As Canadians celebrate another anniversary of Confederation the Federal and Ontario Government along with seven First Nations in central Ontario are finalizing an agreement to settle outstanding injustices within the 1923 Williams Treaty where grassroots voices feel integral issues are still not addressed in the offer.
The proposed agreement will end decades of court litigation over the 1923 Williams Treaty which covers 13 million acres of the Traditional Territory of the Anishinabek Nation. The seven reserves have long argued the government unjustly crafted and implemented the treaty where there was unjust compensation for their land and that they never surrendered hunting and fishing rights.
All parties are under a confidentiality agreement until the process is finalized where members including a Chief leaked info to the media. This “gag order” is a tactic to prevent communities engaging in open dialogue and debate to catch provisions that extinguish inherent rights. In 1796 Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada John Graves Simcoe made a policy preventing these Communities and the Six Nations of Grand River from associating during the distribution of gifts at British Forts. This prevented discussions relating to matter in their Agreements with the Crown. The confidentiality agreement also instills fear where communities feel they must accept this offer as they may not see a more justified settlement pursuing other means. The path chosen favours the Governments agenda where Indigenous Title to Traditional Territory is surrendered.
In other Treaties a standard provision is the inclusion of revenue sharing for occupied traditional territory which is not the case in this agreement which proposes a one time payout. It also extinguishes Indigenous Title to the traditional territory where Industry can now do as they please to the lands and water. Also a process to relinquish Federal and Provincial laws from being imposed upon these First Nations where Sovereignty is recognized and affirmed in Constitutional Law via 1764 Niagara Treaty and Royal Proclamation is also not in the agreement.
Funding to operate these First Nations and their Services is Canada’s fiduciary obligation through the BNA Act. These communities are also accepting Canada’s Self Government Policy through agreements regarding Education and Lands Management which are not Treaties and do not guarantee funding in perpetuity. These agreements help Canada can get out of it’s fiduciary responsibility to First Nations. Since the Williams Treaty doesn’t include a revenue sharing agreement for occupied lands these communities are taking a risk to create a self sustaining economy based on a one time payout with limited lands to eventually pay for operation of their communities and services.
It has always been the agenda for Canada to assimilate First Nations and turn their lands into municipalities which may be the very real future under this offer which can be seen in other Nations like the Nisga.
The final issue not addressed is the issue of a Nation to Nation Relationship First Nations have with Canada in relation to the outstanding Constitutional issue. A Special Committee to investigate the British North America Act at the House of Commons on Feb 26, 1935 and a
a Speech called Constitutional Problems in Canada delivered in the House of Commons on Nov 9, 1945 by Walter Kuhl Member of Parliament for Jasper Edson stated that: The Dominion of Canada did not become a Federal Union under the BNA Act only a Central Legislature for a United Colony.
The 1931 Statue of Westminster stated that the Crown had no more authority in Canada where the people were free to make a proper Constitution and become a Sovereign Nation but failed to do so. The 1982 Amendment to the BNA Act was not created nor ratified by Canadian citizens. The amendment included that Parliament no longer requires the Monarch to amend the BNA Act and also included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Conferences with Indigenous Peoples which failed.
It seems history is being repeated through this agreement and we must ask ourselves what has Canada got to celebrate?