Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The #FNFTA: Feds Not Fulfilling Treaty Agreements

Ad Courtesy of the Aboriginal Peoples' Commission
Last week, as many of you know, the Canadian government, headed by the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), continued its colonial expansion and onslaught on many Indigenous nations. The continued colonial expansion and onslaught is through the FNFTA: The First Nations Financial Transparency Act. A symbol of the Feds Not Fulfilling Treaty Agreements. Now, many of you will look at this title and the preamble to this legislative act that became law this month as a step forward – a step towards transparency. However, this is not the case and continues to sow the tide of ignorance, division, and hatred between Canadians and Indigenous peoples.

The FNFTA sought to bring transparency and openness to Indian Act communities because it assumed that none, or at least most of them, do not show transparency to those ‘who elect them.’ In fact, Canada’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt claims “this is in an effort to provide First Nations people with transparency and allow them to hold  their elected leaders accountable.” I have many problems with this as well as how the media and general Canadians of all/non-political stripes have been viewing this.

What Are Some of the Problems?

Let us first focus on the biggest ‘hole’ in the CPC logic of accountability and transparency. First, the CPC has tried to argue this is to benefit the people whom elect them. Yet, the Indian Act Chiefs and Councils are a unilateral imposition by Canada that has been in practice for over a century per se. In order to destroy Indigenous governance structures and forms of representation, Canada outlawed the traditional forms of governments, clan systems, as well as Indigenous judicial processes. In doing so they imposed a system that further divided Indigenous nations and confederacies into communities with systems of governments that require them to be accountable to Indian Affairs and Canada. Therefore, one must ask how a unilateral imposition of a foreign governance structure with no adequate consultation for a change in governance can be held accountable or transparent? The system is already on eggshells and is only there to hold up the concept of the Canadian state.
Ad courtesy of the Aboriginal Peoples' Commission

Now, many communities and Indian Act Chiefs and Councils have learned to utilize the ‘masters tools’ to try and bring change, but when they do Canada threatens to withhold funding. If this does not work, they formulate some form of legislation to get what they want. For instance, many do not know that most Indian Act communities are already heavily monitored and thus a question that basic media tends to forget to ask to Canadians is, why the problems of accountability and transparency exists if it all is already monitored and reviewed by Aboriginal Affairs? Why is it that corruption in a select few cases of 630+ communities gets greenlit through Aboriginal Affairs but it is not highlighted when media breaks the story? Lastly, why is it never highlighted that over 50% of treaty monies (funding as Canada calls it) go into the financing of Aboriginal Affairs? These are questions I still am looking for an answer to.

On the topic of Media, it has been mind-boggling that focus has been specific to one chief who made almost One million during the 2013 fiscal year. Why have they not reported on much of what Hayden King, an Anishinaabeg from Beausoleil and Director for the Centre of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, has highlighted in his article on August 2nd, 2014. For instance, Dr. King points out that

                        “of course, this information is important to know. But we can
 also expect the media to do little else. Few will cover the
hundreds of chiefs and/or councils that make $10,000 a year.
Few will examine the extreme AANDC underfunding this new
data reveals… Few will ask critical questions about the
consequences of First Nations (which are often both governments
and corporations) disclosing the details of business dealings with
current and/or future negotiating partners.”

Dr. King’s poignant assessment is ringing true a week later as focus continues to relate to one Chief and the fact that one Canadian Federal Politician has stated he wants to see an overhaul of the bill – with true respect and nation to nation dialogue as its underpinning.

In fact I was impressed that Justin Trudeau stated it needed to be dismantled and redone – I think it highlights a massive change in Liberal ideology on Indigenous peoples since the Chretien Era. Much has changed since 2003 – with the Liberals opening their minds to Indigenous understanding; the Conservatives taking the Liberal’s 1969 (White Paper) and 2002 (First Nations Governance Act) extremely outdates views on how best to deal with Indigenous Nations, and the NDP falling short on action - especially with their leader, Thomas Muclair, still not apologizing for endorsing the CPC relationship with Indigenous nations in January of 2013.

Minister Bernard Valcourt's Email to CPC Supporters (August 13, 2014)
Yet, the attacks continue and the well preserved ignorance of the masses dominates discussion. This allows the Conservatives to make cheap shots at other political parties while Indigenous peoples continue to fight for treaty recognition; rights to their government structures; Nation-to-nation dialogue; the protection of their children and of women; to adequate water, housing, infrastructure, health and education; and the promises made through the  Canadian government on behalf of the Crown. Instead, the Conservatives are using it as a fundraising technique (see email sent out via Bernard Valcourt on August 13, 2014) while many in Indigenous  communities continue to fight for survival.

Unfortunately most general Canadians continue the belief that these issues are long ago, that Indigenous peoples are nothing more then Canadian citizens, we must integrate, and get rid of our ‘special rights.’ In other words, we are stalled at the starting line of the race towards decolonization.

I constantly hear people say they are open to learning, open to listening to the Indigenous side but I am becoming increasingly aware that actions speak louder then words…. That sometimes words are just a placation of seeming intolerant. Unfortunately, the discussions I have had with people on the FNTPA continues to rear the ugly heads of ignorance and colonial continuation in Turtle Island – and all through the fuel of the CPC spin doctoring machine. However, I do know one thing – decolonization and both sides travelling down the river together, side by side in their boats is a long ways away. The First Nations Financial Transparency Act highlights that. How can accountability and transparency even exist through unilateral imposition, falsification, the untold truth of Canada’s historical founding, and the Feds Not Fulfilling Treaty Agreements.

Transparency and accountability are nothing but empty and soulless words when espoused from the Conservative Government of Canada. 

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