Nation-to-nation relationship

Why I’m hoping the Algonquin land claim proposal is voted down

Photo: Fabian Viana

Don’t fall for the argument by colonialist pundits that if you have not read the Agreement in Principle for the Algonquin land claim in Ontario, which covers 36,000 square kilometres inhabited by 1.2 million people, you need to remain quiet.

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There is no reason for you to doubt what you have learned from Indigenous thinkers, scholars, and philosophers, who are skilled at reading legal documents and policies. Pam Palmater, Judith Sayers, Russell Diabo, Bruce McIvor, and so many more have demonstrated that the settlement agreements offered by Canada and the provinces are a perpetuation of the colonial order — not nation-to-nation agreements. Trust the gifts these people have and the knowledge they have worked so hard to produce.

Keep in mind that the Algonquin sitting at the table with the federal and provincial governments have been socialized into thinking that this pitiful agreement offers the best and only trade for us. Their salaries have been paid, and their silence or spoken bias is for the most part purchased. They hold a colonial truth, not an Indigenous truth.

The priorities: land and resources

As Indigenous people recover from the colonial past, two components of the Agreement in Principle become crucial to study: the amount of land over which we gain jurisdiction and the amount of resource revenue the province shares.

We do not need Canada to do this for us.

Canada’s systems — education system, law, health, housing, child care and social services — are not working for Indigenous people. There is no reason for us to continue to discuss this. What Indigenous nations need are land and resources, so we can draw revenue and begin to build our own systems based on Indigenous knowledge and understandings of the world in ways that are meaningful to our people.

This is the only way we are going to be able to live the way we deserve to live. Without access to land and resources, we will remain within the oppressive and inadequate colonial order that is harming us. Our people will continue to fill jails, Indigenous women will continue to be murdered, we will continue to be poor, our disability rates will continue to climb, and our children will continue to be taken away from us.

There is no reason that Indigenous nations can’t manage our own land and resources. We do not need Canada to do this for us. Many nations sit side-by-side with their own governing institutions. Canada has to move over and share our land and resources with us.

What does genuine reconciliation and the renewal of a nation-to-nation relationship mean?

Before colonial officials drew provincial lines on a paper map and then delegated land and resources to the provinces, Indigenous nations had well-established territorial boundaries that were respected, as we know from the 1764 Treaty of Niagara. A treaty federal order was recognized where Indigenous nations retained jurisdiction over their lands and resources. Contemporary agreements must return to the 1764 treaty federal order.

A final Agreement in Principle that provides only 1.3 per cent of the traditional land base and a one-time buy-out of $300 million should be tossed in the trash.

Nation-to-nation relationship

We, Canadians and Indigenous people, really need to think critically about the meaning of a nation-to-nation relationship. Keep in mind that in all 30 of his ministerial mandate letters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

What does genuine reconciliation and the renewal of a nation-to-nation relationship mean?

  • A nation-to-nation relationship must recognize and respect Aboriginal title.
  • A nation-to-nation relationship must recognize and respect Indigenous jurisdiction to land and resources.
  • A nation-to-nation relationship must include true consent from Aboriginal nations.
  • A nation-to-nation relationship must guarantee constitutional protection of Aboriginal title and jurisdiction.
  • A nation-to-nation relationship must be achieved through an updated treaty policy that is collaboratively constructed in true partnership with Aboriginal nations.
  • A renewed nation-to-nation relationship must first deal with the Aboriginal lands that Canada’s Parliament buildings sit on.

Anything else remains colonial. I hope the current Algonquin Agreement in Principle receives a strong no vote when the results are tallied in March.

Prime Minister Trudeau, you are insulting the intelligence of Canadians and Indigenous people with such pitiful agreements.

Lynn Gehl, PhD, is an Algonquin Anishinaabekwe. She is an outspoken critic of colonial law and policies that harm Indigenous women, children, and the land. Her book, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process, is available from Fernwood.
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