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Canada John Ivison: Trudeau's failure to reform First Nations politics is the root cause of #shutdowncanada

08:15  15 february  2020
08:15  15 february  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Justin Trudeau is overseas, campaigning for a UN Security Council seat but encouraged all parties to use dialogue to resolve the problem. First Nations members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory block train tracks servicing Via Rail, as part of a protest against British Columbia’ s Coastal GasLink

Justin Trudeau wearing a suit and tie: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a press conference at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2020.© Thomas KIENZLE / AFP Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a press conference at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2020. Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Things had been going so well for Justin Trudeau. His new modus vivendi obliged him to stay out of the public eye and do nothing in particular. It was proving wildly popular – the Liberals have had a healthy lead in recent polls.

But his Captain Ahab act, in pursuit of his own Moby Dick – a seat on the UN Security Council – threatens to undo all his good un-work. As the country grinds to a halt because of rail blockades, our peripatetic prime minister risks comparison with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, who took a family vacation in Hawaii while wildfires raged across his country.

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Informal politics is understood as forming alliances, exercising power and protecting and advancing particular The United Nations has served as a forum for peace in a world threatened by nuclear war, "The The first academic chair devoted to politics in the United States was the chair of history and

The failure of governments and their multilateral institutions is epic. What seemed then like episodic and geographically limited threats have now morphed into permanent war, insecurity and extremist violence on almost every continent.

Trudeau, who is set to head to Barbados on Monday to try to persuade Caribbean leaders to vote for Canada’s bid, has hemmed and hawed about the blockades across the country that have led to gridlock of the nation’s rail service.

“We are, obviously, a country of laws. And making sure that those laws are enforced, even as there is, of course, freedom to demonstrate free and to protest,” he said from Germany. “Getting that balance right and wrapping it up in the path forward … is really important.”

What most citizens want to hear, one suspects, is less equivocation and more fortitude.

They want their prime minister to come home and show some leadership.

In the short term, that means meeting with premiers and coordinating a response that keeps food, propane, airplane de-icing fluid and other essentials flowing across the country. Canada is particularly vulnerable to these kinds of extortion efforts, given the choke points on its rail networks. While no-one wants another Oka, there are limits on the right to protest.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his first address to the United nations General Assembly. Through regional and national programming on multiple platforms, including CBC Television, CBC News Network, CBC Radio, CBCNews.ca, mobile and on-demand, CBC News and its internationally

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Justin Trudeau et al. standing in front of a crowd:  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, reaches to greet an Indigenous woman while waiting to march in the Pride Parade in Vancouver, on Sunday August 5, 2018.© Darryl Dyck Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, reaches to greet an Indigenous woman while waiting to march in the Pride Parade in Vancouver, on Sunday August 5, 2018.

But it is the long-term response that is just as important. Two years ago to the day, Trudeau outlined a “recognition and implementation of Indigenous Rights framework” in the House of Commons.

It was billed as the central plank in the Liberal government’s Indigenous reconciliation efforts and its fruits were scheduled to be implemented before last October’s election.

Canadians were consulted, a cabinet committee was struck and then…nothing.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former justice minister, wrote much of Trudeau’s Valentine’s Day speech in 2018, which was intended to get Canada to a place where Indigenous people control their own destiny and make decisions about their own future.

Part of the problem was that Wilson-Raybould had difficulty convincing her cabinet colleagues how the framework would look in practise. “She made a lot of other ministers nervous,” said one person who was there. Then there was the small matter of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that ultimately saw her demoted and booted from the Liberal caucus.

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But the current crisis over the Coastal GasLink pipeline — which crosses the traditional lands of B.C.’s Wet’suwet’en First Nation, where it is supported by elected band chiefs but opposed by hereditary chiefs — suggests the broad goals of taking Indigenous groups out from under the paternalistic governance of the Indian Act is an absolute imperative.

With the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline heading towards Indigenous territory in B.C., where a minority of bands are hostile to the development, the current impasse is likely to be a harbinger of civil conflict to come.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd:  Saul Brown, a Wet’suwet’en supporter, speaks to protestors outside the Business Development Bank of Canada at 1515 Douglas Street as part of a protest against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada February 14, 2020.© Kevin Light Saul Brown, a Wet’suwet’en supporter, speaks to protestors outside the Business Development Bank of Canada at 1515 Douglas Street as part of a protest against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada February 14, 2020.

In theory, at least, a legislative framework could allow First Nations like the Wet’suwet’en to remake their governance structure, so that there is no confusion about who speaks for them.

Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen was appointed as liaison between the British Columbia government and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs but was unable to find a compromise. He is under no illusions how hard it will be to reach a new governance structure. “These are not calm waters in which to orient where to sit in the boat,” he said.

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But he is clear on one thing: “The Indian Act days are over.”

The poster child for this type of governance reform is the Nisga’a First Nation, which signed a comprehensive self-government agreement with the Crown 20 years ago. Its written constitution combines elected representatives with a hereditary component that, for lack of a better comparison, acts like the House of Lords in the U.K.

The treaty process in Canada has moved at the pace of coastal erosion since the early 1990s. But people who have watched the self-government process unfurl say that there is a clear correlation between the quality of governance and outcomes. Simply put, First Nations that have left the Indian Act behind have performed better in terms of health and wealth. That may be because the Indigenous communities that made the move had a higher capacity and would have excelled in any case. But it is likely the case that power has been wielded more effectively because it is closer to home.

Rather than forcing First Nations to engage in lengthy and costly legal battles to establish land ownership and rights, the changes envisaged would see the government agree to title and then work out how it is applied. That would not give First Nations a veto on economic development — provinces could still infringe on title, provided compensation was paid. But it would require more genuine consultation with title-holders than in the past.

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a person wearing a hat:  Children sit outside the Business Development Bank of Canada at 1515 Douglas Street as part of a protest against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada February 14, 2020.© Kevin Light Children sit outside the Business Development Bank of Canada at 1515 Douglas Street as part of a protest against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada February 14, 2020. It sounds messy and it would be. There are around 200 bands in British Columbia, with an average population of around 300. Efforts to encourage a re-aggregation into larger, traditional First Nations have not been a success — chiefs are, unsurprisingly, not keen to give up power.

This fragmentation means there are competing claims over land and fishing rights and there is no mechanism to resolve those conflicts. (A dispute between the Yale band and the Sto:lo First Nation over salmon grounds in B.C.’s Fraser Canyon resulted in fist-fights and weapons being brandished). Any new deal would have to include an Indigenous-administered dispute resolution body.

Self-government is unlikely to be the silver bullet that its proponents suggest. It is certainly not guaranteed to improve the lot of individual Indigenous Canadians in communities where property is communal.

It will never satisfy those who argue that sovereignty was never extinguished on Indigenous land. That is not the view of Canadian law, which holds that treaties are between the state and an internal collective.

But a new relationship with the Crown could make that collective better off and boost its sense of dignity.

As the author and former politician Gordon Gibson noted in his overlooked book: A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy, the benefits would work in two directions — the trade of some land, some cash and some government power in exchange for a delimitation of claims or protests or threats of court action by the Indian side.

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The cost would not be negligible to Canada. The Nisga’a settlement was around $300 million (over 14 years) and Gibson’s estimate in 2008 was $55-70 billion to settle other outstanding claims.

But, as he noted, this is the most important moral question in federal politics.

The real comparison in cost terms is the potential expense to the Canadian economy over a 20-year period of chronic uncertainty, blockades, unfinished resource projects and civil unrest?

There is a lot of bombast about First Nations being sovereign and self-sufficient. The reality is too many are dependent on Canadian taxpayers.

The lure of self-government for mainstream society is that First Nations that aspire to it want to pay their way — the Nisga’a and others pay income tax. Many First Nations are keen to find their way back into Confederation and acknowledge that if they don’t raise revenues they are just service agencies dispensing Ottawa’s largesse.

Trudeau, without ever defining what he meant by the word, promised “reconciliation”.

He has asked Carolyn Bennett, the Crown-Indigenous relations minister, to continue to redesign inherent rights policies but there is no mention in her mandate letter of the framework he promised would be in place by now.

Clever Conservatives should view the prime minister’s discomfort as an opportunity and adopt as their own the idea of deconstructing the Indian Act and replacing it with a structure that is chosen, not imposed.

Perhaps they could even ask Wilson-Raybould to spearhead the effort. If she helped unseat her former boss, it would bring new meaning to the concept of returning the favour.

jivison@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/IvisonJ

Matt Gurney: Indigenous leaders understand the dangers of this moment. Does Trudeau? .
The prime minister is fond of saying better is always possible. Unfortunately, so’s the opposite — worse is always possible, and we may well be heading in that direction. If this were just between the protesters and the federal government, they would eventually muddle their way to some kind of conclusion. But this is bigger. Huge swathes of the country may soon be feeling the impact of shortages and economic disruption. Public anger, driven by the apparent paralysis of government, could quickly become a problem neither the federal government nor indigenous leaders want.

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