Sherri Mitchell in Native Condition. Discussion »
IDLE NO MORE is a peaceful movement for Aboriginal/Indigenous rights and environmental justice that began in Canada in October of 2012. It was initiated by four warrior women in Saskatchewan, who began hosting "Teach-Ins" around the issues that First Nations people were facing. It began as a protest against outdated termination policies resurrected by Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper in Bill C 45. Harper's administration is attempting to destroy the protected status of First Nations lands and waters and extinguish inherent Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, while also dismantling vital environmental protections across Canada. The movement has also been linked, by the media, to the actions of specific First Nations leaders, who have come to symbolize the fact that Indigenous people are literally starving for justice.
Sherri Mitchell Penobscot Nation
Harper's termination policies are designed to unilaterally diminish or eliminate the rights of First Nations peoples, by making changes to key areas of the Indian Act and other laws that provide protections for the rights of First Nations and their lands and waterways. This is being done in violation of the Canadian Constitution, Treaty Law and Customary International Law. These actions are also in direct opposition to the rights outlined by the United Nations in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was endorsed by Canada in November of 2010.
In order to accomplish his termination goals, the Harper government introduced three new policy strategies:
A "results based" approach to negotiate Modern Treaties and Self-Government Agreements. This involves an assessment process of 93 negotiation tables across Canada, that are being used to coerce First Nations into signing agreements that terminate their status as First Nations and eliminate their Aboriginal and Treaty rights, under the terms of Canada's Comprehensive Claims and Self-Government policies. These agreements turn First Nations into municipalities of Canada, they change the protected status of their lands, changing them from reserve lands to taxable fee lands, that are able to be sold by individuals, and they eliminate their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
The First Nations who refuse to sign these agreements will have their core funding cut and capped. For regional First Nation political organizations the core funding will be capped at $500,000 annually. For some regional organizations this will result in a funding cut of $1 million or more annually. This will restrict the ability of Chiefs and Executives of Provincial Territorial Organization's to organize and/or advocate for First Nations rights and interests and to provide for their basic needs in some cases.
The third strategy involves an elimination of funding for First Nations to obtain advisory services, such as legal consultation. These services are being phased out over a two year period. This will cripple the ability of Chiefs and Councils and Tribal Council executives to analyze and assess the impacts of the federal and provincial policies and legislative actions that are targeting their inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
These policy strategies are being supported by the following legislation:
Bill C 27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Bill C 45: Jobs and Growth Act, 2012, Omnibus Bill includes Indian Act amendments regarding voting on reserve lands surrenders/designations
Bill S 2: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Bill S 6: First Nations Elections Act
Bill S 8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations
Bill C 428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, Private Conservative MPâ€™s Bill, but supported by Harper government
Then there are the Senate Public Bills:
Bill S 207: An Act to amend the Interpretation Act non derogation of aboriginal and treaty rights
Bill S 212: First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill
The Harper Administration's legislative push is specifically designed to undermine the collective rights of First Nations by focusing specifically on rights to the individual. This sits in direct opposition to the communal value structure of tribal peoples. It is a divide and conquer strategy that is as old as time. The tactics being used by Harper are not new. They simply represent the most recent attacks. The system of Indian policy established by the Canadian government has served to deny the rights of the Native peoples for centuries. The policies that have been used are literally the policies of apartheid. The Indian Act and certain U.S. Indian policies were used as a template for the policies of apartheid in South Africa. Although apartheid ended in South Africa after only fifty years, the practices of apartheid live on under the guise of Indian Law and Policy in North America. Harper's attack is one in a long line of termination attempts aimed at First Nations peoples. It is time that the global community demand that these termination policies be eliminated and that the apartheid against Indigenous peoples come to an end.
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Sherri Mitchell, is a citizen of the Penobscot Nation. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law, where she received a JD and certificate in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy. She is the Director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection of Indigenous land rights. She is currently working with the Tribes and First Nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy, to address the ongoing violation of treaty agreements, Canadian law and customary International law. The Wabanaki confederacy consists of four tribes, the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Mik Maq and Maliseet, which are located in Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.
posted January 31, 2013 7:50 am est