Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples
 

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9 a.m. to study the new relationship between Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: I welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples either here in the room or via the web.

For the sake of reconciliation I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the unceded traditional lands of the Algonquin peoples.

My name is Lillian Dyck. I have the privilege and honour of chairing this committee, and I will now invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves.

Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.

Senator Doyle: Norman Doyle, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Senator Christmas: Dan Christmas, Nova Scotia.

Senator McCallum: Mary Jane McCallum, Manitoba.

Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.

The Chair: Today, we continue our study on what a new relationship between the government and First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada could look like. We continue looking forward at the principles of a new relationship.

This morning, we are glad to welcome from the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Chief Ghislain Picard, and from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Chief Karen Loran.

Witnesses, you have the floor.

[Chief Picard spoke in his Indigenous language.]

Ghislain Picard, Chief, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador: Good morning, Madam Chair and distinguished senators. I am certainly pleased to be here along with my colleague, Chief Karen Loran from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, who is also co-chair of our AFNQL Elected Women for Quebec and Labrador. I felt it important for her to join me this morning because it is very clear to me that the perspectives of leadership from women are very key and very important.

I also want to acknowledge the Algonquin Nation and the fact that they are welcoming these proceedings on their traditional unceded territory.

I certainly want to more specifically acknowledge the community of Kitigan Zibi. I believe they just had an election this past Sunday and their chief, Jean Guy Whiteduck, has been re-elected as leader of that community.

I am going to make my presentation in French. I know that my colleague, Chief Loran, will make hers in English. Although I have my presentation in both languages, and even though Quebec is not represented at this table, I am still going to do it in French.

Once again, thank you.

[Translation]

The purpose of your reflection is important, fundamental and necessary, but to begin this reflection I would like to ask a question: how can we synthesize over 500 years of history and relationships in an exchange lasting less than two hours? In other words, how can we discuss solutions that can restore balance in the face of the injustices experienced by our nations, who have never surrendered or abandoned their territories?

First and foremost, our shared history does not date from the first year of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. Rather, it is a history with many setbacks, but which, at least initially, was one of allies and based on a nation-to-nation relationship. The doctrine of terra nullius was not part of the equation at the time.

History consistently reminds us of how the eradication of the “Indian” problem was the aspiration of the colonizer. Our presence in our territories had become problematic. It was an obstacle to accessing resources and territory.

This is how the rupture of the nation-to-nation relationship occurred. We went from being allies to becoming undesirables on our own lands. A problem, a serious problem that meant that the Indian question had to find its solution in assimilation policies and a process of settlement, to pave the way for the seizure of our territories to the benefit of the colonizers. Not surprisingly, for a time the indigenous question was the responsibility of the Department of Forestry and Mines.

Subsequently, other attacks on this relationship were carried out to eliminate our relationship and our presence. The adoption of the Indian Act — remember that its original name was the Act of the Savages — the creation of reserves, the carrying out of a policy of assimilation, and the implementation of Indian residential schools are some historical examples that I will not dwell on since they are widely documented, although they are important to remember.

Now, attempting to reflect on the notion of a nation-to-nation relationship in 2018 will take more time than can be manufactured by the ambition to fix everything within a political mandate that has a fixed duration, and which must culminate in the fall of 2019. The openness expressed by this government must be recognized as an opportunity, but at the same time as a certain threat, because to us, failure is not an option. Failure would risk driving us too far away from a necessary perspective of reconciliation. This reconciliation, this renewal of the relationship, so often spoke about and desired by the Liberals, requires adequate time, and trying to fit it into one electoral mandate is not a condition for success. The emergence of unilaterally defined conditions for the renewal of this relationship opens the door to the development of yet another episode of failure and leads us to fear the worst, that is to say, another attempt to settle the Indian question under the pretext of reconciliation.

By definition of the federal government itself, the Government of Canada is working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationship with indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

However, the current dialogue all too often resembles a monologue. The proposed co-development and partnership is not in keeping with our definition of respect and co-operation: an imposed legislative framework, rapid-fire consultations in which Minister Bennett is quick to set the tone, the flip-flop of Prime Minister Trudeau on the Trans Mountain file, the multiple “transformations” imposed on national “indigenous” organizations to render the provisions of the Indian Act obsolete one by one, surreptitiously and without even involving the primary parties concerned. These are just a few of the examples, important indications that represent anything but a foundation of respect, co-operation and partnership.

One nation in Quebec, the Cree Nation (Eeyou), is a signatory to a modern treaty that satisfies them and which we respect, because if it corresponds to their aspirations, we too are satisfied. Other communities are in the process of completing a negotiating process that has gone on for nearly 40 years; we understand that this approach seems to match their aspirations as well. Other nations defend their historic treaties to assert their rights. However, we must not forget that beyond these realities, many communities are at a standstill in their relationship with the Government of Canada. To whom should we attribute this uncertainty, this void?

We are the first founding peoples of the Americas and, all too often, we are reduced to the status of underdeveloped, undereducated, and poor peoples who always ask and never give, while we all aspire to individual and collective wellness. We do not need pity or criticism, even less do we need racism and discrimination, prejudice and myths that we never get free of. What we need is true respect, true co-operation and partnership, equality in all government systems and an equal opportunity to flourish in our territories, to exercise our rights and customs, to speak our languages, to be considered as allies and not victims.

The government has unilaterally adopted 10 principles guiding the Government of Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples. The government has also adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We cannot rewrite history, but its course has definitely changed. It remains to be seen how the government will, in fact, show its willingness to renew our relationship by implementing this new law in all the proposed domains, in its own way.

In Quebec, we are well aware that the government is struggling to make progress in recognizing our aboriginal and treaty rights. The already fragile political relationship is fraught with failures. We are painting a grim picture, but in the context where the provincial authorities are trying to reproduce a system of dependencies that has harmed and destroyed us, how else can we see it?

Denying us access to our territories, denying us access to our resources, reducing us to being observers, leads to the eradication of our millennial bond to our territory, the very source of our identity, and will always remain a factor contributing to the failure of a true nation-to-nation relationship.

Who we are as first nations has its source in our sacred relationship with our territories, denied to us through the pursuit of a known ambition, that of seeing us disappear, of integrating and assimilating us. This is exactly how this form of cultural genocide that we know all too well is cultivated, despite the resilience shown by our peoples.

We face enormous challenges, including in our communities, because we have a duty to ensure that our youth have a future filled with hope and opportunity. We also have enormous challenges dealing with governments that come and go election after election. But one thing is certain, each of these governments will find us standing in front of them, no matter the election, the party or the term of office.

In conclusion, this reflection session raises many more questions than answers. Suspicions as to the government’s real intentions regarding the relationship with first nations, the historic ambitions in place since the 1969 White Paper, seem to be back on the agenda. What is the real plan of this government?

We are the first to say that things must change and that this change must also come from ourselves, but how can this change come about without true partnership? This is a question that remains unanswered.

[English]

I want to thank you, distinguished senators, and I’ll turn it over to Chief Loran.

Karen Loran, Chief, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne: I will provide, in essence, a bit of an example. I came to council in 2009. I’ve been sitting at the AFNQL table since 2009. I’ve been very involved with a lot of the women’s issues. Almost 10 years ago the AFNQL table established this women’s file. I currently co-chair that file for the AFNQL table, along with Chief Adrienne Jérôme from Lac Simon. Together, we work with the federal and provincial entities on many women’s issues.

Currently, in Quebec, we have well over 86 elected First Nations women to councils within the communities. In February 2018 we held a gathering of the Elected Women. We had well over 40 attendees. We had nine nations represented out of 10. It was an opportunity for elected women to voice their federal and provincial concerns and issues. We encourage. We empower. We look for young leadership coming up.

Many of our discussions in February impacted on the elected women who would stem from Bill S-3. We were concerned about membership and citizenship of the nation, as well as ending violence against Aboriginal women, murdered and missing women, housing, education and health. We had a wonderful opportunity with Minister Philpott who came to our workshop and addressed every question the women asked. She did not leave. She did not give us our 15 or 20 minutes, and then say, “I have to go.” She sat well over an hour and listened to the women. For some women, my goodness, it was an opportunity for them to voice their opinions, especially women from the North. I really appreciated that. ADM Gina Wilson from Status of Women provided another great opportunity.

I will take a look at our mandate and read a bit from the terms of reference that we created for Elected Women. The AFNQL Elected Women’s Council wishes to establish a gender balance perspective within the Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador Chiefs Table, First Nations communities in Quebec and within all entities dealing with First Nations that recognize, respect and uphold the role of women leadership.

The AFNQL Elected Women’s Council honours the rights, aspirations and responsibilities of First Nations women in positions of leadership in all levels of government. The AFNQL Elected Women’s Council is united in solidarity and speak with one voice regarding the importance of women as honourable members of society. We want to ensure our responsibility to defend and promote the rights and interests of the members we represent and our right to live in healthy, autonomous and violence-free communities.

The purpose of the AFNQL Elected Women’s Council is to communicate, unify and create healthy, harmonious communities through cultural identity and holistic cultural teachings based on respect, love, courage, wisdom, honesty, humility and truth. That is the purpose of our elected council, and as women we carry that forward.

Those are parts of our terms of reference. One of the biggest accomplishments of the women’s file was that our previous chiefs created a protocol agreement with Elected Women of AFN of Quebec and Labrador and with the circle of women in the Parliament of Quebec. As women to women we developed this protocol which was signed in 2015. We wish to share our experiences, realities, sensibilities and soft skills, all based on mutual respect, collaboration, openness and desire to learn. We face common, similar challenges as women and decision makers who are wise, passionate, working in the field and democratically elected to represent our communities. We have their current development and their future at heart. We wish to join forces and voices to be even better heard to act in the public realm on common issues while serving inclusive democracy and specific realities of the people we represent.

We, the Elected Women of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the circle of women in the Parliament of Quebec, agree to collaborate and act together to create lasting ties based on discussion and our common values of solidarity and to share a non-discriminatory equality of fairness, peace and social justice. On that day, we sealed the solidarity agreement and pledged to meet at least once a year for the well-being of our current communities and for those to come. I think that’s a fantastic protocol. As women to women we are multi-tasking and getting to hear our challenges and our issues, all for the betterment of our communities and the betterment of the people we are representing. When asked for nation to nation, I think Quebec surpassed that. The women are leading the charge in that dialogue by asking questions and having women-to-women discussions. It’s really important. With that, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my file at that table.

If you can allow me to wear my other hat, I would like to take a few minutes to share some words. I bring you greetings on behalf of Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. We extend our appreciation to the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony today. Akwesasne is a vibrant, progressive community located one hour south of here on the U.S.-Canada border, straddling the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and the state of New York. As a progressive community, it is a second large community in Canada by population and is the only Indigenous community in Canada impacted mainly by the international border.

The fostering of renewed relationships is a top priority for our council and our community. As a modern community, currently in self-government negotiations, we continue to forge ahead with modern day arrangements and agreements that respect and protect our rights as Mohawks of Akwesasne. Renewed relationships for Akwesasne must be built on principles of peace, power and righteousness, which are core principles of the Mohawks. Our community continues to work with the Government of Canada to embrace sustainability, self-determination, well-being and modernization.

To support these four pillars, a renewed fiscal relationship is vital to our collective success. The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is actively pursuing a 10-year grant-like contribution agreement with Indigenous Services Canada. As a measure to immediately support the sustainability of Akwesasne, it is our goal to have a direct fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, the same relationship as the provinces enjoy. Direct fiscal agreements with Canada will allow for a large progressive community like Akwesasne to leverage and plan for future expansion outside traditional contribution agreements. Expansion of our community is also a vital component of a renewed relationship. The current Additions to Reserve policies of the Indigenous prohibits communities from planning for future expansion.

In my role in Akwesasne I hold the government secretariat portfolio, which is all land claims. I sit where the ATR process is. No pun intended, but it’s like watching paint dry. I’ve been in council for nine years. I’ve been on this file for the last three years. We’ve made some progress. We’ve forged through our action plans, but it’s the bureaucracy we have to deal with. We have to take it back to Canada. We have to get the okay. We have to get the authorization to move it ahead. It’s time consuming.

We talk about the ATR. A community cannot reasonably plan to expand when the ATR process takes anywhere from five to 25 years. We already have an agreement with OPG that was settled back in 2008. This is 2018 and in November it will be 10 years. We still do not have those islands returned to us. You talk about policies, procedures and what we followed. Here is a policy, Canada, that I would love you to develop. It’s called JGIBA for “just give it back already.” Just give it back.

I really understand when we talk about truth and reconciliation. Truthfully, it’s time consuming. Truthfully, it’s time that we move forward. When we talk in negotiations about reconciliation it’s painful to hear people talk of Canada’s interest. We have to protect the best interest of Canada. We have to ensure that all the t’s are crossed, that all the i’s are dotted, and that policy procedure is followed to release Canada. When we talk about reconciliation that’s hurtful. I sat there and asked, “Who protected my interests, our community's interests, when you first took it?” The ATR process is painstaking. If you have any clue on how to expedite it quicker, like within three to six months, I will applaud Canada greatly, because we have two other land claims that we’re forging through. When we talk about land base and when we talk about developing our community, it’s quite difficult that we can’t get it into Additions to Reserve.

I’ve outlined briefly two vital components to renewed relationships with Canada. Land and resources are fundamental. They are essential to nation-to-nation relationships and our shared goal of reconciliation. The innovative work we are doing in Akwesasne is testimony to our ability to work with willing partners to meet our shared objectives and goals to improve the lives of our people.

Again, we are only an hour and 20 minutes away. Akwesasne extends the invitation to all and any to visit Akwesasne. You really have to see the process of what we go through and the questions asked every day when we travel as a community into Quebec, into New York State, back into Quebec, out of Quebec and into Ontario. It’s an everyday experience. I am sitting here with a Quebec licence and driving an American car because my husband works in the States. He’s an ironworker. He needs a travelling car. Within all the realms of Akwesasne — public safety, education or you name it — they are impacted by the border. I leave you with that.

I also have an email outlining every question on your card that I can leave with the clerk, if that’s permitted.

The Chair: Yes, absolutely.

Ms. Loran: It goes into more detail of your guidelines and whatnot. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much. We welcome the invitation, or at least I do. I know the committee has often talked about going to Akwesasne. You may know that a couple of years ago we did a special study on the border issues. The government actually appointed a special representative to look at it in order to get an identification card that was really compliant. I am not sure what is the outcome of that.

Ms. Loran: We’re still waiting.

The Chair: That was going to be my question.

Senator Tannas: Chief Picard and Chief Loran, thank you for being here and for your thoughtful presentations.

Chief Picard, I agree with your observation around the opportunity that is here right now. It’s historic with the government being so open and wanting to move forward. I also agree with your assessment that an enormous amount of risk comes with this as well. The opportunity is there with Indigenous people, and the opportunity is there with all Canadians right now. The opportunity turns into a large risk if failure happens. I believe there’s a lot at stake with all Canadians and their potential to give up if we don’t keep this moving in a positive way.

Your comments about the history have not been lost on us. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time on this study trying to get a clear-eyed understanding of the history. It was fascinating for me as somebody who was not informed of the history. It has been very helpful and will continue to be helpful as we move forward.

The nation-to-nation statement is at risk of becoming a slogan rather than something real. That’s what prompted us to move forward with this study to try to find some principles of a future perfect relationship. What are we striving for? What does it mean in the lives of real people? That’s why you heard the questions that we asked. If we can get some of those principles down and they’re clear, they’ll survive a single government mandate and can inform all governments in the future of what it is we’re trying to achieve. We really do appreciate your being here today.

I have one question on something I wanted to understand, Chief Picard. You mentioned in your presentation the multiple transformations imposed on national Indigenous organizations to render the provisions of the Indian Act obsolete one by one, without even involving the primary parties concerned.

What is that? It’s not coming to mind what you’re referring to there. Could you amplify?

Mr. Picard: I would say there are many answers to your question. To me, I guess it is reflected in my reality as a regional representative because we have 10 different nations in Quebec. Many of those communities have French as a second language or English as a second language. It’s the only region of the country to have that reality.

To me, as Indigenous peoples, we are always faced with a paradox in terms of how we see the relationship. What do we let go and what do we keep? The Indian Act falls into that category in the sense that many of our communities will say, “Where’s the garbage? That’s where that piece of paper belongs.” At the same time, you have communities that will say, “Once I do that, what is next?” Then comes the unknown or the uncertainty. That’s why we need to make an effort to find the proper conditions to guide any process that would see our people eventually moving away from the Indian Act and adhering to, I guess, a framework where they can find comfort.

It’s very important, especially in light of what you just said. Here we have an opportunity with the current government. We’ve always seen ourselves as representing a very fundamental issue that should be overlooking any partisanship. It’s on that basis we engage the current government. We tend to look beyond that. To me, it speaks a lot about our responsibility in always finding the winning conditions or the right conditions to engage in.

We also said, when this government was elected 2.5 years ago, that we have an obligation to remain vigilant about what it does and how it engages us. One example that comes to mind is the decision by the government to split the then Aboriginal Affairs in two and create two separate departments. Where were we? That’s the question. Although we welcomed the move, we asked where we were in that process. To me it’s very important. We can give a high five to this government on many fronts, but the question will always be: How serious are you in engaging our people from day one until the last day? To me, that’s really what is this part of our presentation.

We wanted to remain very general because, as I said, that relationship didn’t start 2.5 years ago. It goes much further into our common history. One of the first major treaties to be signed in this country was among almost 40 of our nations and the French back in 1701 on the Island of Montreal, or what is known now as Montreal. To me, you speak of the relationship today reflecting on that history as well.

It’s very important. I guess it’s a long-winded answer to your question, but I think it’s very important to capture that reality. I’ll close with something that says a lot about what we’re faced with as people. We said and you agreed that any engagement presents risks. To me, we have to be very careful with not making those expectations too high for our people. I attended a gathering within my own nation, the Innu nation, four or five years ago. One of the ladies asked, “When does this stop? When do we finally make it where we want to be as a people?” We’ve been at this for so many years. It is almost a century ago when in 1923 the first chief represented not only himself but his nation before the League of Nations. It didn’t start 2.5 years ago or five years ago. It has been ongoing for some time.

I reflect back to the question the lady asked me. In a way she raised the question but she knew the answer. It has to stop at some point. Otherwise, you just transfer the responsibility that we have, that we respect and that we accept to the next generations. I don’t think we are in a position to afford more time to our kids.

Senator Doyle: Being from Newfoundland and Labrador, I am naturally curious. Does your organization liaise with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, or do you liaise with the Government of Quebec?

I know you do with the federal government, but what is your connection, say, to the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Quebec? Do you meet regularly with them to seek help, advice or what have you? Is there any connection there at all?

Mr. Picard: It is important to note that this is probably the only Indigenous organizations in the country to claim a membership in two jurisdictions, Quebec and Labrador. To me, it is important to note as well that I am from the Innu Nation and we have two Innu communities on the Labrador side. The Innu language that I speak is well understood on the other side of the provincial border as well.

Basically, culturally and linguistically, in terms of our traditional way of life we’re the same people. The Innu on the Labrador side speak English, and I speak French as a second language. We decided as a regional body back in the early 1990s that it doesn’t make sense for us to be divided with this artificial line. I guess the Innu from Labrador felt more inclined to be part of our circle than other communities in the Maritimes. Basically, it’s a cultural and a linguistic reality.

The day to day is not that easy in the sense that you have two jurisdictions which may not see eye to eye on many fronts, especially when it comes to the relationship with Indigenous peoples. I know the Innu of Labrador only recently got the recognition that most of us have as Indigenous nations across the country. Chief Loran spoke about the ATR process. That process was long, as well, in terms of delivering what the Innu were expecting.

To get back to your question, the relationship is more a reality for us when it comes to Quebec than Labrador because the relationship between the Innu Nation of Labrador and the Government of Newfoundland really belongs to them. That doesn’t mean there are not shared concerns on many fronts.

Senator Doyle: How has the affirmation of sovereignty contributed to any of the things you were looking for in your areas of concern? Has the fact that you’ve declared an affirmation of sovereignty made any contribution?

Mr. Picard: The affirmation of sovereignty is really a political stand. At the same time, when it comes to using that as a basis for engagements with governments it’s a different story. It will remain part of what we feel are key principles. It’s really who we are, but understanding that when it comes to engagement with governments we might somewhat have to play it down. Otherwise, you don’t get anywhere and you can’t make progress.

This being said, at the same time this is very fundamentally based on lands and resources. I think both Chief Loran and I this morning spoke about the importance of lands and resources and access to them. I think it’s key. This is exactly what you don’t hear much about when it comes to building that nation-to-nation relationship.

Many of you will probably remember the constitutional conferences back in the early 1980s. Ultimately, my view is that the failure of the constitutional process really brought up a key element in that relationship in the fact that many of our Indigenous nations were stripped of their lands. This is very much still an issue today, 30 years later. To me, it’s very important to be in a position to reflect back to recent history as well, not the history of the last five centuries but what happened 40 or 50 years ago.

To me, the affirmation of sovereignty is something we always had but somehow we need to go back to that political stand to make sure we stand on a ground we feel comfortable with. Certainly, it’s the desire of our people as well to be able to reflect on that.

Senator McPhedran: As you likely know, we have heard previously from a wide range of experts who have talked about the role and the rule of law in the nation-to-nation building we are looking at with this committee. My question is really geared to a presentation that we had from Professor Val Napoleon from the University of Victoria’s Indigenous law research unit. When she was before us, Professor Napoleon said that we needed to work to develop a symmetrical relationship between Indigenous peoples in Canada, which includes Indigenous legal orders and Canadian legal orders, and that means rebuilding Indigenous law.

Some of the work that my team is doing right now relates to the role of clan mothers in Indigenous governance. I wonder if I could ask each of you for your thoughts on what role Indigenous laws and legal systems should play in the development of the new relationship between Canada and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. The second part of my question is if you could share your thoughts on specifically the role of Indigenous women in governance.

Mr. Picard: I’ll try to venture into a response. It’s a very interesting and very important question. To me, it speaks on one hand to the notion, or even sad reality, that in many ways the relationship is being defined through the courts. I look to the many cases that in a sense in making governments act in the way they should have many decades ago.

On another front, I go back to a recent example. This was with the previous government in Ontario. I think this was very recent; it was just a matter of a few weeks ago. An agreement was signed off between First Nations and the Government of Ontario regarding revenue sharing. I can’t remember exactly the region but this was strictly based on a number of First Nations within one region of Ontario. I think there are 130 communities, so maybe 25 to 30 communities would be impacted by this agreement. The agreement was also based on what you call the legal orders of those nations.

In many respects the concept is coming back and being taken into account. The whole issue and the whole debate around the many faces of the legal orders within our Indigenous communities has room to be expressed and even to be referred to. It’s just a matter of having the proper partner across the table to do that.

The parallel in our region of Quebec is that we have a lot of difficulties in finding ways to engage our government at this point because their view is so narrow. I look to the example of the agreement in Ontario. To me, it’s exactly what we would be seeking and searching for so that our people would find their comfort and their space.

Ms. Loran: Could you repeat the question?

Senator McPhedran: Sure. The gist of the question is to ask about Indigenous law, Indigenous legal orders and in particular the role of women. I mentioned that my team is in the midst of some interviews and exploration about clan mothers and the re-emergence of clan mothers in Indigenous governance.

I referenced a specific conclusion that Professor Val Napoleon made when she appeared before us and talked about the need to rebuild Indigenous law. My question was really around the rebuilding of Indigenous law, the alignment between Indigenous law and orders and the colonial that we currently live under.

Then there was a second part to my question specific to the role of women as you see it. I guess I would ask for an ideal scenario, from your perspective, in terms of the role of women in Indigenous governance.

Ms. Loran: I will refer back to our terms of reference in what we have developed collectively. Our objectives are to ensure a gender equitable society for all First Nations communities; legal rights to registration for all First Nations women regardless of place of residency; and the promotion of safety, security and well-being for First Nations women, children, youth and elders. We encompass the sense of a clan system. It’s not out there. We want to increase the number of First Nations women elected as chiefs; advocate on women’s involvement in education, training, leadership skills, employment opportunities and economic development; and bring forth declarations and issues on First Nations women, children and youth.

There is a sense of the alignment you were talking about because we are the nurturing factor. I come from a society where I don’t mix the two. That’s just my personal view. Spiritual and traditional leadership rights belong on one side. I do not speak of that. I am an elected official. I am elected just like any of you. I hold a different realm so I don’t mix words like clan. I see a place, and that’s just my opinion. I see where it is, and it is not in an elective system.

We have leadership. We have the National Council of Chiefs. They withhold all of that system. They have the clan system. They have a process of how they do their governance, and it’s very traditional. I don’t like to mix the two, but I do like the concepts of what we bring together for women in leadership, in addressing all those interests, and in empowering and ensuring because we’re passionate. We’re passionate about what we want to do for our community, our children, our youth and our future. It’s there. It’s parallel but personally I don’t like to come out and say that. I find there’s a different avenue.

As we always say, there are two boats: one canoe and one ship. I tend to want to stay in my canoe.

Senator McPhedran: I have a clarification to make, if I may. With every government in every set of negotiations on any issue related to Indigenous rights and sovereignty, we have seen that the Indigenous women’s organizations have been excluded from the table. Do you have any observation on that? Is that model the way to go forward?

Mr. Picard: The answer I can provide to your question is really based on our reality as a region. We understand that different regions across the country may be faced with different realities. When we made the last attempt at reforming the Constitution back in 1992, which gave way to the Charlottetown Accord, our table took a position then because those issues were so major. They had important impact in our communities. Some of the chiefs from our table, including the Grand Chief of the Akwesasne at the time took a position that, in order to be a better representative, our circle had to expand so as to include our young people, the elders and the women. We took a position at the time that everyone would have a seat at the table.

I guess a difference could be added to that. On one hand you’re a chief whether you’re a man or a woman. You’re voted as a representative of your community. In the case of the women’s organizations, they have more of a separate mandate to respond or act on priorities determined by a specific group of people. They have a voice at the table along with the other chiefs or grand chiefs. That is where we as a region stand. Out of all the elected officials within our communities, maybe I would say a good third of them are women, although the population of women in our communities is much higher.

Strictly looking at it from a community perspective, I know of at least two communities within our region that have taken the decision to ensure parity, equality between women and men within their councils. There are equal numbers of elected women and men.

Ultimately it starts from the base and eventually it has the potential of influencing how we do business at the regional level. It’s a very important topic in issue which is still very much debated. How do we ensure our practices of today? How our history is reflected in our practices today is very important because there are traditional roles for both men and women. The Hood in Shawnee in the Mohawk Nation is one example. It doesn’t mean it applies to other nations because we have different histories.

Senator Christmas: Thank you, chiefs, for taking the time to be with us this morning.

Chief Loran, I really appreciate your invitation of visiting your community, which is the second largest one.

Ms. Loran: Perhaps this afternoon.

Senator Christmas: I was going to say that given the close proximity of your community we should really consider making it an early visit. I would encourage that, chief.

I would like to extend my congratulations to AFNQL for establishing the Elected Women’s Council. You had a very successful gathering just recently. That is certainly a shining example of participation by all of our people. Congratulations on that.

I appreciate your comments about the ATR process, chief. It really doesn’t square with the whole nation-to-nation concept. I was thinking to myself what if Parliament enacted a piece of legislation that gave a six-month time limit on the ATR process. That would just drive the bureaucrats wild, but I think it might be a possible solution.

Chief Picard, forgive me for doing this, but you’ve made perhaps one of the clearest statements on nation to nation that I’ve heard so far. I’ve been on this committee now for about 18 or 19 months. I want to repeat it. It’s on the bottom of page 2 of the English draft and it’s the last line where Chief Picard says that we need true respect, true cooperation and partnership, equality in all government systems and an equal opportunity to flourish in our territories, to exercise our rights and customs, to speak our languages, and to be considered as allies and not as victims. I thank you for that statement.

I have two questions for you, Chief Picard. Again, this is all in the context of the government’s efforts to establish or define what a nation-to-nation concept should look like. At the end of your statement you mention that the 1969 white paper policy is back on the agenda. Could you elaborate and expand on why you think that is true?

Mr. Picard: Again, there are probably many answers to that question. One example that comes to mind is the whole issue of the membership or citizenship, if you will, of any particular nation.

We’re caught in a situation where this government will freely register whoever comes knocking at their door. To me, it sets a very dangerous precedent. There are many opinions across the country. I read an article the other day that states within three, four or five decades we’ll have no more First Nations in this country. You have to dig up the ideology that set the white paper back in 1969 and what the administration of the day was ultimately trying to achieve. The whole reference to the white paper of 1969 is an open-ended question. To me, that’s where you have to evaluate or analyze every move that this government makes. It really falls back to the object of our criticism in the sense that unless we’re at the table we fall victim to the kinds of criticisms we have, which in my view are justified. Is the goal really to find the easy way out of the Indian problem? The colonial mentality is still at play.

With all due respect, I sit with ministers and we can have good conversations; but we’re having great difficulty today coming to terms on the issue of education. I can meet with Minister Philpott. There’s a meeting scheduled potentially for next week. We’re faced with very difficult situations. To me, it speaks a lot about the kind of leverage bureaucrats have and how much freedom they have to set conditions that may not be suitable for our peoples. A lot of that speaks to the reality of today. At the end of the day, who pays for this? Who carries that weight? It’s our people, the communities, the men and women, and especially the young people.

When this government came to power 2.5 years ago, we were happy. We had gone through a decade of a very difficult political situation, although we always understand and accept the fact that we will engage with any government that is there. At the same time, we’re obligated to remain vigilant and ready to question if we need to.

That’s why there was a reference to the white paper. It is almost 50 years ago, but it’s still very fresh in the minds of many of our peoples. That’s why they pay attention to what goes on.

Senator Christmas: I have one more question. Again it’s in relation to the nation-to-nation relationship.

You mentioned your relationship with the Province of Quebec that is imposing a system of dependencies on First Nations. Could you expand on that statement as well?

Mr. Picard: On February 14 you had that big statement from the Prime Minister Trudeau on a framework for the recognition and implementation of rights. Our table happened to be in a meeting with our chiefs during that same week, so we met with Minister Bennett the next day after the announcement. That process didn’t say much on how the provinces and territories conditioned through the process. It is not Canada; it is the provinces. On the whole issue of lands and resources, the context has changed over time. As I said in our statement, Indigenous affairs were part of forestry and mining back in the day. That’s how close our reality was to the lands and resources. Somehow, somewhere that relationship changed and gave us the reality of today.

On many fronts regarding lands and resources, we knock on Quebec’s door because they have that responsibility. They determine how consultation happens. They determine when it happens. They determine whether it should happen. They are far away from any notion regarding free, prior and informed consent. They are not even close to Bill C-262 or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We have totally different realities. On one hand we have the federal government that is at least committed to keeping the dialogue going. Then we have a Quebec government that really determines its own rules along the way. It’s also important to note that the political landscape in Quebec has many different faces. I spoke about historic treaties. We don’t speak much about them. We should. Quebec doesn’t speak to them. It doesn’t even acknowledge their existence.

You have modern day treaties with three nations — the Inuit, the Cree and the Naskapi — which set conditions or obligations for governments in Canada and Quebec. Then you have the others of which my nation is part. The Quebec government doesn’t even consider the sovereignty of their Indigenous title to the land to be a basis to properly engage unless you sign an agreement with them. An example is the current context regarding cannabis. I know Quebec is just days away from adopting its own legislation, Bill 157. What you have in there is article 56, which really sets a process in place for Quebec to enter into agreements with communities. This is a provincial bill and a provincial law when adopted of general application. There is no special consideration for Indigenous peoples unless you live by the conditions set out by this particular article in the bill.

When it comes to the nations that have agreements, they already know which way to go. Those conditions are already set and the obligations on the part of both Canada and Quebec are very clear. Unless we find that level playing ground with Quebec, we will always find ourselves in a situation of reaction rather than being considered as we consider ourselves.

Senator McCallum: When leaders share with us their information, I get to learn so much from you. Thank you for that.

I want to speak about your introduction. You said that reflection was important and that when we looked at our history as Indigenous people we always practised sober second thought. That involves not only minutes or hours but also days or weeks of people talking about issues that are very dear and dire, which I think it is in this state. I agree we have relegated it to two hours, but I don’t know how we can come back to discussions through a process of reflection to come to an agreement on how to move forward on this together.

I am jumping all over the place. I am not as well spoken as many of the senators who have been here longer than I have. I am learning. The process we’re going through is grounded on lateral and vertical violence that seems to be a foundation of the relationship between First Nations and government. This violence is through the rule of law, the law of general application, and the action of unilateralism, a faction of government and how the Indian problem came about. As I look at what happens, any progress made by First Nations toward self-government seems to be co-opted by new government coming in, and there continues to be a further reproduction of systems of dependencies that continue to harm and to destroy.

I looked at the statement you made when you said that you looked at fixing everything within a political mandate that had a fixed duration and culminated in the fall of 2019. Also you said that it was impossible to fit self-government into one electoral mandate where it had a chance to succeed. When I look at all of this, part of the problem is that we’re halfway out of our customs and halfway into Canadian customs when we look at the process of elections. It’s very difficult. It’s almost like an intergenerational mixture of colonization into our lives. It’s not only through the residential schools. We are so mixed up that I get discouraged a lot.

What are your recommendations to entrench the process of self-government without being co-opted by new governments so that it gives you leverage that would raise you to a minister’s level or even above a minister? I think chiefs are above ministers and the system gives ministers the power to overpower chiefs.

You don’t have to answer today. I know it’s a big problem. Perhaps you want to write to us about it. What would be your recommendations so that at least we’re grounded in something and then we can move forward from there?

Mr. Picard: When we accepted your invitation we didn’t have in mind making recommendations. I feel that this is a dialogue. It’s a conversation that we are having and should have had years ago. The basis of all of this is acknowledgment and respect between ourselves, the institution that you represent and the reality that we represent.

Speaking about the need for us to find our place and to find comfort, I’ll take one example of my sister and her nation. In their history and tradition they have the great law of peace. Chief Loran will correct me, but I believe this law has to be recited every so often. It’s not a matter of an hour or two; it’s a matter of days. There needs to be an acknowledgment by the state of our practices.

How do we find a middle ground where we can say we didn’t compromise, you didn’t compromise, but rather we found a comfort level or zone that sets out the conditions for engagement? No matter who is at the table, no matter what are their stripes or their colour, it has always been a very important responsibility of ours to engage them in light of that diversity. Otherwise, you’re passive and accept the reality as it presents itself. That reality is not right. That is what needs to change.

You’re right that it is a very broad discussion to be had. Many of the realities are not well known by governments. If anybody said, even 30 or 40 years ago, that we would have before Parliament a bill recognizing the right for our people to gain back their dignity through what we have today, Bill C-262 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, nobody would have believed it because the situation of that day is what played out.

Under the former prime minister, we finally managed to bring him to the table back in January 2012. I was privileged enough to chair that meeting, along with a member of Parliament at that time, with 200-plus participants, ministers, members of Parliament and chiefs. As I was chairing the meeting, not very far from Prime Minister Harper was also a member of Parliament from the Innu Nation to whom I could speak in my language. If I had told my mother then that this would be the reality of today, she would have said, “You’re crazy.” This is the kind of history that we’re building together. Everybody understands that we cannot rewrite history, but we can certainly do better today so that the new chapter we’re starting will be a thing to remember in the future. This is our challenge.

There are many elements to your very interesting question. Also it’s a very interesting observation because you get to pick different things from the relationship that extends beyond the current government and extends beyond the last century. It starts from day one, when contact was made 100 years ago and they said, “You were discovered. You were conquered. Accept it.” That principle doesn’t fly anymore. The whole notion of discovery is a thing of the past. This is what I see.

We have an obligation to remain optimistic and positive because there are young people behind us. At the same time we must remain in that fighting mode because it’s always there and it’s far from being perfect. This goes back to the comment I made earlier about the Innu woman saying, “Okay, when do we get there?”

It’s very important to look back to many of our communities. A lot of people are asking the same questions. Are we always going to be in that aggressive mode, always pointing fingers and always being on the defensive? When does that change? When do we feel happy and less grumpy? This goes back to the comment by Senator Christmas earlier in terms of that right definition for the nation-to-nation relationship.

It’s really to be in a position to compare with your municipal neighbour and say, “I have the same capacity so the playing field is levelled.” I am okay with that. I can concentrate on how to plan the future. It speaks about the fact that the society around us is there and we’re here. Why are we there? It is because we need 80,000 homes tomorrow morning to achieve the balance that every Canadian enjoys.

I could speak about health issues and social services. On many fronts, still today in 2018, we are finding ourselves in a catch-up situation. Unless we reach that goal, there’s always work and challenges ahead of us. We take them on because it is our duty and it’s our responsibility.

It’s a long-winded answer to your question because it’s a broader discussion to me. I don’t think we can limit ourselves to the two hours that we have this morning. Hopefully it will be ongoing from here on.

Senator McCallum: I want to talk about the comment you made about the institution I represent.

I want to say that I applied for this position and I feel I represent First Nations, Metis and Inuit before the institution. I think I came here to see how this institution could be changed so that it would better look after the reality of Canadians today and not 150 years ago. I wanted to make that comment.

My second question is mainly to myself and to challenge people. Why are we talking about self-government when policy will wipe us out in 20 years? It’s crazy. I don’t know if you want to comment on that.

Mr. Picard: Very briefly, sure. I am not going to say that is defeatist, but this is the challenge we have. Every morning when I wake up I say, “What does my day look like?” There’s always something waiting for me or for us to react to. Let’s make it interesting or worth while for the people in our communities because that’s really our purpose. At least that’s how I look at mine.

It really goes back to your earlier comment about the institution. There’s not much fear today of being part of it. Some 20 years ago, everyone knew the saying,“ If you can’t beat them, join them.” Today, I believe the institution has more respect for the reality we represent. I say, with all due respect, that you come here as who you are, where you come from, along with your history and your reality. That’s the beauty of the opportunity provided to us.

There are many different ways to look at the result of this engagement. What is the outcome? What does it look like? Back in the Charlottetown days in 1992, we had many discussions on many different fronts. I remember then Premier Ghiz of P.E.I. said, “Why don’t we look at renewing the treaty relationship with a treaty that would comprise everyone, not only those nations on the treaty but every nation? Let’s make a treaty that will respect and reflect the treaties of the early 1900s, but let’s look at it as the relationship today.” It covered some interest at the time, but obviously it didn’t go far enough to be adopted as a measure.

I will go back to another comment. “We have the Commons and the Senate. Why don’t we have an Indigenous house within that framework? There is a library in the Parliament Buildings. Let’s take out those books and have the Indigenous house in there.” Of course, it didn’t fly or we would have had it today.

This is where it becomes a very interesting challenge to find the proper way to agree on the parameters of the relationship, again making sure our peoples are able to find themselves or recognize themselves in whatever outcome or recipe we agree on.

Senator Pate: Thanks to both of you chiefs for joining us and for your information, and to my colleagues for the expansive discussion we’ve had so far.

I’d like to focus in particular on some areas where there is some potential, almost immediately, for self-governance to take effect in the criminal justice context. If I am being shortsighted or misunderstanding, Chief Picard in particular, I know you’ll correct me; but I take note that there are already provisions. Many communities have justice committees. Many communities have developed their own models. The legislation, certainly at the federal level, that governs prisoners serving two years or more anticipated a process whereby Indigenous communities would take control over Indigenous prisoners and parolees by some provisions in those pieces of legislation.

It seems very difficult to decolonize those committees and those processes. I am curious if there are ways. I appreciate the invitation; I would love to come to Akwesasne to talk about how to decolonize the justice system.

Are there mechanisms that would be helpful or recommendations from this committee that would be helpful? Are there processes that you see standing in the way? I see significant policies developed by the bureaucracies that limit the legislation including the financial arrangements. If you care to comment on that, I’d be interested.

Clearly we know, with the overrepresentation of Indigenous men, women and children in particular in that escalating order, having those resources in your communities might mean something very different, not just for those individuals or particularly the young people, but for all people in your communities.

Ms. Loran: That’s not my portfolio, but I would be very happy to connect you with Chief Connie Lazore, as that is her portfolio and she is very passionate about justice and what they’re moving forward. We have many laws in Akwesasne. We have a court. We’re trying to get its jurisdiction recognized and the jurisdiction. We have our own MRP law. We have many laws logged and accepted by what I still refer to as still INAC.

Yes, I so totally agree that I will be very happy, when you come to visit, to give you a one on one, on the whole justice department, what we’ve accomplished and the hurdles.

Akwesasne has the unique opportunity to sit at two tables in Quebec and Ontario. I get to see how both provinces work. In some sense Quebec has prevailed in a lot of areas and has shortcomings in other areas. Then I look at Ontario and they’re way above. For Akwesasne, we need a multi-jurisdictional table. We constantly need to have Ontario, Quebec and the federal government there because Quebec won’t come unless the federal government is there.

I get to see through both windows how the provinces and the feds work. We’ve come over many of the hurdles. We have our own Quebec protocol agreement with the Government of Quebec. We have our federal protocol. We are working on our Ontario one. It’s very frustrating, disheartening and disappointing to see those areas where we’re trying to accomplish what we need to get done with Akwesasne because of our unique challenges.

We talk about medicinal marijuana and cannabis. We’re landlocked. It is still banned in New York State. We cannot carry it across. I believe we had Health Canada and INAC. We even invited U.S. Customs to talk about medical marijuana, prescriptions and everything. The U.S. border was like, “No way is that coming through. It’s prohibited. It’s still a federally categorized Schedule I drug. It will not come through.”

When we talk about cannabis, that impacts us because we have to do that transit. Yes, you’re more than welcome to make that connection with our justice department.

Mr. Picard: I don’t really have much to add because we don’t have a justice responsibility per se as a regional circle or table. We very much rely on key experiences such as the one in Akwesasne or Kahnawake. There are only a few. I know the Cree Nation in Quebec is getting into that area. This is still very recent, although they signed an agreement 40 years ago. Their process of feeding that self-government notion is taking time. I was privileged enough to be there in the early stages of the agreement, back in the mid-1970s. I had a first-hand opportunity to look at that. In many ways the Cree nation is privileged in terms of making sure that their institutions are a reflection of a good mixing of their own traditional values and the more contemporary values of the justice system.

It’s going to take time. We all understand there’s too high a percentage of our peoples in jails across the country. We need to find a way to reverse that. We all know that there are determinants as well in order for that to be achieved. On the issue of the social context that many of our people find themselves in, in communities and outside once they move to the urban centres, it is like there’s something that just follows our people. They’re still caught in cycles of poverty whether they’re in the community or outside.

There are many questions. I don’t think justice can be looked at as one unique item because there are too many determinants that affect how we’re in a position or not in a position to change the course of things with regard to justice. You’re right that it’s self-government, but it goes beyond that as well. It’s for our people to have the opportunity to really create their own institutions. Article 20 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples speaks to the right of our people to be in a position to develop and maintain their own institutions.

It will require time, but let’s find a way to get our people out of jails. It is totally unacceptable that there are more women from our nations in jails. We all have to realize that it’s a big challenge. There is a lot of work ahead of us. It follows what Chief Loran was saying. It goes with making sure the jurisdictions we deal with on a daily basis understand as well. Sometimes it’s good with Quebec; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s good with Ontario; sometimes it’s not. We have to establish the ground we need to stand on.

Senator Pate: I have a supplementary question. Many communities aren’t actually told about the existing provisions that allow for funding arrangements. You just mentioned women. We know from the most recent Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that they couldn’t get the information from Correctional Service of Canada, but we know that more than half of the women classified as maximum security and in segregated units are Indigenous women. Their estimates are that it’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6,000 per year.

One of the issues for some communities we’ve had the opportunity to talk to was about what they could do with those resources, even if they had half of them for even two or three of those women, and how they could benefit the entire community. Taking your comment that it’s much broader, the social determinants of health are also the determinants of criminality often in terms of how they get translated.

There are opportunities. Just as an offer, then, are there ways that we could be assisting to ensure the knowledge is getting out to your communities? In my experience before coming here, that information was not being shared. Most communities don’t even know about the opportunities to challenge and get those funding arrangements.

Senator Tannas: I have a couple things that I wanted to ask about. Chief Loran, you mentioned in your presentation that provincial powers were essentially what you were focused on when you looked at self-government. I always think of provincial powers as being around education, health, policing, all of the municipal stuff and social assistance. Intellectually, that all makes sense. That’s what you need in a smaller territory, if you will. That’s why we have 10 provinces, and shrinking it further down all makes sense.

We’ve heard lots about the fact that we now have a majority of Indigenous people who no longer live in Indigenous communities. Chief Picard, you talked about this as well. When is it that we get to a tipping point when all of a sudden individual rights and benefits become more important than the community and make it that much more an impossible or difficult task to find a way forward that benefits everyone and gets everyone moving toward a future that meets, quite rightly, the nice bold sentence in Chief Picard’s presentation?

I’ve asked this question of a number of people. How do we square the issue of individual rights and benefits? If we get to revenue sharing and we get to all of these things, we all know that individuals will all of a sudden say, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t all just go to the community. I am a member of that community, although I don’t live there. Where are my benefits, and how does this work?”

Can you provide any wisdom on that looming situation and how you view it?

Ms. Loran: Akwesasne is very fortunate. Akwesasne has their own membership code, so we determine who are members. I did bring up the issue with the ATR process. If we had the land base, our community members wouldn’t have to be. We are a large community. We’re 10,000-plus. Maybe 20 per cent of our community members live off reserve because there’s no housing. There’s no rental. Many kids are still living at home with their parents because there’s no land base on which to build. Addressing that and having the Additions to Reserve and land base returned, we can start planning.

We have a comprehensive community plan within our community. We went to every house and school system for the little ones to the elders. We developed a plan. That’s what our priorities are and what we focus on when our council comes into term.

We are reviewing our membership code. I feel that it should be more pertinent to the community. If you are tied to a community but you’ve never been to the community, some feel that you’ll never build on the community because there’s no land to build on but you want to receive the services. In our review we really need to look at these individuals. They should come and know the community and its history first. They should spend time in the community. They should volunteer in the community. They should be one of the community before even being granted a membership.

Senator Tannas: That’s where this situation would get solved, if you will. It would be more and more having communities determine who are their members and that rights and entitlements come with that membership.

Ms. Loran: Yes, that’s how it’s handled at Akwesasne.

Senator Tannas: I understand.

Mr. Picard: If I understand your comment and question, it’s also an issue of the balance between individual and collective rights. It’s a very important notion. I look at the example of my nation. Traditionally, their cycle was based on seasons. They would come to the shores of the St. Lawrence during the summer months and then go back inland for the fall, winter and spring. This was their cycle.

This is where the notion of collective rights gets its whole sense. That was drastically transformed over time, up to a point where our people felt that whatever parcel of land they spend their winter on is theirs. There are conflicts regarding certain notions regarding ownership. You’re completely right in saying that a lot of our people today are moving out and are trying to make a life, in their own right, for themselves outside the community for a number of reasons. Ultimately, it’s a question of choice, but maybe it’s maybe a question of having no choice but to look at this last resort option.

What we see elsewhere in Canada might not be the reality because we still have a number of our peoples living in our communities. That being said, it also speaks to the capacity for our peoples to remain who they are, no matter where they are. I am an Innu person, but does that mean once I put a foot outside the reserve that I am not? It touches on the issue of portability of rights, portability of who you are, your identity. To me, it’s very important.

Perhaps four years ago, if not more, I recall the whole issue of Attawapiskat came up. In Canada it seems we are reminded on a regular basis of our challenges, which is really an issue of relationship as well. It’s always very brutal. At Davis Inlet, almost 20 years ago, our kids were sniffing gas At Attawapiskat I remember a former prime minister saying at the time, “I have the solution; they should move down south.” It’s easily said, but at the same time it really tries to evacuate people from the reality in which they live. This is a very important question as well.

It touches on the whole issues of membership and citizenship. The first and more important condition should be that you live by the rules if you’re a member of a nation or a community. You have obligations. Anybody entering Canada from any country around the globe comes into this country with a number of conditions before they become Canadian citizens. I don’t know why it should be different for us. There is the whole issue of language, for instance. Are you going to come into a nation and do what is needed to promote the language? That could be one example.

There are many aspects to your question. They’re all very important. In conclusion, how do we find the balance between individual and collective rights? The concept of collective rights had a meaning 50 years ago. It does not have the same meaning today. There’s a good challenge for us to find that balance. Although that concept may not carry the weight it once did, it’s still very important and needs to be respected.

Senator Tannas: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you very much to our witnesses this morning, Chief Karen Loran and Chief Ghislain Picard. You’ve provided the committee with some very informative and illuminating commentary.

With regard to following up with a visit to Akwesasne, that sounds very intriguing. Certainly there are a couple of issues that the committee could follow up on from our past work on border issues and on Additions to Reserve. I really appreciate your commentary on that, Chief Loran.

The “just give it back already” policy that we should be developing is a wonderful thing to remember. I think a visit to your community would be very insightful because you’re already struggling with how to bring to the table the provinces and the federal government. That may help us as we move forward.

(The committee adjourned.)