As opposition to Bill C-45 continues to grow across Canada, the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations has refused to recognize the controversial omnibus bill, which passed through Canada’s Senate late last week with a vote of 50-27. The bill is now in the hands of Canada’s Governor General, who will undoubtedly signed it in to law.
For those who do not know, Bill C-45, known as the Jobs and Growth Act, is a 457-page omnibus bill that makes changes to several Canadian laws and enactments including the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigable Waters Act.
Among those changes, Bill C-45 allows First Nations to lease out/surrender reserve lands based on votes taken at a single meeting, rather than a majority vote from an entire first nation (aka, community consent). It also exempts companies behind major pipeline and inter-provincial power line projects from needing to prove they won’t damage or destroy navigable waterways in Canada.
The reason for the opposition is straightforward enough. Underlying those two changes is the fact that Bill C-45 violates recognized and affirmed Treaty and Aboriginal rights. Furthermore, Canada intentionally failed to fulfill its constitutionally-obligated responsibility to consult affected First Nations before the Senate passed it. That makes Bill C-45 illegal.
Treaty Six Grand Chief Craig Makinaw states, “Harper’s government is not acting in good faith and is acting in a way that brings dishonour to the Crown. The Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 First Nations Chiefs call on the the Government of Canada to bring back the honour of Crown to the process and fulfill the legal duty to consult First Nations prior to any legislation or enactment which would impact on First Nations Treaty, Inherent and Aboriginal rights.”
Treaty Six is especially alarmed that the government has diminished the need to consider environmental impacts on First Nations water resources. As a result, “Pipelines will now be able proceed across hundreds, even thousands of water course crossings without the necessary environmental scrutiny. These changes will increase the impact of development on First Nations Reserve lands, many of which rely on rivers and lakes to practice their Treaty rights to hunt, fish, trap and continue a traditional way of life.”
Bill C-45 isn’t the only thing on their mind. They’ve also vowed to oppose any other illegal laws, which will likely include (1) Bill C-27 – First Nation Financial Transparency Act, (2) Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, (3) Bill S-2 – Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, (4) Bill S-6 – First Nations Elections Act, (5) Bill S-8 – First Nations Safe Drinking Water Act, (6) Bill S-207 – An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act and, (7) Bill S-212 – First Nations Self Government Recognition Act in addition to two other proposed pieces of legislation: the First Nation Private Property Ownership Act and the First Nation Education Act.
Other First Nations are taking same position as the Confederacy of Treaty Six, for precisely the same reasons. They include the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, and The Chiefs of Ontario which consists of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Anishinabek Nation, Grand Council Treaty No. 3, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, and Independent first Nations.
Meanwhile, many other First Nations–Chiefs and citizens alike–are on the ground, protesting Canada’s sweeping effort as part of the newly emerged #IdleNoMore movement. The Canadian government has been keen to dismiss IdleNoMore as merely an internet phenomenon, nevertheless, the grassroots movement represents the first major consolidation of Indigenous Peoples within the Canadian state since the days of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. the IdleNoMore movement is growing daily, in order to stop the Canadian government from undermining all First Nations and forcing them to participate in Canada’s crimes.
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