NEWS RELEASE · 27th January 2012
Nisga'a Lisims Government
“We have called on Canada to develop a new federal implementation policy and expand responsibility for Treaties beyond simply the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs to all relevant federal departments.”
During his speech at the Crown – First Nations Gathering held in Ottawa this Tuesday, President Mitchell Stevens called on the Prime Minister and federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to develop a new federal Implementation Policy and expand responsibility for modern-day Treaties beyond simply the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs to all relevant federal departments.
President Stevens stated, “Together with all other modern Treaty groups in Canada we have called for a new federal implementation policy. ” President Stevens further commented “One immediate step that could be taken would be for the government of Canada to finally recognize what we are all so aware of – the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is simply not capable of ensuring that our Treaties are properly implemented. Our Treaties are with the Crown, not the Department – but other departments continue to ignore or belittle them. Even AANO’s Deputy Minister testified to the Senate that, in respect of fulfilling our Treaties, his department could do little more than ‘haggle’ with the other departments.”
“In our view, the statutory provisions that make the department responsible for the implementation of our agreements must be augmented by similar provisions in the Acts of all of the other departments whose activities touch on or are affected by our Treaties. That simple step would demonstrate an understanding that our Treaty is with the Crown, and it would require the entire government to treat the Crown’s constitutional obligations seriously,” stated President Stevens.
“By and large, the government of Canada’s approach to treaty implementation has been no more than to fulfill each treaty’s narrow, legal obligations. But even then, whether through indifference or design, the Government has often failed to implement even its specific obligations. The government of Canada has appeared to be generally unconcerned with working to achieve the overall broad objectives of the entire agreements” stated President Stevens.
The Crown – First Nations gathering was an effort directed at improving the relationship between the Harper government and First Nations across Canada. In attendance were all the principal players in Crown First Nation relations: the Governor General John Reynolds, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Shawn A-in-Chut Atleo, the Vice-Chiefs of the AFN, and First Nations from across Canada. While the event was televised on CPAC, the comments by President Steven’s were made during the non-televised section of the meeting. AFN National Chief Atleo called for the abolition of the Indian Act as several First Nations have moved beyond it. The Indian Act ceased to apply to citizens of the Nisga’a Nation on the effective date of the Nisga’a Final Agreement, May 11, 2000.
AFN Regional Vice-Chief Jody Wilson-Reybould also called on the Prime Minister to improve relations and move beyond the colonial relationship between First Nations and Canada. Also in attendance were the Chief Councillor of the Gitwinksihlkw Village Government Peter Lambright, Chief Councillor of the Laxgalts’ap Village Government Willard Martin, and Deputy Chief Councillor of the Laxgalts’ap Village Government William Moore.