To: Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
We are writing to express our concerns about recent decisions made by your government as well as some statements made to media. In addition, we demand you come to the table to negotiate with the Confederacy a resolution to the reclamation of Kanenhstaton by the Rotinosoni people of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
Specifically, you have been quoted as saying that the current system for resolving land claims “is not working effectively” and your government is considering ways to simplify the process. Given the Conservative Government’s recent rejection of the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we can only assume that your version of “simplifying” the lands claims process is to continue the practice of not recognizing who holds title to the lands of Turtle Island.
First of all, we wish to contest the assumption that the Canadian government has the unilateral right to dictate the processes by which Indigenous land is recognized as such. The following are premises on which title to land should be recognized and reflects not only what Indigenous leaders are asking for but justice by any definition of the word:
1) Disputes over title to land should be negotiated on a nation-to-nation basis with the legitimate leaders of our nations, as opposed to the Indian Act councils established and controlled by federal legislation.
2) The burden of proof for land ownership should be on the government or private owners and not on Indigenous nations. Institutions, groups or individuals must prove their title to the land by producing a bill of sale, treaty, deed or legal document signed by a legitimate leader of the Nation that holds title to that land. (Good luck with that.)
3) In cases where Indigenous nations are not exercising their title, those nations must be compensated fairly for lands that have been leased, sold or developed without the consent of the legitimate leadership. Compensation must be negotiated on a nation-to-nation basis.
4) In cases where agreement cannot be reached in a nation-to-nation process, an arbitration or mediation process, if they are to take place, must be negotiated on a nation-to-nation basis. It is doubtful that such a process would result in the appointment of anyone associated with the Canadian government, since they would be in a conflict of interest, to mediate or arbitrate in such an event.
5) In cases where nation-to-nation negotiations do not resolve land title disputes to the satisfaction of Canadian authorities, the Indigenous nations should be presumed to have title.
In sum, this land belongs to the Indigenous nations. The government cannot “give back” what it does not own, regardless of any processes put in place. Your government can “simplify” the land claims process by recognizing Indigenous title. Period.
Coalition in Support of Indigenous Sovereignty
PS: The Coalition in Support of Indigenous Sovereignty is based in Toronto comprised of: An Indigenous Caucus, Al-Awda – Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Arab Students Collective U of T, CKLN Community Radio, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Indigenous Caucus, CUPE 3903, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, New Socialist Group, No More Silence Coalition, No One is Illegal and Sumoud.
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