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COMMENTARY · 12th September 2012
Chief Terrance Nelson
Note: This article was written in 2007.

Chief Terrance Nelson December 2007.

It was widely reported last year that Canada was valued at a net worth of $4.5 Trillion. So, how much is $4.5 Trillion? A trillion dollars is a one followed by twelve zeroes, therefore, $4.5 trillion is written out as $4,500,000,000,000. Knowing the price tag of settling with the rightful owners, it is no wonder that Canada one of only four countries in the world that voted against the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights. The Conservative government’s stated reason was that the UN Declaration was inconsistent with Canadian domestic laws and might affect court decisions. Yeah, really!

The Right to Property is not in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms even though Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Right to Property is a fundamental Human Right internationally recognized under Article seventeen of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Obviously, Indigenous people were here prior to the Europeans, so legally in domestic Canadian laws, how do European settler immigrants claim title to all the 60 different metals and minerals mined in Canada without paying any royalty to the original owners.

Prime Minister Steven Harper stated that Canada spends over $9 billion a year on natives and that each man, woman and child on reserve had $16,500 designated by Ottawa each year. If this was true, why not send the money directly to each and every man, woman and child on reserve.

The answer is that the money never gets to the people on reserve, it goes to the service industry, housing suppliers, education and health providers, and all the police officers, jail guards, and bureaucrats who are paid to keep the indigenous people poor and unable to fight for their property rights. Nine billion dollars is about 2/10s of 1% interest rate on $4.5 Trillion and 5% interest is about $225 billion a year.

Many Canadians try to convince the indigenous people to become equal Canadians, equal meaning that the indigenous people give up all claims and rights to the 3.83 million square miles of land that is Canada. Also they must give up all claims to the wealth of the 60 different metals and minerals being mined in Canada. Finally, that the indigenous people give up all rights to claim any powers as a distinct sovereign people, any claim to self-government and of course give up the reservation lands. Indigenous people would then become immigrants in Canada and begin paying taxes to the immigrant government like all the rest of the immigrants.

Now given that concept, why can’t we convince the Germans to give up their sovereignty, lands, resources, and to become civilized by paying taxes to the English. To become an equal Canadian sounds like a winning proposal to me, but just one question though, is the cheque for $4.5 Trillion in the mail yet.

In 2007, the Federal Government will collect $113.5 billion in personal income taxes, $30.3 billion from the GST and another $41.5 billion in corporate taxes. Canadians are led by media to believe that taxpayers fund and finance the government and that all activities in Canada are financed on the backs of the taxpayer. While taxes collected do form a large part of government revenues, without royalties on resource sales Canada would not be a G8 member or a member of the “Trillion Dollar Club”.

The World Bank pegged the Canadian GDP in 2006 at $1.115 Trillion US. Of the over 180 countries in the United Nations, there are only 9 countries who have a GDP over one trillion US dollars. The World Bank listed the world economy at $44 Trillion, and the combined GDP of the 9 wealthiest countries equals 68% of the world economy. United States is 28% and Canada’s 9th place economy makes up 2.5% of the world economy. Canada pumps out 3 million barrels of oil a day, (1.1 billion barrels a year) and at current prices of $93 a barrel, crude oil revenue is about $100 million a year.

Close to the same as income tax collected from taxpayers in 2006. To ensure increased crude oil sales, four massive pipelines are being proposed to send more oil south of the border.

The proposed Alberta Clipper and the Keystone Project will eventually pump 450 million barrels of oil a year to the United States and will make roughly 44 billion dollars a year for industry, the federal government, the provinces, the municipalities, and land title holders. In the next twenty years, the potential is nearly 900 billion dollars from these two pipelines, not counting proposed future pipelines or existing ones.

That’s crude oil income, not retail gasoline sales. When oil was $10 a barrel in the 1990s, there was no money to pay royalties to the indigenous people but with oil projected to go over $100 a barrel, the same song and dance from the European Canadians is playing, sorry, there is no money in this for a direct royalty payment to indigenous peoples, (rightful owners).

Canada is the third largest diamond producer in the world and home to vast forests but in the timber industry, there is no stumpage fees for the indigenous people. The United Nations found that the indigenous people of Canada were at the 63rd level of the UN Living Index, alongside many of the third world countries. Being at the 63rd level in a first world economy means the cost of living in Canada for indigenous people makes it worse than being in a third world country.

In a third world country the cost of living is lower, and the little money you do have can buy more. The 633 First Nations in Canada are occupied nations living under undeclared economic sanctions with most having unemployment rates close to 80%. The right to employment is also a Human Right recognized under Article twenty-three of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The solutions are simple but successive Canadian governments have absolutely refused to consider recognizing the property rights of the indigenous people. The reason is also very simple, outright greed. European Canadians do not want to recognize that a royalty on the resource wealth of Canada to the indigenous people would immediately solve some the most basic problems with indigenous peoples poverty. Delgamuukw, one of the most powerful legal cases in Canadian aboriginal law, is an example of how the Supreme Court of Canada skirts the issue of the right to property.

In Delgamuukw, the SC recognized the existence in Canadian law of aboriginal title, but it also forbids access to Canadian court for the indigenous people. We cannot use the SC recognition of aboriginal title to place injunctions against unauthorized resource extraction.

Despite the deliberate attempt in 1982 to handicap the legal system in Canada by omitting the Right to Property from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, First Nations have been able to win some important concessions from the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada stated in many decisions that the Crown has a fiduciary obligation to protect indigenous rights and on pipeline lawsuits launched by First Nations, the courts have decided that the federal government has a lawful obligation, a duty to consult and accommodate the First Nations whenever a pipeline comes within 80 kilometers of a First Nation community.

A half win, one that says (in plain English), yes you have aboriginal title, you were here first, but you can only get compensation for the removal of resources, you cannot stop the white man from taking your resource wealth.

The problem with the decisions against Canada is, who enforces the Supreme Court decisions upon the Government of Canada? Does the RCMP or Canadian Army arrest Members of Parliament if they fail to live up to that lawful obligation? Why would Crown Attorneys ask for or Judges issue arrest warrants for the very people who pay their salaries? Decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada are not being enforced with the exception of the decisions that are made against First Nations, those and even lower court decisions against First Nations are enforced immediately.

It only a matter of time before an explosion of violence will occur as a result of the imposedin First N poverty ationsis . On June 29th 2007, a national day of protest was organized by the Assembly of First Nations, the national political organization of Chiefs from 633 First Nations across Canada. As the mover for the AFN resolution, it surprised me that Chiefs, who to me are the most diplomatic and non-militant of the people, that there was only a handful of Chiefs who voted against the day of action. It struck me that the level of anger across the country amongst our people was so high that even Chiefs were willing to take action beyond just a political statement.

Based on the level of poverty in First Nations, I predict that violence will occur in Canada, not if, but when. Whether violence changes things for the better or makes it worse depends largely upon whether or not indigenous people realize their real strength. At this time in history, the indigenous peoples of Canada are a very powerful people in the world economy.

The reason for that is the economic situation in the United States, the largest economy in the world. The National Day of Protest on June 29th 2007 was simply a warning. I made the statement on national television, “the only way to deal with the whiteman is to pick up a gun, or stand between the whiteman and his money.”

The road to violence is paved with warning signs all along the way, but people either ignore the signs or they don’t believe them. I was in Iraq in 1998 and as we watched a parade of over 20,000 Iraqi soldiers in Tikret, it reminded me of the films I watched on the History Channel on German parades prior to WWII. The cost of averting and preventing violence is pitifully small compared to the cost of rebuilding after.

I will continue to be the messenger hoping that others realize this is a serious situation, nothing to be ignored or live in fear of, but it is a matter that should be dealt with immediately. This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is so sad that greed does not allow the indigenous people a rightful share of their own wealth.