From: Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan and federal NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic.
Dear Members of the Kainai First Nation,
Greetings to your Elders, your Chief and Council and all of you gathered today. I am sorry I cannot be with you.
I have heard from many First Nations from right across this country who are dismayed at the changes announced in Bill C-45, the Budget Implementation Act.
For many First Nations who depend on the land, it is the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that worry them the most.
Without that protection, plan to build dams, dredge waterways or build a dock do not automatically trigger a review on how it will affect the navigability of a lake or a river. Over time, that automatic trigger also provided environmental protection.
Now this Conservative government has decided that protection is only important for a handful of lakes and rivers – most of them in federal ridings held by Conservative MPs.
For a First Nation like yours, whose reserve is bounded by three rivers, it will mean more work to ensure that decisions made by the province or other private companies do not adversely affect your people or your territory.
Already First Nations like the Athabasca Chipewyan near the tar sands know how industrial development can affect downstream water quality. They have reported fish with strange growths on them and caribou meat that smells like oil.
There were other changes in Bill C-45 that affect First Nations directly – a change in the double majority needed to make a land designation on reserve. Previously, a majority of members on the reserve had to vote and a majority of the people voting had to vote in favour of a land designation for it to go through. The government has changed that to a simple majority under this legislation.
There can be no doubt that this change fundamentally affects the inherent rights of First Nations. So there should have been a formal consultation process before this legislation was introduced to ensure free, prior and informed consent. Sadly, there was no opportunity for First Nations to speak to this legislation.
On behalf of my Leader, Tom Mulcair, and the entire federal New Democrat caucus, I hope that this is a good day, that the other speakers share their good words with you today and that those words are heard by the government in Ottawa.
From: Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan and federal NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic. Nitsiniiyi’taki, thank-you. [nehd-seh-nee-yeh'dahgi ]
I might add my own thoughts:
In June of 2008 Stephen Harper apologized. In part, here is what he said, “on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian residential schools system.”
And in the summer of 2011, on this very site, Harper was named an honorary Chief of the Kainais with the title of Chief Speaker.
Last April, Richard Wagamese from BC said: “[Mr. Harper], You said ‘sorry’ and you were not. In aboriginal context, an apology means that you recognize the flaw within yourself that made the offence possible and you offer reconciliation based on understanding the nature of that flaw. That reconciliation takes the form of living and behaving in the opposite manner. You have not done this. In fact, you have continued in the same vein that made the original apology necessary.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/aboriginal-reconciliation-an-open-letter-to-stephen-harper/article4103489/
Mr. Wagamese could add C-45 and a long list of other bills in the House and the Senate that attack a very way of life of the Kainai Nation. Consider this: A week ago, Canada had 2.5 million protected rivers and lakes; today we have 82 protected rivers and lakes.
It is probably without precedent, but it might be time to consider revoking the honorary title Mr. Harper received here in 2011.
At the very least, through democratic processes, let’s all work to revoke the title Prime Minister from this man and this party.