Trump administration contends that Tribes are a race rather than separate governments.
This sounds absurd. But actually Canada’s Rights and Recognition Framework gives Canada the authority to do exactly that in this country. In a recently released overview of the Rights and Recognition Framework, Canada states that legislation “could enable Canada to recognize a Nation or other Collective as an entity that has the authority to govern itself.” Further, it would oblige the Minister to develop “further measures to support the process by which Canada recognizes Indigenous Nations and Collectives.”
Through an act of Parliament, Canada would give itself the authority to recognize Indigenous Nations. It kind of sounds great. Indigenous Nations will finally be recognized!
In reality, it’s no different than Canada giving itself the authority to determine who is and who is not a Status Indian. We all know how Canada behaves when it gives itself power over Indians. It outlawed women who “married out” from passing their status to their children. It’s kind of like someone accidently saw that sign about dwindling moose populations and thought it would apply to Indians as well. When the courts told Justin Trudeau’s government to end discrimination in the Indian Act’s status provisions, the government argued that it would be too expensive to stop discriminating against native women. The discrimination essentially created a class of second rate Indians – a race of people whom the government owed nothing to. Even the Senate, the Chamber of Sober Second Thought, told the government to end the discrimination. The Ministers said that the elected Parliament shouldn’t be told what to do by an unelected chamber. Trump said it – but Trudeau tried to do it first.
Worse though is what happened to the Sinixt. Canada declared them extinct in 1956. By the neatest coincidence, Canada began engineering studies to construct massive hydro electric dams on the Columbia River in the Sinixt territory that same year. These dams would provide power to aluminum smelters which located here at the same time. It seems Canada already possesses the ability to both recognize and declare extinct entire nations!
Can you imagine? Canada, now the owner of the Transmountain pipeline, decides that a pipeline is in the national interest. But the pipeline construction is stopped because Canada needs to do a better job of consulting the Secwepemc Nation. Well, how about the Secwepemc Nation is no longer recognized? And maybe everyone married out and there are no longer any Secwepemc alive. And maybe they’re extinct? Or maybe the Nation’s status card just expired and they’re not entitled to consultations until they renew it and obtain the new secure status card from the INAC office in Vancouver? But the status card won’t arrive for 4 months due to a perpetual backlog and by then the pipeline will already be built? The Rights of an Indigenous Nation can be intact – but they can’t be exercised if the Nation is not recognized.
There are some serious questions that have already been answered elsewhere. The existence of Aboriginal Rights and Title are “sui generis”. They are self-generating. They have existed since time-immemorial. They don’t need legislation to exist and certainly don’t exist at the pleasure of the crown. Our Rights and Title are already recognized and affirmed by the Constitution and Articles 3 and 5 of UNDRIP. Canada has set up a false choice without giving us back our land.
Furthermore, Canada’s overview states that it will mandate the minister to work with Nations on the process to recognize Indigenous Nations. But we know that he with the gold makes the rules. In Canada’s proposed Fiscal policy framework, Canada already determined that a “Recognized Indigenous Nation” will be a Nation that has signed either a modern treaty, a self-government agreement, or a comprehensive land claim which includes a self-government component. There is actually no choice.
Canada giving itself the authority to choose for us who is and is not a Nation is out of line with the Constitution and UNDRIP.
Unanswered questions remain. Will our Nations now require giant status cards to prove we exist? Will our Nations’ Status Cards expire too? Which pieces of ID will our Nations need when we send in an application for our new Status Card? Will the Nation status card enable it to travel across the border?
When will Canada declare your Nation extinct?
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.