By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor
It's time to call Canada to account for its poor treatment of claims concerning aboriginal land rights and its continued suppression of the right of First Nations to self-governance.
Those were the themes of a landmark presentation by Six Nations elected Chief Ava Hill to the 13th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.
“Canada's policies, when dealing with land rights, treaty recognition and implementation and self-government, all have the effect of subjugating First Nations and keeping indigenous peoples as second-class citizens, living in Third World conditions,” she said.
Last week’s appearance was the fourth time that Six Nations has participated in the forum but the first time that one of its leaders made it onto the presentations agenda.
Hill, who was elected chief last December, delivered her presentation accompanied by Six Nations Coun. B. Darryl Hill.
The chief called upon the United Nations to pressure Canada to:
- Support land, resource and revenue-sharing agreements with Six nations;
- Immediately abandon its specific claims policies;
- Require free prior and informed consent before passing legislation affecting the territory;
- And to create truly neutral dispute resolution tribunals.
The chief fold the forum that Section 35 of Canada's Constitution recognizes and affirms the aboriginal right to be self-governing.
“This is a principle upon which Canada was given its nationhood,” she said.
“Yet, Canada deprives us of this right. Canada continues to practise colonialism toward the indigenous peoples in Canada through its words and actions.”
She added that, given that record, Section 35 of Canada's Constitution are “empty words” for Six Nations, which is without adequate resources.
Where self-governance is concerned, Hill argued that longstanding fundamental assumptions must be overturned so decision-makers can begin to address any implementation of self-government in a meaningful way.
“With the Iroquoian peoples our title, or ownership to the lands, were never passed to the Crown,” Hill said.
“Indigenous or aboriginal title must be recognized as being superior to the British concept of fee simple. It is more than a right of occupancy dependent on the goodwill of the sovereign or the Crown.
“Once these fundamental assumptions are overturned, then the process of determining how the Six Nations are to share and benefit from their traditional lands and resources can begin.”
Hill said that in the past three years the Canadian government has employed stalling tactics to deal with Six Nations grievances.
“And while all these tactics delay and deny the Six Nations people justice, Canada, Ontario and even municipalities are issuing permits, licences and zoning approvals enabling developments to advance on our treaty lands without free, prior and informed consent.”
The Crown's aim is to eliminate a fair chance for Canada's native peoples to participate in the economy.”
Hill said Canada's land claims policies are “proven failures” because they provide financial compensation as the only option.
“Canada alone determines if they mismanaged our lands and assets. The return of land is not even considered,” she said.
“The only form for restitution is based on the extinguishment of our children's continued right to the lands and resources at issue.”