Canada’s First Nation policies cause friction: U.S. diplomatic cable

Posted on December 5, 2011 in Governance Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – life
December 4, 2011.   By Robert Hiltz, Postmedia News

Officials in the U.S. embassy in Ottawa worry that unless Canada gets a comprehensive policy for dealing with First Nations rights, tension between Aboriginals and governments will continue to fester and will “pose ongoing human rights challenges,” according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

U.S. diplomats say in the document – unclassified but labelled “sensitive” – that the government’s lack of a clear policy on First Nations rights is detrimental to relations with First Nations.

“Lack of a standard model for resolving comprehensive land claims, self-government agreements, and the absence of a clear legal definition of what constitutes an ‘aboriginal right’ have resulted in complex multi-year negotiations, a significant claims backlog, and friction between aboriginal communities and the federal and provincial governments,” the cable says.

This past week, the government has come under withering fire for what the opposition says is gross mismanagement of the First Nations reserve of Attawapiskat.

The community declared a state of emergency last month because some residents are living without adequate heating, shelter or sanitation.

The federal government put the Northern Ontario community’s finances under a third-party manager who will directly administer the band’s funding from Aboriginal Affairs, which is usually managed by the First Nation itself.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appearing with national president of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, announced Thursday that First Nations leaders will be meeting in late January to discuss what the two sides can do to improve the social and economic standing of native peoples.

Harper called the planned meeting historic and said he hopes it will be useful for both sides.

Atleo, meanwhile, said it was a chance to “reset” relations between First Nations and the federal government.

Under a section labelled comment, one diplomat says, “Canadian courts have been the primary drivers of federal and provincial efforts to resolve Aboriginal grievances, both in imposing new obligations and in encouraging negotiations to pre-empt litigation.”

The diplomat, who signs his or her name only as Hopper, goes on to say that without a comprehensive policy, Canada won’t be able to effectively deal with grievances in a timely manner. The cable is dated Aug. 21, 2009.


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