LEGISLATING OUR EXTINCTION

LEGISLATING OUR EXTINCTION
STATUS LINE - DO NOT CROSS

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gentle Reminder to Switch to My New Name: Indigenous Nationhood

Dear Readers;

I can see that some of you have already migrated over to my new sites. This is great cause while you can still access both sites for now, they will eventually be merged into one and any followers who have not tagged the new sites, may lose their links. For those of you who may have missed my original message, please see below:

Please be advised that the names of my social media sites will be changing. This blog will now be "Indigenous Nationhood" as will my website. In the interim, you will still be able to acess the old addresses. However, no new blogs will be posted on Non-Status Indian. Any "followers" should also add their names to the new blog to avoid any missed links in future posts.

Please link to the following addresses:

Blog = http://www.indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/

Web = http://www.indigenousnationhood.com/

Facebook = Indigenous Nationhood

Twitter = Pam_Palmater

LinkedIn = Dr. Pam Palmater

E-mail = palmater@indigenousnationhood.com

Thanks so much and I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. This is a permanent name change and will be the only one. I will leave the old sites operating for the next few months until followers have a chance to change their links.

Pam

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions About Bill C-3 (Simplified)

Hi all, I hope you are all in the process of changing your links over from my Non-Status Indian sites to my Indigenous Nationhood sites. My Facebook, Blogger and website have all been changed to Indigenous Nationhood. I will leave my old blogger and website links up for a few months to allow people to find the new sites, but please switch over so that you don't miss any future posts. My Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are the same.

New blog site: http://www.indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/

New website: http://www.indigenousnationhood.com/

New facebook name: Indigenous Nationhood

Same Twitter: Pam_Palmater

Same LinkedIn: Dr. Pam Palmater

New e-mail = palmater@indigenousnationhood.com
I hope you have all read my last blog post where I updated everyone with what is happening with Bill C-3. Since I still continue to get a large number of e-mails and questions related to what the application process and who qualifies, I decided to post another this blog will point you to the exact links which answer your questions. Please feel free to e-mail me if there is anything else I have not covered.

I apologize to my readers if this information seems at all repetitive or you were hoping for a blog on another topic. I have been receiving so many e-mails and calls for information and complaints from Aboriginal people all over the country saying that they don't know what is happening and their local organization or community has not provided any information.

One would think that organizations like the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) or any of their provincial affiliates, like the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council (NBAPC) and others would be in their communities informing people about next steps. Sadly, this does not appear to be happening and people are left on their own trying to figure out this amazingly confusing, complex, legal process.

(1) DID BILL C-3 COME INTO FORCE?

Yes, the bill is now in force and the Indian Act has been amended accordingly. You can see a copy of the amendments that will be added to the Indian Act at this link:

http://laws.justice.gc.ca/eng/I-5/AmendmentsNotInForce

(2) WHO QUALIFIES FOR STATUS?

Here are the three criterion that INAC has indicated will determine whether or not you qualify for status under the new Bill:

(i) Did your grandmother lose her Indian status as a result of marrying a non-Indian?
(ii) Is one of your parents registered, or entitled to be registered, under sub-section 6(2) of the Indian Act?

(iii) Were you, or one of your siblings, born on or after September 4, 1951?

If you have answered yes to all of these questions, there is a good chance that you might qualify for status. These criteria can be found on INAC's website here:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/is/bll/rpb/index-eng.asp

(3) ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?

Even if you meet all of the criteria noted above, you might still be excluded from status. Please take note of the very important qualification that INAC has recently posted on their website:

"If the applicant's grandparents were not married to each other before April 17, 1985 and the parent of the applicant was born after April 17, 1985, the 2011 Indian Act amendments may not entitle the applicant to registration."

This information can be found at the following link:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/frms/mci/83114-eng.asp

(4) I ALREADY APPLIED BEFORE BILL C-3 BECAME LAW - SHOULD I REAPPLY?

I had the very same question. I applied for my status before the McIvor case was decided and before Bill C-3 became law. I called INAC's toll-free information line (1-800-567-9604) and asked the very same question.

They informed me that INAC already has a process in place to deal with those who already applied. They advised me NOT to reapply as this might delay the processing of my application. They further advised that INAC would contact me about what the next steps are for my application to be considered.

They said that while I am waiting for INAC to contact me, that I could be getting all the extra required documents in order to submit. This includes the guarantor form, driver's license and passport photos.

The following link provides detailed information about the registration process and the various ways in which you can contact INAC and ask questions:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/is/bll/rpb/index-eng.asp

(5) WHAT IS REQUIRED TO APPLY FOR STATUS UNDER BILL C-3?

Here is the link that provides you with detailed information about what you need to submit with your application:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/is/bll/rpb/index-eng.asp

In simple terms; here is the checklist of things you need to apply:

(1) The application form (for applicants 16 years and older);

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/frms/mci/83114-eng.pdf

(2) The guarantor form (a lawyer, doctor, social worker, chief etc) who can confirm your identity (notarized by lawyer):

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/frms/mci/83120-eng.pdf

(3) OR the statutory declaration form to list two references (in case you don't have a guarantor) (notarized by lawyer):

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/frms/mci/83119-eng.pdf

(4) Two identical passport photos taken within the last 12 months (signed by guarantor or lawyer)

(5) Copy of both sides of your driver's license (or passport, etc) (signed by guarantor or lawyer);

(6) Original long form birth certificate (shows parents names);

Here is the link which provides the more detailed list of exactly what you need and which highlights other requirements:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/is/bll/rpb/index-eng.asp

There are many different situations which might require different or alternative documents and/or information. This simplified list is just to give you an idea of what is required. PLEASE refer to INAC's website for precise information related to your own specific situation. Also remember that this blog is just trying to simplify the information and should never be relied on as legal advice.

INAC asks that all the applications and documents be mailed (although I recommend that they be couriered so that you have a record) to INAC directly:

INAC Application Processing Unit
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
GD Stn Main
Winnipeg MB R3C 0M2
 
If you have any questions, please contact INAC directly as they would have the official information that relates to your specific individual situation.
 
Hope this helps.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blog Name has changed from Non-Status Indian to Indigenous Nationhood

Dear readers;

Please be advised that the names of my social media sites will be changing. This blog will now be "Indigenous Nationhood" as will my website. In the interim, you will still be able to acess the old addresses. However, no new blogs will be posted on Non-Status Indian. Any "followers" should also add their names to the new blog to avoid any missed links in future posts.

Please link to the following addresses:

Blog = http://www.indigenousnationhood.blogspot.com/

Web = http://www.indigenousnationhood.com/

Facebook = Indigenous Nationhood

Twitter = Pam_Palmater

LinkedIn = Dr. Pam Palmater

E-mail = palmater@indigenousnationhood.com

Thanks so much and I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. This is a permanent name change and will be the only one. I will leave the old sites operating for the next few months until followers have a chance to change their links.

Pam

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Update on Bill C-3 - January 19 2011 - What's Next?

Dear Readers; after checking my blog stats, I can see that traffic has been heavy on my previous Bill C-3 blogs, especially the one that reads as an update. I will try to oblige, but please forgive any annoying repetition.

March 11, 2010 - First Reading (that's where the Minister or someone like that introduces the bill into the House).

March 26, 2010 - Second Reading

March 29, 2010 - Debates

April 1, 2010 - Studied by Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAON)

April 13,15,20,22,27, 2010 - Meetings of AAON re Bill C-3 where they heard from witnesses sharing their concerns about the bill.

April 29, 2010 - AAON submitted and debated their report which included a variety of amendments they had adopted to ensure that the bill remedied all gender inequity instead of just a minor part of it.

May 25, 2010 - AAON continued debate of report.

Parliament then recessed for the summer.

October 26, 2010 - Report Stage - Report was debated again. Three motions were voted on and passed:

(1) Motion #1 dealt with minor amendments to the wording related to how INAC would report on the effects of the bill once it has been implemented;

(2) Motion #2 would restore the previous section 9 which had been deleted at AAON. This section provided Canada with an insulation from financial liability for claims which would come from women and children who had been wrongly excluded from the Act.

(3) Motion #3 essentially was to approve the bill as amended by the previous two motions.

All three motions were approved which meant that Bill C-3 (as amended)would go forward for Third reading and debates.

Nov.22, 2010 - Third Reading and debates

The bill was therefore passed as amended. Once it passed in the House, it literally sped through the process in the Senate being introduced on Nov.23, 2010 and passed Dec.9, 2010.

Dec.15, 2010 - Bill C-3 receives Royal Assent.

Feb. 2011 - The law will come into force on or after April 5, 2010 by a date to be set by the Governor in Council. When I called INAC yesterday they said that the coming into force would be delayed and not completed until the end of January or February 2011.

All this legislative information can be found at the following link:

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Sites/LOP/LEGISINFO/index.asp?Language=E&Chamber=N&StartList=A&EndList=Z&Session=23&Type=0&Scope=I&query=6949&List=stat
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has now posted new information about those who think they might qualify for status and the new process it will use to handle applications for status. Their link can be found here:

http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/br/is/bll/index-eng.asp

INAC provides three basic criteria that gives potential applicants a sense of whether or not they will be entitled under the new amendment:

(1) Did you grandmother lose Indian status because she married a non-Indian?

(2) Is one of your parents registered or entitled to be registered under section 6(2) of the Indian Act? and

(3) Were you (the applicant) or one of your siblings born after Sept.4, 1951?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then it is very likely (although INAC does not guarantee) that you will qualify for status. So, some of you might be thinking that you meet this criteria and want to know what to do next? INAC has provided contact information so you can ask them questions directly:

INAC Public Enquiries Contact Centre
Email: InfoPubs@ainc-inac.gc.ca
Phone: (toll-free) 1-800-567-9604
Fax: 1-866-817-3977
TTY: (toll-free) 1-866-553-0554

I have called them several times and they answer the phone quickly and the people who are working the telephone lines had up to date information and were very helpful. They did explain to me that although I have already applied for status, there will be NEW application forms with NEW requirements. Canada will make the forms available at the following locations:

Online: (Once the Act comes into force) (so likely January or February 2011)
By mail: Call 1-800-567-9604 to request an application package.
In person: At any INAC Regional office or call 1-800-567-9604.

The kind of status card that Bill C-3 registrants will receive (if eligible) is a Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) card. It does not change the type of benefits, but does require additional documentation from applicants not requested of non-Bill C-3 applicants. The following list is what INAC has indicated will be required:

- Original birth certificate (listing parents names) (often referred to as "long-form")

- Two passport style photographs

- Original piece of valid identification (i.e. - driver's licence, passport, government issued ID)

- Guarantor Declaration for SCIS

And if applicable:

- Legal change of name document or marriage certificate

- Custody Court Order

- Statutory Declaration Form(s).

Please also keep in mind that INAC is changing the application for Bill C-3 applicants to a "mail-in" process only. That means the original documents they require MUST be mailed in to INAC and you will HOPEFULLY receive them back within a month or so.

I don't know about any of you, but I don't feel comfortable mailing INAC my Driver's License (as a local police officer told me it is against the law to drive without it on your person). Similarly, the thought of my passport (at March break time) being held up at INAC for weeks maybe months is not overly user friendly or considerate.

INAC has also provided some time lines for processing applications. They are as follows:

Act comes into force and applications posted online = 1 month

Letter confirming entitlement (assuming all docs provided with applic) = no time specified

Issuance of SCIS card number = 10-12 weeks after receipt of Letter of entitlement

Entire Process from start (application) to finish (receipt of status card) = 4-6 months

So, if the Act comes into Force in February 2011, you apply the next day with all your documents, and INAC confirms you are entitled, you could receive your status card as early as June and as late as August 2011.

The ability to access benefits will start before you receive your card as your Letter of entitlement will provide a number you can use to access health and other benefits.

Also of interest:

(1) Sharon McIvor has filed a claim with the United Nations to have her gender discrimination case heard by the Human Rights Tribunal; and

(2) Merchant Law has filed a class action here in Canada in an attempt to get compensation for all those who will now be registered as per Bill C-3 for lost education benefits, lost taxes, health benefits etc. You will recall that the Bill prohibits any compensation.

Let me know if this is the kind of update you were looking for from my blog.

Pam

Friday, January 14, 2011

UPDATE - TVO's The Agenda Botches Show on Caledonia

Please be advised - this personal opinion blog is not for the feint of heart. The opinions I express on my website, blog, Tweets and FB updates are my own and my right to express my personal opinion is one of our most valued rights and freedoms in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As I have explained on previous blogs, my personal opinion does NOT constitute legal advice nor should it be relied on as such.

Generally, I like watching TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paiken. I find it far more engaging than the regular media and the host is willing to ask the hard questions. While they are definitely no APTN, the shows on Indigenous issues that I have seen and/or participated in, have been fairly balanced in covering Indigenous perspectives. Their producer, Mark Brosens is generally good about researching the issues and seeking different perspectives. Last night's show on the situation in Caledonia however, was a striking failure in responsible journalism and a huge disappointment to many viewers.

I am not a journalist, nor do I profess any expertise in the area. My knowledge comes from what I have learned, studied and observed. As a lawyer, professor and author, I do have a good idea about what makes good writing and how to cover an issue responsibly. That is not to say that each article must be a research study into all causes and effects, but a minimal context must be laid out for readers. I think I am as capable as anyone in assessing the quality or lack thereof of various issues covered in the media.

Last night's episode of The Agenda not only fell into the trap of considering an issue in a one-sided way, they blamed potential invitees to the show for TVO's own lack of organization and planning. Steve Paiken, the host, explained last night that the show was envisioned as a round table on the issue of Caledonia that was supposed to have someone from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), someone from Ontario's Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (OMMA), Blatchford herself, someone from Six Nations and maybe others (presumably subject matter experts like a lawyer or academic who works on these issues).

Instead of saying, we screwed up and didn't get the show together on time, Paiken publicly blamed the invitees and portrayed them as if they didn't want to debate Blatchford. This of course played into Blatchford's overinflated ego who quickly agreed. Paiken made it seem as if no one would face Blatchford and I can attest to the fact that this is simply not the case. Contrary to popular belief, many of us Indigenous lawyers, academics, politicians and community members work for a living and have schedules which do not lend well to last-minute arrangements.

In a producer's blog written by Mark Brosens, he explained that he tried to contact the OPP and OMMA who turned down his invitation. I could have predicted that one given all of the legal implications, court cases, and outstanding land claims in Caledonia. Rightly or wrongly, I think there was slim to no chance of getting provincial representatives to speak about Caledonia. That did not, however, prohibit Brosens from contacting experts in political science to come and speak about the policy and political issues from a provincial stand point or from getting an expert in policing issues.

Brosens also mentions that he tried to get people from Six Nations to participate in the show but was unsuccessful. He says he tried to get the Chiefs of Ontario to come on the show, but admits (as an aside) that he did not give them much notice. Then the issue which I can speak to personally, is that he says that he tried academics but they ALL "either agreed with Blatchford, or were unavailable, or were camera shy". That is simply not true. Brosens contacted me as an "expert" in the area and to get my insight on the book and the subject generally. While he did not ask, I specifically offered that if he needed anyone at the last minute to appear on the show, I would do so, as I felt very passionately that TVO should deal with the subject in balanced way.

The overall theme of Brosen's blog was that people were unwilling to go up against Blatchford which is simply not accurate. This is not about Blatchford. It is clearly a production issue. TVO tried to pull this show together at the last minute, they failed to do so, but instead of doing something else, they went ahead with the show anyway and blamed the invited participants for the lack of quality in the show. That is simply not the kind of integrity we expect from TVO.

What I found most distasteful about the show was that Paiken turned TVO's failure into a sensational question which portrayed Blatchford as some kind of expert on Caledonia whom everyone fears. Compounding what was already a poorly produced segment, was that Paiken was overly conciliatory to Blatchford and did not ask any real hard questions of her. He allowed her to portray or imply that Six Nations and Mohawks were terrorists and did not call her on the gross analogy to the terrorist acts of 9-11.

While one might like to blame the alarmist tone of the show on their SOLE guest Blatchford, TVO was unfortunately, an equal participant. First of all, the segment was framed as one on "lawlessness" which is sensationalism as its best as well as inaccurate. The fact that TVO paired the Caledonia segment with one on policing and the recent death of a police officer also lent a certain frame to the subject. They couldn't have set up the segment any worse than had Blatchford done it herself.

After improperly introducing the subject of Caledonia and Six Nations as "Grand River of Six Nations", TVO let Blatchford set the context to the dispute. She did not start with the granting of the Haldimand Tract to the Six Nations, but started with the date of the occupation. As if one day, a bunch of bored Mohawks just got together and decided to protest for fun and from there "its as if the devil threw a party and invited all his friends". I thought the days of comparing Indigenous people to pagans and heathens were over? Is it really a critical part of understanding the Caledonia situation to repeat degrading quotes about unresolved land claims?

Aside from the inherent problems with her book, which I will save for a future blog, the things Blatchford said on the show were, in my personal opinion, inaccurate, alarmist and racist. When I use the term racist, I don't do so lightly, nor do I use the term as an emotional reaction to something I don't like. I do so based on what I have read, heard, seen and considered on the issue. There are endless media sources calling her a racist. She has also publicly had to deny being a racist which shows many smarter people than I have made the same conclusion.

With regards to the show, her more problematic comments went largely unchallenged by Paiken and include:

(1) she says she is not an expert on the subject (which begs the question of how informed her book is or even why she was on the show);

(2) that it was an "illegal" protest (but no discussion of the general right to assembly, constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights, Aboriginal title rights, land claims, etc);

(3) the issue was not a land claim and that it was simply a matter of Chief Montour wanting more compensation (which ignores the long history and details of the claim);

(4) it should all be blamed on one "entrepreneurial Mohawk" named Joseph Brant who sold the land for his own benefit (again ignoring all the legal and historical records);

(5) Calls those who were trying to mediate and negotiate the matter "BS negotiators"; (really? was she on the inside at the negotiations to make that kind of assessment?);

(6) Gary McHale was harassed by police and suffered terribly (ignore the fact he was a non-resident of Caledonia, had no interest in the dispute but to deliberately instigate violence)*;
and

(7) Accused traditional band members of Six Nations of going around intimidating other band members to support the protest (more unsubstantiated claims or perhaps I missed all the convictions of traditional band members in the media???).

Paiken, (ironically given TVO's one-dimensional take on the issue) asked Blatchford why she only dealt with one side of the issue. In defending herself, she characterized Caledonia as "ground zero" after comparing her book Helpless to the work she did at ground zero in New York with the terrorist attack on the twin towers. She explained that when she wrote about ground zero in New York, she didn't write about the perspective of the terrorists and their claims, so why would she do that here in Caledonia? Some viewers who contacted me after the show felt that this was a form of inciting hatred.

Like the Flanagan's, Gibson's, and Widdowson's of the world, we often overlook their right-wing rantings as those of ignorant people who were never taught any better. Perhaps this is what Paiken thought when he sat quietly and accepted Blatchford's terrorist analogy of the Caledonia situation without calling her on it. However, inviting the public to view First Nations as terrorists on their own lands risks relegating them back to their former colonial-imposed status as "non-humans" deserved of whatever indignities committed against them by the far-from-Helpless majority population who simply want all their land and resources. While there is no changing the views of committed right-wingers like Blatchford, TVO has a responsibility to the public to do their shows with integrity or don't do them at all.

This blog may mean that I never get invited to TVO's The Agenda again (which would be unfortunate as I like the show and the people) but I would not be true to myself if I did not call TVO on their disaster. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is how you address those mistakes that count. The true test of integrity is whether one is honest about their role in the mistake and owns up to it. TVO - you have some owning up to do.

* UPDATE - Shortly after posting this blog, I received an e-mail from Gary McHale threatening to sue me for defamation and demanded an apology. The e-mail is reproduced below and you will notice that he does not deny anything I wrote in my blog:

"It has come to my attention that you have decided to defame me on your website. You have posted the following:
(6) Gary McHale was harassed by police and suffered terribly (ignore the fact that he was a non-resident of Caledonia, had no interest in the dispute but to deliberately instigate violence)
I hope you can prove that I 'deliberately' (interesting that you know my motives) 'instigate violence'.
I have six weeks to serve you legal notice but I would hope you would post an apology instead of continuing to violate the law - as a lawyer/professor I would think you would respect the law more.
Gary McHale
" (garymchale@mountaincable.net)

As this is a personal opinion blog and I have never done litigation, I can't offer the public any advice on the law with regards to either bringing or defending defamation claims. What I can do is share some of the information that is readily available on the internet. For legal advice, I suggest you contact a lawyer if you have any questions.

Defamation of character has been defined as the written (libel) or oral (slander) damaging of one's "good reputation". Some of you may be thinking - good reputation??? There are several ways in which such a claim may be defended, but one of those defences is referred to as "Fair Comment". I found the following definition online:

"Citizens are entitled to make fair comment on matters of public interest without fear of defamation claims. A good example of this is a letter to the editor on a matter of public concern. The author of the remarks may even go so far as to PRESUME MOTIVES on the part of the person who's actions are being criticized provided only that the imputation of motives is reasonable under the circumstances. The rule of thumb is that the fair comment must reflect an honestly held opinion based on proven fact and not motivated by malice." (emphasis added) (Duhaime Law)

My honestly-held, personal belief, and opinion about which I wrote this blog is based on countless books, articles, media, and internet sources, some of which I will highlight here for your interest:

(1) "What does Canada, Ontario or whoever the fools were who hired Gary McHale to INSTIGATE violence think of his colossal failure?" (emphasis added) (frostyamerindian);

(2) "McHale WANTED violence... He brought in skinheads, KKK and other professional instigators and mercenaries from both Canada and the U.S." (emphasis added)(frostyamerindian);

(3) "former politician, David Peterson... called McHale and his gang a 'bunch of wackos'." (Mohawk Nation News);

(4) Gary McHale is "NOT from Caledonia" (emphasis added). (Ryan Paul);

(5) Vigilante militia group set up by "an associate of anti-native sovereignty activist Gary McHale" and "Neo-Nazi groups have long participated in McHale's various protests". (peaceculture.org);

(6) "Gary McHale ... claims FN and 6 Nations are terrorists." (rabble.ca);

(7) OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino explained that: "I want every avenue explored by which we can now bring McHale into court seeking a court order to prevent him from continuing his agenda of INCITING PEOPLE TO VIOLENCE in Caledonia." (emphasis added) (CBC news);

(8) OPP Commissioner Fantino further stated: "We should be able to prove to court that McHale's forays into Caledonia have been PLANNED and executed for PURPOSES of breaching the peace which today also resulted in VIOLENCE. We can't allow this vicious cycle to continue...". (emphasis added) (CBC news).

Regarding his "reputation", McHale posts many negative comments about himself on his own website and could hardly claim he has any remaining reputation that could possibly be tarnished by my blog. I would post examples, but I prefer to keep my blogs profanity-free out of respect for the younger folks who read my blogs and cite them in their school work. :)

My father always told me that only narcissists think that the whole world revolves around them and that most "protests" are simply desperate attempts to get attention. I have had rare occassion to consider his specific advice, but can see now what he meant. This of course presents the dilemma of whether to respond and give the narcisist his desperately-desired attention or not respond and risk the public believing the hateful misinformation. I still wrestle with this dilemma.

Despite this brief update meant to address some petty non-sense, I would ask that readers please focus on the original message of my blog being about TVO and how they might learn from their mistake with this show and perhaps make an effort to do better the next time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bill C-3: Senate Considerations More About Blood "Purity" and "Benefits" than Equality

This blog will serve as an update as to the current status of Bill C-3 - Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. It will also serve to highlight the disturbing considerations that are being made by Senators and the Minister of INAC in passing this bill.

Here is the quick and dirty of the Bill's treatment to date:

(1) Bill C-3 passed first and second reading in the House;

(2) It was studied by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAON) where numerous Aboriginal witnesses testified that it did not address all gender discrimination or even that found in McIvor's case;

(3) I appeared as a witness and gave oral and written testimony against the Bill;

(4) The AAON voted on amendments to make the Bill more inclusive (at this point the Liberals, NDP and Bloc were all supporting the Aboriginal witnesses);

(5) These amendments were ruled out of scope;

(6) The House passed a new amendment to include back in the bill, section 9 which tries to insulate Canada from liability;

(7) The bill passed through the House (the Liberals, NDP and Bloc all flip-flopped and sided with conservatives);

(8) The bill was sent to Senate for consideration and passed first and second reading quickly;

(9) It was sent to Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights to study;

(10) Only two days were set aside to hear a small list of witnesses (Nov.29, Dec.6);

(11) I was invited by Senate to appear as witness and then disinvited at the last minute;

(12) The bill passed through the clause by clause quickly.

So that is where the Bill stands now. It will pass through both report stage and third reading fairly quickly as the conservatives are the majority in the Senate and we have seen what they will do when they like or dislike a bill. This bill will then have to receive Royal Assent and the Order in Council process takes about 6 weeks or so. Therefore, I fully expect that this Bill will become law before the court imposed deadline in January of 2011.

So that is the technical stuff. I have written previous blogs about my concerns about this bill, but I will summarize the main issues here:

(1) The new section 6(1)(c.1) will create a new form of discrimination between those with children and those without. Under this section, the only people entitled to section 6(1)(c.1) status are those currently registered under section 6(2) who have non-status Indian children. Anyone with status children or no children will not get the gender remedy.

(2) This bill does not address all gender inequality in the Indian Act. Canada argues it only addressed the inequality between double mother clause reinstatees and section 12(1)(b) reinstatees in the McIvor appeal case. Unfortunately, it does not even do that. The descendants of Indian men will still have better status than the descendants of Indian women.

(3) Canada has chosen to try to insulate itself from liability for the gender discrimination it imposed on the descendants of Indian women in section 9 of the bill. Indian women and their descendants will be the only group in Canada who have been discriminated against and for whom Canada refuses to allow them a Charter remedy.

There are many, many other concerns I have about the Bill, but anyone can read my past blogs to find out more. As you may have gathered from other blogs I have written on Aboriginal political issues, I am concerned about our National Aboriginal Organizations (NAO's) like the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) actions on this issue. These NAO's all claim to represent some segment of the Aboriginal population in Canada, but their recent flip-flops should be cause for great concern by us grass roots folks. Even the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) a non-political organization has weighed in.

First of all, the Senate only had two half-days of hearings and only heard from a handful of witnesses, most of whom were political in nature, compared to the AAON who had 6 days of hearings and heard from numerous witnesses with various expertise on the subject matter. Several witnesses, including myself were officially invited to appear before the Senate on Bill C-3 but were later disinvited at the last possible moment.

You will remember that in the House, all of the Aboriginal witnesses were unanimous in their opposition to Bill C-3 as it was written - yes, including CAP. The Liberals, NDP and Bloc all agreed that the Bill did NOT fully address either the gender discrimination found in McIvor or the larger gender discrimination issues. They all supported the amendment of this Bill to finally address gender discrimination once and for all. However, since Parliament recessed for the summer, CAP, NWAC, Native Women of Quebec and others all flip-flopped on their original positions and decided that "something was better than nothing" and supported the bill.

When we all got back to business in the fall, the Liberals, Bloc and NDP all flip-flopped and said they would now support the bill out of concern for those who wanted to be registered as soon as possible. Keep in mind also that INAC has been saying all along that the NAO's would ONLY receive funding for the joint process to discuss the other registration and band membership issues IF Bill C-3 passed. This means no money if the NAO's did not play ball.

The NAO's are not what they used to be - although they were all born out of the Indian political struggles of the early 1900's which culminated in the 1970's in response to the White Paper, their leadership of late has been described as "co-opted". Back then, the NAO's stood for what was just and not what was "just" in the best interests of the organizations they headed. Now, their concerns over funding to staff their organizations far outweighs any remaining concerns for what is best for our people.

It should be no surprise then that on Monday, Dec.6, 2010:

(1) the CAP did not even appear as a witness on Bill C-3 in Senate;

(2) the AFN testified that "the bill, with or without amendments must proceed";

(3) the NAFC's main concern was to ask for money to train their staff and to be compensated for answering questions to their clients;

(4) the NWAC said registering those under Bill C-3 would be acceptable to "our chiefs, our communities and our families";

Despite vigorous questioning from Senator Sandra Lovelace (the woman who took Canada to the UN on this issue and won) about the real issues at stake for Aboriginal peoples: full gender equality, the right to decide who we are, and compensation for discrimination, NONE of the NAO's would back down from their support of the bill. This made Senator Patrick Brazeau's job much easier.

INAC Minister John Duncan's testimony on Nov.29, 2010 seems confirm what is happening here:

"the department has invited and received proposals from national Aboriginal organizations in preparation for the possible launch of a separate exploratory process on these broader issues. This will move forward if Bill C-3 is passed."

"With five different national Aboriginal organizations ... the department will provide the appropriate funding for the process."

"the national Aboriginal organizations will be running the process."

Sharon McIvor's testimony pointed out what is really happening here - we are being offered a joint process without any mandate or commitment for future changes in exchange for NOT addressing the full issue of gender discrimination in the Indian Act. Specifically she said:

"what is being offered in exchange for the non-recognition of our basic human and equality rights... An exploratory process, so others - many of who will not be affected directly - have a say in whether our basic human and equality rights are recognized. To my mind, it is totally bizarre."

She also pointed out the disrespect of Justice Canada (DOJ) and INAC in dealing with her case. They keep referring to Sharon's "hypothetical brother" to do comparisons on charts, but in actual fact her brothers are real, living human beings with families of their own. It was all because of Sharon's quest to seek equality for Indian women and their descendants that her brothers even got registered and when they did, they all got better status than Sharon. How is that for irony?

She also pointed out the very disturbing position our NAO's have put us Indian women in - that we must fight this battle alone. Sharon explained the current situation very well:

"The Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, other groups, will get huge chunks of money. We women on the ground have done all of the groundwork. I can tell you I have done all of the work to get here. The Assembly of First Nations did not help me, and for the most part the Native Women's Association of Canada did not help me, and CAPP did not help me. I brought it this far, and now they have all jumped on board and they said, okay, whatever little piece of legislation you want to put through because of the time frame, we agree with that. You can go ahead and do it, but give us the money. I am outraged, as you can tell. I am outraged about what has been going on."

She went on to explain that many, many descendants of Indian women will be missed in Bill C-3 including: anyone born pre-1951, and the illegitimate daughters of Indian men, children of status women who have unstated paternity. There are many more who will be missed.

Gwen Brodsky who presented after Sharon made the point that gender equality in Canada is NOT something that should only be brought about incrementally - i.e. through small amendments gradually over time. It is a basic human right that requires immediate implementation. It has been over 150 years of legislated gender inequality for Indian women - how much longer should they wait? It cost Sharon over $250,000 and no one was there to help her. Discrimination is not a matter for debate or consultation - it simply needs to be remedied even if people want to continue discrimination.

Despite all of this, it was more than apparent that racist and sexist stereotypes and ideologies are what ruled the ultimate decision to pass this Bill. Here are a few examples of the questions and considerations made during these meetings:

(1) Senator Kochar to Sharon McIvor:

"How far do you think your status can go?"

"Senator Brazeau is my mentor when it comes to Indian Affairs, although I am more pure Indian than he is."

"If pure Indian marries a non-Indian... how far do you think you can take the status?"

"Nevermind about gender equality."

(2) Senator Brazeau to Gwen Brodsky:

"I think it is important to distinguish between a wish list... and the specific decision"

(3) Minister Duncan to Senator Brazeau:

"we probably would not be having any of this discussion if it were not for the fact that status confers certain benefits"

"There has not been as much debate and discourse of this area of the Indian Act as there should be."

Seriously?? Has INAC not read all the studies, research, articles, theses, books and reports on the subject? What an irresponsible thing to say - but it serves to justify funding NAO's to do more repetitive research.

Canada denies that financial considerations are a main issue in their control of status when they appeared before the courts in McIvor, yet their own motivations are admittedly financial. Even the evidence at court showed that Canada's interest in having a limited "1/4 blood" rule was primarily for financial reasons.

Why is it that when men are registered under the Act, they are considered the true Indians, but when women want to be registered they are characterized as gold diggers? We are not in this for money - we are in this for our equality and the rights of our children and grandchildren.

If anyone should be questioned about their financial interest, it is not Indian women and their excluded descendants who must fight these legal battles on their own and at their own cost. I think the grass roots people ought to be asking their NAO's what the hell they think they are doing with the future of our children and grandchildren? No study, staff position or research project is worth the exclusion of even a single child from their birthright and community.

I have been told that politics is about compromise and maybe I should give these NAO's a break. If that is the case, then perhaps these NAO's should get out of the business of politics and get back to the business of advocating for our people and standing up for what is just.

Bill C-3 is a discriminatory piece of legislation that appeals to Canada's desire to limit how much they have to share our resources with us; appeals to co-opted NAO's who see dollar signs in the joint process; and appeals to those colonized Aboriginal peoples who care more about their own individual interests than that of their communities, Nations, and most importantly, the futures of their children's children seven generations into the future.

Shame on Canada and shame on AFN, NWAC, CAP, NAFC for buying in. I can only hope that the UN addresses Sharon McIvor's long-standing fight for our rights.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Canadian Tax Payers Federation's Chief-Bashing Campaign

Ok, so my last blog was a slight departure from my usual serious commentary, but I needed the humour to help insulate my soul from all the negativity. While it was intended as a spoof of the issue, I also wanted readers to see the issue from our perspective. My spoof may have sounded ridiculous, but that reflects the insanity of the situation, not the blog.

Since the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and others have released various media statements accusing Chiefs of being paid exorbitant salaries while their people suffer in misery, I have been fielding questions from students, the public, media, and others to answer for this alleged injustice. In answering these questions from mostly non-Indigenous people, I have heard endless stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, faced pent-up anger about "special" rights and been asked to accept ludicrous solutions like "doing away with s.35" of the Constitution Act, relocating all reserve residents to the cities, and told that since these alleged injustices to our people happened so long ago, to simply "get over it".

I consider myself a strong Indigenous woman who has won life's lottery - I have good health, two healthy, happy children, a large supportive family and my Mi'kmaq culture. I have never taken for granted the power of being able to fall back to a safe place where my brothers and sisters will guide me, support me, and offer a sympathetic ear during hard or stressful times. None of us are rich, but it has never been money that we needed from one another - it has always been the advice, guidance, support, and unconditional love. Not everyone is so fortunate to be in this circumstance.

Many Indigenous peoples were taken away from their families in residential schools, the 60's scoop or even the current child welfare system. Many others are subjected to racial profiling by the police, and subsequently arrested, detained and imprisoned at a higher rate than non-Indigenous peoples. Still other Indigenous peoples, like our women, are murdered or missing at an alarming rate or subjected to high rates of family violence. Others live in homes without water, sanitation, power or homes which are contaminated with mold and asbestos. They have all been subjected to colonial laws and policies which desperately seek our assimilation.

Despite these similarities and differences, we have some very important factors in common - our Indigenous cultures and identities and the fact that every insult, racist stereotype, neglected community or suicide of one of our own children destroys a piece of our soul. The public telling me that all our leaders are corrupt, hurts me no less than it does one of those accused leaders. Having to defend our people against uninformed members of the public, wears on me just as much as it wears on Maliseet, Cree or Mohawk peoples.

This is the reason why I wrote my last blog as a spoof. Humour is what keeps my family moving forward in this battle that we inherited from the colonizers. If we could not make fun of ourselves and laugh at our troubles, we could not repair our souls. It is never meant to make light of the situation, but to force us to remember that we have an obligation to our children to be optimistic, to be hopeful, and help inspire our people to action. This is a lot to ask of our people, many of whom are forced to manage the kind of poverty seen in third world countries, but our future depends on their hope. Humour has traditionally been our way of moving forward.

But our ability to cope and resist are constantly challenged by Canada's assimilatory laws, policies and actions. We are forever dealing with broken treaty promises, empty apologies, conditional rights, two-faced politicians, and those who wish to keep us in our position of poverty and submission. This crisis in our communities could have been addressed decades ago. There have been endless research projects, studies, surveys, reports, and commissions identifying both our issues and the solutions.

The solutions that have been suggested by Royal Commissions, Justice Inquiries, court cases and expert reports have largely been ignored. Solutions like post-secondary education which the greatest economists advise would be a solution that would require a relatively small investment now to obtain great returns in the future for our country, are also ignored. Suggestions that we strengthen the use of our culture, traditions and languages in our communities, schools, and institutions are placed low on the priority list. The obvious funding inequities for essential social services like child welfare, water, and housing are ignored in favour of public misinformation campaigns which vilify our leaders. We know what needs to be done to address this crisis in our communities, but the political will by Canada to do it is what is lacking.

This means that for the sake of our people, we have no choice but to address these right-ring fringe groups who constantly help the government detract public attention from the real issues. So, in order to prevent this blogs from turning into a book (as I could write alot about this issue), here is a brief list of points to keep in mind when reading ANYTHING that comes from the CTF and various TV, radio and print media, regarding their allegations of "exorbitant" chiefs' salaries:
(1) Confirm the accuracy and type of information that is being offered as "truth". If you look at the information posted online at CTF, the information is related to chief and council - not chiefs. Therefore all the conclusions drawn about chiefs is not necessarily accurate. The same can be said of the print media which contains a great deal of inaccurate and sensationalized reports.

(2) The information they do post is the "taxable equivalent" which means it is not their ACTUAL pay, but a figure inflated by CTF to make the situation look far worse than it actually is. As readers may or may not know, ALL status Indians who live and work on reserve are entitled to not have to pay income tax.

This is not a special or extra benefit given to Chief and Council. This is a legislative right which stems from the fact that Canada stole the rest of our lands and agreed that we should not be taxed on what little lands we have left. So what the CTF and others are doing is comparing apples and oranges. It would be no different than if they added another column and said that Chiefs in Atlantic Canada have more fish than the PM. Well, I hope so - after all they have constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty right to fish.

The real issue for CTF and others is that status Indians have the right to tax free income in certain circumstances and they are using Chiefs as their bulls eye to keep debating the issue. They have never accepted that status Indians have this benefit or section 35 benefits and this is the real issue - not their actual salaries. Even so-called academics like Tom Flanagan are still belly-aching over these constitutionally protected rights.

(3) The comparison of chief and council salaries with that of the Prime Minister (PM) is hypocrisy at its worst. When the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) said that our people should be treated as a third order of government, Canada rejected this. When our leaders demand to negotiate with the PM, we are told that First Nations are no more than mere municipalities. Our leaders are forced to meet with clerks, assistants and low level bureaucrats. Yet, when they want to find a way to exaggerate a situation to make Indigenous peoples look bad, First Nations are suddenly on par with the PM??

This is an insane comparison which lacks any kind of empirical credibility and solely reflects political spin. The PM is a unique position that can hardly be compared with most positions, let alone that of First Nations. The PM's job guarantees certain benefits not offered First Nations leaders like: long-term disability in the event of serious illness, a pension, business and political connections which are priceless, and long after a PM is finished, he will have no end of paid speaking engagements, consulting contracts and business offers. A point which is often left out is that the PM is supported by literally thousands of well-paid bureaucrats who do all the real work.

Chiefs and councillors on the other hand, have no long-term disability protections, despite the fact that they have higher incidences of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, TB, and other serious illnesses. They have no pensions to support them once they are out of office. They would not have business and political connections which would ensure their financial well-being post-office. Equally as important is that the chiefs are not surrounded by thousands or even hundreds of well-paid bureaucrats, with the skills, training, education and expertise needed to do all the actual work needed to support a community. Justice Canada alone is the largest law firm in this country - there is simply no competing with that.

(4) It is impossible to do any kind of credible comparison between colonized Indigenous peoples and the colonizers. There is a massive power imbalance and laws which both create the current situation and policies which promote it. Any comparison is misleading at best. However, if one were to make a comparison between chiefs and councillors and municipalities, one would find that standards are being imposed on First Nations that are not imposed on municipalities.

For example, if one refers to the salaries of employees, managers, directors and leaders of municipalities, you will find a surprising number of those who make more than $100,000 some of which have a portion of their salary which is tax-free. Yet, many of the municipalities have hundreds if not thousands of homeless people, people living in shelters and increasing numbers of families and children who rely on food banks.

How could a librarian be paid $100,000 when their own community members do not have enough to eat? Those librarians are not even leaders. One Entertainment manager makes over $250,000. How could a municipality prioritize entertainment over a safe place for their residents to sleep at night? Should a director of entertainment make almost as much as the PM when residents are dying in the cold?

(5) The double standards which are placed on our people must be identified for what they are - right-wing reactions to our constitutionally protected rights which they reject and can't accept. There is no way for us to win in their perverse logic. We are rejected as welfare dependent bums who use up all tax-payers hard-earned taxes, yet when any of us make a living we are demonized as an industry of elite, overpaid, corrupt individuals who suck our communities dry of funds while we leave the rest behind to suffer.

Not all of us are like the rare few who sell their souls for a Senate seat or fame. In our tradition, people like that would have been labelled a traitor and lost his/her citizenship and no longer been considered part of the community. The problem is not that there are people like this, its that we don't deal with them as we should according to our cultural laws and values. THe majority of us don't fall into this category and we should not let a few bad apples lead to stereoptypes about all of us.

The fact of the matter is, there should be no double standards. If no leader should be paid a salary higher than its poorest resident, then let that apply to ALL leaders in Canada including the PM.

(6) This public misinformation campaign is nothing more than a strategic ploy engaged to do two very important and dangerous things: (a) to deflect attention away from the current crisis in our communities which was created and extended by Canada and (b) to divide our people and communities irrevocably. Recent reports show that community members are already up in arms and battling amongst each other and their leaders over this issue. This is in addition to the Indian Act which has divided our people into on and off-reserve, status and non-status, band member and non-band member, and men and women. Now, Bills C-3 (Status) and S-4 (MRP) will further widen the divide as those of us who are colonized fight for individual wealth and sacrifice their communities in the process.

We have to rise above this. We have to better inform ourselves against this right-wing misinformation campaign. We have to make our families, communities and Nations our priority over everything else they tempt us with - including money and power. It does not cost a cent to stay united, nor does it require thousands of dollars for us to assert our sovereignty in meaningful and powerful ways. These right wing groups, academics and governments do NOT have our best interest at heart. They all desperately want our assimilation. Why on earth would we accept what they say at face value and help them speed up the process? We can collectively deal with the issues in our communities - we don't need wealth, greed, and fame to do it. We have everything we ever needed in our own cultures - we just need to have faith in it again.