposed federal legislation is not the answer.

AFN Women’s Council Chair Kathleen McHugh stated, “Bill C-8 does not work. All Bill C-8 does is force families into provincial courts. This is not a solution. For many families it is unaffordable and it will also force families in remote communities to endure long waiting periods before their case can be heard, if they can even make it to a court.”

Bill C-8 has serious flaws and could be subject to legal challenges because the government did not meet its duty to consult and the bill itself infringes on First Nations rights. The National Chief stated that First Nations and all those who support First Nations families and First Nations rights should be working to ensure the Bill does not become law.

“Our people did not create this problem,” said the National Chief. “The federal government created this problem by imposing the Indian Act on First Nations.  The solution is not impose more flawed legislation on First Nations, but to work with us in partnership on real solutions that protect First Nations families and respect First Nations rights.  This legislation and its approach runs contrary to the commitment of the Government and parliamentarians to the spirit and intent of the June 11, 2008 apology to First Nations for the Indian residential school policy.  This Bill is nothing short of continued imposition and paternalism. A number of First Nations have already developed approaches to MRP that are fully supported by their communities. This is the way to go. We need capacity within our communities to deal with this important matter.  It is unfortunate we may have to use our energies to fight bad legislation instead of using it to work together on real solutions.”


The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.


For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Health Communications, (613) 292-1877,kpugliese@afn.ca

Friday, May 15, 2009

What happened to those National Métis Health Dollars?

Well folks I think we seen a small glimpse of how Health Canada is going to deal with the proverbial health dollars.

Just to refresh your memories – there were many posts about the Métis Health dollars and it has potentially destroyed the relationship between the Board of Governors at Métis National Council. Some of the Board of Governors requested that there be regional agreements developed so that each provisional representative organization would be directly responsible for their programs, bursaries and also be able to build capacity.

David Chartrand did not want that – he wanted the 10 million dollars to be under his control and so the fight began.

Now several years later – we have the Métis National Council struggling to find a way to be accountable for the money they spent which did not go where it should have and dealing with a significant deficit as a result of their inability to be accountable. The Board of Governors has only had one meeting since February 2008 and the communication between them is non existent.
In spite of all of that …. The regional Provincial Métis Organizations are flourishing based on today’s press announcement…


Métis in British Columbia to benefit from Health Canada’s Aboriginal Health Transition Fund

VANCOUVER (May 14, 2009) – Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) President and Minister Responsible for Health Bruce Dumont is pleased to announce the addition of five new staff to the MNBC Ministry of Health. Five Regional Health Coordinators join the team today, funded through Health Canada’s Aboriginal Health Transition Fund, under the Province’s Adaptation Plan.

The Regional Health Coordinators are geographically aligned with the five Regional Health Authorities in British Columbia. The part-time Coordinators will work with Métis Chartered Communities, Métis Nation British Columbia and the Health Authorities to establish or further build relationships, increase community capacity and facilitate improved access to existing health programs and services for Métis people across British Columbia.

MNBC President and Minister Responsible for Health Bruce Dumont expressed his excitement for this work, “Métis people in British Columbia have fell between the cracks within the British Columbia healthcare system for many years.

This program is the first of its kind for Métis people in BC. Our Regional Health Coordinators will be able to provide much needed support to each of our communities and educate health policy makers about the health status of Métis people in this Province”.

Director of Health Tanya Davoren shared Minister Dumont’s perspective, “Métis Chartered Communities in British Columbia are run by volunteers who work tirelessly to promote Métis history and culture and to develop and administer programs and services. Having paid staff available in the community will greatly increase capacity in each Métis Chartered Community and provide an opportunity for Métis people to play an active part in improving their own health

The Regional Health Coordinators commence their new role today and will be working in communities by next week. The five part-time Regional Health Coordinators join Director of Health Tanya Davoren, Program Assistant Tresley Tourond-Bouvier and Chronic Disease Surveillance Program Manager Dr Peter Hutchinson in the MNBC Ministry of Health.

Métis Nation British Columbia is the representative governing organization of Métis people in British Columbia. MNBC works on behalf of 59 445 (2006 Census) Métis people in British Columbia. MNBC was created in 1996 and continues to evolve today. MNBC has three levels of Métis Nation governance, thirty-six (36) Métis Chartered Communities, seven (7) Regional Governance Councils, and a provincially elected Board of Directors. Since 2003 the MNBC leadership has implemented a number of institutions of governance including the Senate, Métis Nation Governing Assembly, Youth representation, and Women’s representation.

Please visit www.mnbc.ca to learn more about Métis Nation British Columbia.

For further information please contact:
Tanya Davoren
Director of Health and Sport
Métis Nation British Columba

Bill C-8 and the Controversy

Bill C-8 and the Controversy


Harper government ignoring Aboriginal communities on Bill C-8

OTTAWA – Liberals are calling on the Harper Conservatives to delay the passage of Bill C-8 after the government failed to properly consult First Nations governments in the development of the bill. Bill C-8 concerns the division of real property on First Nations reserve lands when couples separate.

“We do not question the need for legislation to address the very real problems when family breakdown occurs for Canadians living on reserve,” said Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic Todd Russell. “However, the Conservative government failed in its constitutional duty to consult First Nations in the development of this bill.

“We believe this bill should be deferred for six months so that the government can properly consult First Nations communities on what changes they believe are necessary. The bill in its current form imposes a default law on First Nations communities, without ensuring that First Nations have the resources or capacity to develop their own codes. First Nations are rightly upset by this.”

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have been highly critical of the Conservative bill, arguing that the government is attempting to impose a “one size fits all” solution on a diverse group of more than 600 First Nations communities, each with its unique needs, said Mr. Russell.

“First Nations women’s groups have specific concerns with this bill, which is why the government needs to take a second look,” he said. “For example, their bill mandates that ‘verification officers’ play an active role in the development and approval of local matrimonial real estate property regimes. First Nations see this as an insulting throwback to the use of Indian Agents.

“We’re saying to the Harper government, let’s take the bill off the table so that Aboriginal communities can be properly consulted about these matters. Their concerns cannot be dismissed, and the government should take the time and the steps to do things right,” Mr. Russell said.

This is a joint press release from NWAC, AFN and the AFN Women’s Council


Press Release – For Immediate Release

NWAC, AFN and AFN Women’s Council

Unite to Oppose Bill C8 on Matrimonial Real Property

Ottawa, ON (May 14, 2009) – Today the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the AFN Women’s Council united to express their opposition to the federal Bill C8,

An act respecting family homes situatedon First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.

NWAC and the AFN (including the AFN Women’s Council), all agree that Bill C8
Will do nothing to solve the problems associated with Matrimonial Real Property (MRP) onreserve; that the federal government failed in its duty to consult and accommodate the views of First Nations; and, as a result, the Bill is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed. It should not proceed to committee.

NWAC President Beverley Jacobs says NWAC held meetings with Aboriginal women prior to the introduction of Bill C47 and produced a “Peoples Report” that included a
number of solutions to address MRP. Bill C47, the predecessor to Bill C8, and this Bill,
C8, ignore all of those recommendations.

“Aboriginal women, who we met with and who were directly affected by the lack of legal recourse of MRP, stated over and over again that their voices needed to be included in the creation of any legislation,” said NWAC President Jacobs. “They also highlighted non-legislative solutions for the short, medium and long term. We need to ensure that the voices of the women that we talked to are heard and that their solutions are implemented. The resources are needed to implement the non-legislative solutions as soon as possible.”

AFN Women’s Council Chair Kathleen McHugh agrees that there was no effective consultation process. She added that Bill C8 also ignores the recommendations of the Minister of Indian Affairs’ own Ministerial Representative on MRP, Wendy Grant John, who tabled a report stating that unilateral imposed federal legislation is not the answer.

The organizations are in agreement that Bill C8 is a one dimensional approach to a
complex problem that does not address the real issues in communities.

“All Bill C8 does is force families into provincial courts. This is not a solution. For many families it’s unaffordable and it will also force families in remote communities to endure long waiting periods before their case can be heard,” said the Chair of the AFN Women Council. President Jacobs agrees, and states that, “I am also deeply concerned that Bill C8 will put women who are experiencing family violence at further risk by forcing them to wait long periods for justice without adequate social supports, services or shelters.”

National Chief Phil Fontaine added that it is unlikely that the strict parameters imposed on First Nations will allow communities to create solutions that reflect their traditional laws, cultures and realities, including geographic remoteness, lack of access to the court system, inability to afford lawyers, overcrowding and multiple family homes and a lack of emergency shelters.

“A number of First Nations have already taken a proactive approach to this issue and have worked with their communities to develop rules and policies related to MRP. Under
Bill C8, the flawed federal approach will be imposed on First Nations and these existing
Community based solutions could be struck down and replaced. This is not democratic, it is inconsistent with the values of First Nations and Canadians, and only serves to do more harm to First Nations families,” said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine.

The AFN and NWAC believe that the legislation attempts to pit the individual rights of women against the collective rights of First Nations people. Both organizations expressed disappointment with this tactic and do not support this approach. President Jacobs, the National Chief and Chair McHugh stressed the importance of acknowledging and respecting the role of women and mothers in First Nations families, communities and Nations and ensuring that their voices are sought and accommodated within the context of this role.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, including their Women’s Council agree that Bill C8 should be scrapped in favour of a new approach. This may include non-legislative measures such as local dispute resolution processes and community based solutions. The urgent need for housing, counseling services and emergency shelters on reserve must also be addressed.

NWAC President Jacobs added “Aboriginal women, girls and children continue to be subjected to violence and are often forced to leave their homes and communities to be safe. Aboriginal women have consistently stated that they want safe communities where they, their children and future generations can live. Above all else, any resolution needs to ensure that this happens.”

The resolution of MRP matters requires collaborative efforts between the federal government and First Nations. Solutions must address the root causes of the poor socioeconomic conditions faced by First Nations couples that contribute to MRP issues.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada is an aggregate of 13 native women’s organizations and is the national voice of Aboriginal women in Canada.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

The AFN Women’s Council ensures the perspectives of First Nations’ women are included in all AFN policy directives and activities, as well as ensuring that the AFN is an effective advocate on behalf of First Nations women.

Statement - Bill C-8: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act


Ottawa, Ontario (May 14, 2009) - The following statement was released by the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians:

“Today, the Liberal Party moved a motion that will effectively kill Bill C-8, which is designed to protect the rights of women and children living on reserve. I am deeply disappointed that the Liberals would be prepared to prevent the passage of Bill C-8 and leave untold numbers of First Nations women and children without the protection of the courts at a time when they most need it.

The proposed legislation would provide legal protection to both members of a common law or marital relationship in the event of a breakdown of their marriage, divorce or death. Bill C-8 responds to national and international calls for action and change. The bill is the result of over 100 extensive consultation sessions held throughout the country. It is shameful that the Liberals are trying to derail a bill that would provide a solution to an intolerable legislative gap.

Bill C-8 is a landmark piece of legislation. For the first time ever, the Government is taking significant steps to provide First Nation leaders with the opportunity to develop their own culturally appropriate laws. The federal government would no longer be involved. First Nation leaders will only be accountable to those most directly affected by the law, namely their own constituents.

The proposed Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act fills the legislative gap by providing women, children and families with immediate protections and rights. Delaying its passage will only exacerbate the ongoing injustice facing some of the most vulnerable members of Canadian society.”

For more information, please contact:
Minister's Office
Ted Yeomans
Office of the Honourable Chuck Strahl
(819) 997-0002

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First part of Métis hunting trial ends

First part of Métis hunting trial ends



After seven days of testimony from Métis community members in a Medicine Hat provincial courtroom filled with maps, the first session in the trial of three men accused of hunting without a license has come to an end.
Métis witnesses from Lac la Biche, Bonneyville, Manyberries, Medicine Hat, Pincher Creek and other Alberta municipalities described how they and their families have hunted in the province for decades. Many could trace their backgrounds to 1885 North West Rebellion battlefields such as Duck Lake, Batoche and Cut Knife.

Garry Hirsekorn, Ron Jones and Bruce Bates all currently stand charged with hunting without a license.

While the three self-described Métis men on trial have admitted to hunting without a license during a protest hunt in late 2007, they are arguing they had the constitutional right to do so.

The Alberta government contends the three accused do not meet the conditions of the Powley Decision — a Supreme Court ruling which gives a legal framework for identifying who is Metis and therefore where they can hunt.

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that Metis across Canada have the constitutional right to fish, hunt and gather food without a license.

However, in January 2007, the Alberta government restricted harvesting rights to areas within a radius of eight recognized Metis settlements and 17 communities.

None was south of Edmonton.

Outside the courtroom, the men’s lawyer, Jean Teillet, said the goal of the trial is to see the accused’s aboriginal rights acknowledged.

“On one level it is about proving Métis have hunting rights. On another, it’s about getting some recognition for Métis people in Canada.”

Teillet said the government has no problem giving that recognition in the same way they do other ethnic groups but, “the idea the Métis have aboriginal rights to use the land in a different way, they resist that.”

She expects if the men win their case, the province won’t look to appeal due to the fact higher court decisions will have a binding effect on other provinces.

The Crown attorney arguing the province’s case, Thomas Rothwell, said the prosecution is about the issue of Métis rights in southern Alberta.

“It’s the central issue and the court will have to make a ruling on that. When the ruling comes out we’ll study it carefully.”

Four more sessions are scheduled between September and January with a decision expected to be rendered by May 2010.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Tar Sands and the Impact on the Aboriginal Community

For Immediate Release-Regulate the tar sands and uphold treaty and human rights to water


For Immediate Release

Community Groups Send Strong Message to Feds:

Regulate the tar sands and uphold treaty and human rights to water

May 12th, 2009 (Edmonton, AB)- The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development begins its formal hearing on the impacts on Water by the Tar Sands Extraction today in Edmonton. Concerned community members, union representatives, non-government organizations and First Nations have gathered together outside the Hearings to send a strong message to the commissioners of the hearings.

“Water is sacred to the Aboriginal people of the land and we want a voice!,” said Alice Martin, an Aboriginal grassroots community member from the
Fort McMurray region.

“The Federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to uphold its treaty obligations and consult on a Nation to Nation basis with First Nations, regarding infrastructure projects built within their traditional territories,” said Eriel Deranger Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation member and Rainforest Action Network Campaigner.

Since March 2009 the Environment Committee has been discussing water and the tar sands, the process however has excluded the voices of many communities impacted by Tar Sands extraction in particular the Unions, the up-grader communities, farmers, grassroots First Nations, and those living in the development zones.

“Tar Sands development is more than just the mine sites, it is the whole infrastructure needed to refine the tar sands into usable crude. This includes the lines of pipe, and the development of Upgraders, far beyond the boundaries of
Alberta, which have huge consequences for water and the fertility of the land.” explains Barb Collier a farmer from Alberta's Industrial Heartland. “The federal government needs to know that their decisions to regulate tar sands is going to have far reaching impacts right across this country.”

“Tar Sands are not just contaminating the Athabasca River, they are contaminating the whole Athabasca/Mackenzie watershed; a watershed which is estimated to house 1/5th of Canada’s fresh water resources!” emphasizes Harvey Scott a representative of Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council, “With an estimated 11 million liters of toxic chemicals leaking daily from the tailing lakes, there is definitely a federal responsibility to ensure action is taken on tar sands to uphold both treaty and human rights to water are respected.

Today’s events are supported by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Council of Canadians, Sierra Club Prairie Chapter, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network, highlighting the growing coalition effort byFirst Nations, provincial community groups and national organizations to draw attention to the devastating impacts of tar sands development.

Adding to today's event, there will be a public forum at 7pm at the Trans Alta Art Barn where Fort Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and Francois Paulette - Member, Fort Fitzgerald First Nation will be leading a discussion around the impacts of the tar sands

For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Connie Bresnahan, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council - (780) 816- 0654 athabasca.bio.soc@hotmail.com

Eriel Deranger, Rainforest Action Network and Member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation - (587) 785-1558 ederanger@ran.org

Metis Trial moved to living room

Medicine Hat News

May 12, 2009

Trial moved to living room



In a scene not likely to be repeated in Medicine Hat court history, a judge, stenographer, clerk, News reporter and four lawyers crowded into a witness’ small living room to hear testimony Monday afternoon.

It was a fitting scene for the trial of three Métis men charged with breaking provincial hunting regulations that has so far focused on history while trying to make it as well.

In Monday’s hearing, Métis elder Henry Aaker, 79 – testifying from his home due to a medical condition – told the court how his home was once part of a thriving community called Saratoga Park.

The house – hidden away as much as a home could be in a city of 60,000 – lies along a bike trial which follows Seven Persons Creek between Dunmore Road and Scholten Hill. 

In an almost surreal scene, the court entered the four metre by seven metre home surrounded by a corral in disrepair, abandoned garden, several vehicles and sheds.

“You said four (people) not 44,” said Aaker in a comical moment as the courtroom entered his home.

Depending on the source, the home is the last of a “half-breed colony” or squatters community which once had at least 20 to 30 homes stretching from Dunmore Road to the South Saskatchewan River.

In the cramped living room with the walls filled with family photos and First Nations as well as Western artwork, Aaker testified with a bowl of potato chips and glass of cola in front of him. 

He testified that he moved to Saratoga Park from Montana when he was three weeks old after his parents split up.

The lawyer for the accused, Jason Madden, asked Aaker what life was like growing up in Saratoga Park.

“A picnic,” he responded.

“Everybody had a lot of fun.”

He went on to describe group social events within the community that included music played with violins, guitars and banjos while people danced the jig. He told the court about being married in a nearby church and went to Elm Street School.
Aaker said at the Elm Street School there would be numerous fights with other children.

“Kids would get smart and pretty soon you’d be battling it out,” Aaker said.
“Smart about what?” asked Madden.


“They’d be calling you half-breeds. After they got a few lickings, they’d smarten up.”

Madden went on to ask what had happened to the other homes in the area.
“When the people died off, they would come in with a bulldozer, clean it up, bury the stuff and that would be the end of it,” Aaker responded.

“Why would they do that?” Madden asked.

“I don’t know.”

Pointing towards the top of Scholten Hill, Aaker testified that is where he used to hunt and said he trapped weasel, mink and muskrat along the nearby creek. He also described fishing in the South Saskatchewan River and recalled his mother used to gather native vegetation for medicinal remedies.

“When you went hunting, did you get a licence?” asked Madden.

“No, why would I want a licence for,” Aaker responded.

“Did you ever get charged?”

“No, they never caught me.”

Madden asked if Aaker spoke an aboriginal language.

“Yea, English,” he responded before saying he could speak the Métis language Michif – a mixture of Cree and French.

Lead attorney for the province Tomas Rothwell declined to cross-examine Aaker.
The first session of testimony in the trial is expected to end today with several more witnesses from the Métis community.

Two more sessions concentrating on historical documents are expected before the end of the year