Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers says the proposed Indigenous recognition of rights framework introduced by the federal government - on Valentine’s Day - will place inherent rights of Indigenous people under Canada’s constitution and undermine Indigenous nationhood.
Sayers says that Batchewana First Nation leadership is providing transportation for its membership to attend a rally against the framework on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Dec. 4.
“Being relinquished to a court order of government by way of incorporation into Canada’s constitution is not aligned with our perspective of where our place is within the lands here we call Turtle Island,” said Sayers. “We cannot, and won’t, align ourselves with Canada’s attempts to place us under their discretion, under their governance system.”
The proposed legislative framework includes ten principles which will, the federal government claims, respect the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.
“There are ten principles that Canada has adopted, which are contrary to our nationhood’s rights, and we can’t support Canada’s ten principles - they’re not from us,” Sayers said. “They are about us, but they’re not from us.”
“We have to be conscious, and we have to be aware of what our own people’s aspirations are, and we can’t be accommodated by one national, federal fell swoop of legislation when there are all kinds of unique relationships that have sewn right across this country, even prior to Canada’s confederation in 1867.”
The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) is now trying to spread the word about the Indigenous recognition of rights framework through its website, stoptheframework.com, in addition to organizing this week’s rally on Parliament Hill.
“They’re going to take our inherent rights that were given to us by the Creator when we were provided with this land as our place in the world, and what they’re going to do is somehow transfer that into Section 35 of the constitution, without having a constitutional conference,” said AIAI Deputy Grand Chief Gord Peters, speaking to SooToday from London, Ont. “It changes your rights - your inherent rights - to Section 35 rights, which means you don’t have any rights any longer.”
“They’ve basically taken us off the land with respect to our relationships.”
Peters says the relational message from the federal government is clear.
“For governments, it’s about certainty,” he said. “They want to be absolutely certain that when they do projects, when they want access to resources, we’re not in the way.”
For Sayers, the planned trip for Batchewana First Nation membership to the Dec. 4 rally is in line with his community’s history of defending Indigenous rights by way of peaceful protest.
“Through history, our people have always been involved and stood up in defence of Indigenous rights, and our leadership has recognized that once again,” said Sayers. “We’ve been to many rallies to support Indigenous governance and Indigenous rights, and this is no different.”
“This is something that can have - and will have - an effect on our people and our way of life and our nationhood.”
Batchewana First Nation members depart Monday morning for the rally against the rights framework.