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Wake-Up Canada!

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Section: Opinion Geography: Canada Topics: Indigenous

May 18, 2006

Wake-Up Canada!

The First Nations will no longer tolerate being peasants in their own land

by Gerald McIvor

Does Canada want another OKA? Ipperwash? Gustafsen Lake? photo: NDN News
The reclaiming of traditional and legally owned lands by the Six Nations should be a loud and clear message to the Crown in Right of Canada that enough is enough. Canada must, in true partnership with the First Nations of Canada, agree on an expedient, fair and transparent process to settle all land issues with the First Nations of this land.

This Native expropriation of land started receiving media attention at the eleventh hour. Why is it that it is allowed to get to the point of physical confrontation before Canada will act on these land issues? The land in question was illegally taken by Canada and should be returned to the Six Nations. Canada should give retroactive financial compensation for loss of use of the land, since its appropriation by Canada in 1835. This was allegedly a land lease with lease payments forthcoming and this is something that was not honored by Canada. Why did Canada fail to act until its unethical treatment of the Six Nations forced these sovereign people to act in their future generation's interest and take matters into their own hands?

The Six Nations submitted a land claim in 1987 in which the Six Nations irrefutably proved that there had been no surrender of the land, no fair and equitable compensation for the land, and no trust for the alleged lease payments. Canada has steadfastly ignored this entirely valid land claim and to date has not responded to it.

The Six Nations are taking the land back so that their future generations can have a land base that they can call their own. Canada has always employed delay tactics with all First Nations in the land claims process. The First Nations have limited fiscal resources and any delay tactics utilized by Canada can force the First Nation to frustratingly put their land claim in an indefinite state of abeyance.

What is obviously needed here is an independent, neutral international body that would hear the case from both sides, decide the merits of the First Nations case, and award any compensation that is owed to the First Nations by Canada. This body should have binding authority that must be recognized and followed by both parties in question.

I am a band member from what is known as the Sandy Bay First Nation in Manitoba, Canada, and in the past have worked on my First Nation's land claim. The biggest problem I see, through being involved in the land claim process through the Indian Claims Commission, is that the Department of Indian Affairs (INAC) is the defendant in all land claim cases. INAC is in a blatant conflict of interest as they allegedly have a fiduciary responsibility towards the First Nations but are employed by the federal government. This means they should be acting in the best interests of the First Nations and yet are working against the First Nations either by stalling or by attempting to refute minute details of every claim, incurring legal costs that the First Nations cannot afford.

The Crown in Right of Canada and the Governor-General of Canada must be the ones that actually sit down with the First Nations and negotiate the claim and work with the First Nation on a "Nation to Nation" basis and settle the outstanding land issue.

The situation in Caledonia should be a wake-up call to Canada: First Nations want justice and need land for their growing memberships. Does Canada need another OKA? Ipperwash? Gustafsen Lake? Sun Peaks in British Columbia will be ignored until something happens. But what needs to happen? Does there have to be bloodshed before Canada will start meeting legal domestic and international obligations regarding Treaty Rights?

Why do our First Nation people have to keep on suffering in substandard, third world conditions while mainstream Canada lives off the wealth created through the revenues generated from the sale of resources? The resources and land still legally belong to the First Nations of this land. This issue will be brought to light in the near future as First Nation frustrations are increasing, our populations are growing, the cost of living is rising, and yet we, the true owners of this land, do not get a fair and equitable share of the vast resources and revenues while mainstream Canada continues to rape and contaminate our lands.

I wholeheartedly support the Six Nations in their endeavor and I realize that this is only the beginning. Canada, take heed, the First Nations are waking up and you will be held accountable for all of the genocidal processes and policies that you have imposed on us. We are supposed to be in partnership with Canada and we ended up as subordinates - Peasants in our own homeland.

Go six hundred and thirty four First Nations go!

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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