November 2018


First Nations Self-Government Summit in Halifax to discuss goals and processes

A member of the Mi’kmaq National Ancestral Government says First Nations leaders need to reflect on their definition of self-government, ahead of a national conference on the complex issue.

The first First Nations Self-Government Summit, a three-day conference sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and a number of First Nations organizations in the Atlantic region, is scheduled for this week. in Halifax.

Discussions and presentations from First Nations leaders across the country are expected to provide guidance on achieving self-government for communities in the region, according to a news release.

Antle Denny Sr. Kji-keptin (Grand Captain) of the Grand Council, the ancestral governing body of the Mi’kmaq, said chief organizations must ensure that their standards of self-government differ from those of the Canadian government.

“[Canada’s] self-government plan is that we govern like them,” he said.

“From the perspective of the Grand Council, that’s not the case. It’s just not our way.”

Antle Denny Sr. is Kji-Keptin (Grand Captain) of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, the traditional governing body of the Mi’kmaq. (Submitted by April Maloney)

The Mi’kmaq Grand Council, which predates European contact with the Mi’kmaq, now includes a Grand Chief, Grand Keptin, and about 40 kept communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Council not recognized

Despite its historical significance, Denny said, the Grand Council is not currently recognized by Canada or provincial governments as having political jurisdiction.

“The Grand Council has always been there, but the government doesn’t want to deal with us,” Denny said.

“If Canada wants reconciliation, why does it not reconcile with the true national government of the Mi’kmaq?”

Denny said Mi’kmaw self-sufficiency in language preservation, education and environmental protection cannot be achieved if leaders are dependent on Canadian politics and funding.

Restoring the strength of traditional roles and practices, or the “Mi’kmaq way,” is the best way to start, Denny said, but the effects of colonization have slowed progress.

“We have to figure out what’s important to us,” Denny said.

“We have to follow the guidelines of our people, but it’s difficult for many of them… who lived in residential schools and who still suffered from everything we went through.”

Policies lack “Indigenous understanding”

Canada’s attempts to facilitate self-government for Indigenous nations have been skewed by colonialism, said Hayden King, director of the Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led think tank at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“Canada says ‘Here we have a self-government process that you can use’…but to date, none of those policies or processes reflect an Indigenous understanding of what self-determination really means,” said said King.

“I think there needs to be a push … to really exercise jurisdiction over the territories as opposed to just reserve-based autonomy,” said Hayden King of the Yellowhead Institute. (Hayden King)

King cites federal ideas like the White Paper of 1969 and the First Nations Governance Act of 2002, both of which sought to move away from the Indian Act, as examples of the ineffectiveness of implementing Indigenous self-determination through Canadian politics.

He said the same could be true for the Liberal government’s rights and recognition framework.

“There were a number of attempts, but most of them were rejected,” he said.

“I don’t think legislation in principle is necessarily a bad thing if it empowers First Nations and truly sidelines government, but we haven’t seen that yet.”

Crucial to the process, King says, is finding an effective way to combine traditional governance structures with the contemporary band council system, which was imposed under the Indian Act, and then clarify control of land. and resources by the First Nation.

“I think there needs to be a push at the national and regional levels…to really exercise jurisdiction over the territories as opposed to just reserve-based autonomy. I hope that’s on the agenda of conference this week,” King said.

Implement treaty rights, says Elder

Mi’kmaq elder and historian Dan Paul of the Sipekne’katik First Nation said that after all territorial lands are returned, he believes Canada has an obligation to give First Nations the time and resources needed to adapt their traditional lifestyles to modern times. An opportunity, he said, that was taken from the Mi’kmaq

“If the European invasion hadn’t happened… God knows what they could have accomplished,” Paul said.

“[Pre-contact Mi’kmaq] were smart people. They would have made great improvements over the centuries, but that’s something we’ll never know.”

Mi’kmaw author Dan Paul said there is a history of Canada that rarely plays a role in the voluntary implementation of Indigenous rights and that almost all progress has been imposed by the Supreme Court. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Paul said he believes one path to self-government has already been revealed by Canadian courts: the implementation of treaty rights.

“It would show true enlightenment if [Canada] would start enacting legislation in this regard,” he said.

Paul, an author, has been researching and writing about First Nations self-government for decades. He said Canada has rarely played a role in the voluntary implementation of Indigenous rights and almost all progress has been imposed by the Supreme Court.

Paul said that from where he sits, “real” First Nations self-government is still a long way off.

“On a scale of one to 10, I’d say we’re maybe only at the second stage.”

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Self government

The Indigenous Autonomy Perspective

November 14, 2018

Kanaky youth vote for independence in New Caledonia (Nic Maclellan)

On November 4, the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia held a self-determination referendum, the culmination of a twenty-year transition period introduced by the Noumea OK.

After a peaceful polling day, 56.4% of registered voters decided to stay in the French Republic, while 43.6% voted yes for independence.

These raw figures suggest a setback for the independence coalition of New Caledonia, the Before Release national Kanak and socialist (FLNKS), who has been campaigning for independence and sovereignty since 1980s.

In reality, the size of the yes gives the independence movement enough mandate to continue towards a new referendum in 2020. The FLNKS is encouraged by their increased support in working-class suburbs, rural areas and an unprecedented youth vote.

Opinion polls had predicted a massive defeat for the independence movement. However, as the votes were counted, viewers could see the worry on the faces of overconfident anti-independence politicians.

Early in the night, with the independence vote hovering between 25 and 30 percent, there was an air of triumphalism. As the night wore on and the vote for self-government increased to 30%, then 40% and beyond, the faces of anti-independence leaders deteriorated further.

Prime Minister of France Edward Philippe made a lightning visit to New Caledonia the next day. While welcoming the decision of the islanders to stay within the French Republic, he also recognized massive support for independence among the natives Kanak people.

20 years in the making

New Caledonia is one of the three French dependencies of the Pacific, alongside French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. The indigenous Melanesian population, known as the Kanak, are a minority of 39 percent in their own country, after generations of colonization and continuous migration.

Annexed by France in 1853, the islands – located off the east coast of Australia – served first as a prison, then as a land of free colonization. The main island’s central mountain range is rich in minerals, and the country holds 25 percent of the world’s nickel reserves. The nickel boom of late 1960s, driven by the Vietnam War and the space race, saw new waves of migration from France and Wallis and Futuna.

There were historical Kanak revolts against French colonialism, led by the chief Atai in 1878 and Chef Noël in 1917. But the modern independence movement was born from the 1970s, based on radicalized students returning from France, one Kanak cultural renaissance and the Union Caledonian change of course of the party from the demand for autonomy to independence, under the leadership of Jean-Marie Tjibaou (a charismatic leader assassinated by a comrade Kanak in 1989).

The establishment of the FLNKS in 1984, armed clashes between separatists, the French state and Right wing settlers. This period of conflict ended with the signing of the 1988 Accord. Matignon agreements and a subsequent agreement in May 1998, known as the Noumea OK.

The 20-year transition under the agreement saw the transfer of many powers from Paris to Noumea and the creation of new political institutions, including a multi-party government, Kanak customary senate and three provincial administrations.

There has also been a significant economic “rebalancing” between the wealthy southern province and the rural north and outlying Loyalty Islands, where the population is predominantly. Kanak. However, New Caledonia is still sharply divided between poor and rich, with poverty marked by ethnicity and geography – rural and indigenous communities lose out on all development indicators.

This chasm is most obvious in the capital Noumea, a city of yachts and squats. The anti-independence vote was strongest in Noumeathe southern suburbs of, where the rich own luxury apartments, boats and 4x4s, drawing massive wages subsidized by French taxpayers. On the outskirts of the capital, more than 8,000 people live in slums.

Two worlds apart

The independence vote of November 4 was drawn mainly from the Kanak the electorate, with a majority of non-Kanaks – European, wallisian, Tahitian or Asian heritage – vote to stay with France.

The more populous south and the capital remain strongholds of anti-independence sentiment, while the regions where the majority of the population is Kanak showed massive support for autonomy: the North Province (75.8% Yes) and the Loyalty Islands Province (82.1%).

On the other hand, the Southern Province, mainly no kanak the electorate, voted strongly 73.71 percent to stay with France, with just 26.29 percent of voters in the south opting for independence.

For many months, a slow wave of popular campaigning led by the FLNKS and other separatist groups led to a mobilization on ‘D-Day’. With non-compulsory voting, thousands of Kanaks turned out, many of whom had never voted before.

The final victory is not very comforting for the anti-independence right. Successive opinion polls had suggested that the yes would be between 27 and 35 percent. Conservative politicians had publicly threatened that a massive yes vote would pave the way for a rollback of many of the achievements made by the Kanak people since Noumea Agreement, including restrictions on the voters list for local political institutions, funding of rural provinces and land reform. The right-wing hoped that the victory would allow Paris to push for the removal of New Caledonia from the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.

But the result of the referendum is only one step in a longer process. The Noumea Accord provides for a second referendum in 2020 in the event of a non-vote, which can be called by a third of the members of Congress. The separatist parties currently holding 25 seats out of the 54 members of Congress, they have the figures to proceed to another referendum after the provincial elections next May.

The day after the vote, most realized that the Kanak independence movement has a new wind in its sails. The quest for independence lives in the hearts of a new generation.

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