Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 26 - Evidence, April 20, 1999 (morning meeting)
OTTAWA, Tuesday, April 20, 1999
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:15 a.m. to
examine and report upon aboriginal self-government.
Senator Charlie Watt (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: Honourable senators, our first witness this morning is Judge
Linton Smith, who will be making a presentation on the question of governance
issues in relation to justice matters.
The Honourable Chief Judge Linton J. Smith, Provincial Court of Saskatchewan:
Honourable senators, it is an honour to have this opportunity to enter into
discussion with you. I am impressed by the format. I wish to take a few minutes
to set out my orientation to this issue and then spend most of the time in
dialogue and answering questions. I think that would be the wisest approach.
As is my practice when I deal with matters touching aboriginal affairs, I talk
to an elder before I do something like this because I have learned over a great
number of years to respect their wisdom and to be guided by it.
When I was getting ready to come to Ottawa, I stopped on the Piapot Nation,
which is not for far from where I live, and asked one of the residents what I
should do. He gave me some suggestions but said that when you talk to people
about things you have learned from elders it is important to acknowledge the
source of wisdom. He then said that if you say something stupid, you are on your
own. Do not blame an elder for that. He said he knew that this is difficult for
us, but if we could say something funny once in a while, it would be a wise
thing to do. As those of you who share an aboriginal background know, humour in
that community is a wonderful thing.
If I could leave one message with you, as a person who has had a good deal of
experience within sentencing circles working at a grassroots level, it would be
that you should not be afraid of the recommendations one finds in the
Aboriginal Peoples Interim Report on Justice and elsewhere, even though they
may seem a little novel to the ears of many people who have been raised in
European-based justice traditions. In my respectful view, not only do some of
the approaches aboriginal elders in communities share with us work, in the
context of aboriginal justice, they could help to make what I believe is the
best justice system in the world even better and more just. The message is that
these things work and they offer something very broad and exciting.
My judicial experience or justice experience with First Nations people is
largely confined to the use of sentencing circles in a limited way. I am told
by the aboriginal court workers that I have now been in more sentencing circles
than any other individual in the world. I consider that a singular honour, but
I have not done the counting myself. If I am wrong, I apologize. However, I
believe that the healing approach to justice, which is the centrepiece of the
sentencing circle, is valid in other contexts and in other justice endeavours,
such as the peacemakers you have read about in the Aboriginal Peoples Interim
Report on Justice and others. I could go into more detail if there are
questions in that area.
If you are like me, you will probably have a certain amount of scepticism about
the effectiveness of the healing approach as opposed to the way we have been
trained over the centuries to do justice in our courtrooms.
I understand that you are terminating the first stage of your study earlier than
you intended. Although I do not have the authority of any First Nation to do
this, I am 250 per cent confident that if I invite you to come to Saskatchewan,
I can assure you that you will be seen in the First Nations community as you
ought to be -- as the highest form of elder. You will know that "elder"
is not necessarily a term that applies to old people. It has more to do with
wisdom and the confidence that the rest of the community places in you. I am
satisfied that if I offer to take you into a sentencing circle and have you
participate as elders, that this would not only be welcomed by the communities
in Saskatchewan, but would be welcomed heartily and enthusiastically. You would
not only find the experience instructive in terms of learning at the front
ranks about the concepts of justice in the healing approach of the sentencing
circles, but you would also thoroughly enjoy the experience. I would be very
happy to make arrangements for any or all of you to participate in a sentencing
circle, either with myself or one of the other judges in Saskatchewan. Let me
know through your clerk if I can do that.
You have my paper, and I should like to apologize in advance. When I read it
again last night, I found a number of typos in it. My son and I took a holiday
on the West Coast of the United States and I typed as he drove the car.
As you will have noticed from my report, the keystone in developing a
self-government approach to justice issues is for us to rely on the approach
that our aboriginal and non-aboriginal forefathers came to when they crafted
the treaties. If ever there were a declaration that two people would act in
partnership to do something, it is that declaration at the end of Treaty No. 4.
There are no doubt similar provisions in all of the treaties.
The baseline is the development of partnership. This means that in considering
the issue of self-government in the justice area, we must put special emphasis
on two things. First, we must emphasize the extensive consultations that are
necessary to make the justice system at both the procedural and the substantive
levels a partnership; and, second, the progress we have made to employ
aboriginal people within the justice system must be extended from tokenism to
extensive partnership. Those approaches are absolutely critical.
Other issues are important, such as the need for cross-cultural training,
particularly for non-aboriginal people working in the justice system, but the
important factors are extensive consultation and employment.
I wish to summarize what needs to be done at two levels of discussion; first, at
the procedural level and, second, at the substantive level with respect to
procedures in situations where there is an admission of guilt.
I cannot do more than endorse what has been recommended in the report of the
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. However, I am unclear as to how those
recommendations will be put into place. It seems to me that although the
commission was cautious about the patchwork-quilt approach to each community
addressing its issues, I do not know that there is an alternative.
Many communities are apprehensive about moving in these areas, while others are
not. Mechanisms for development in this area must not only be enabling but
encouraging as well. One area where our system fails is in encouraging the
development of some of the initiatives that could take place at the local and
We must first provide incentives, including financial incentives. First, they
must include incentives to the communities. However, they must also include
incentives, particularly during the transitional period, to other actors within
the justice system. There is no incentive at present for a judge, police
officer, probation officer, prosecutor, defence counsel or anyone else to become
involved in some of these things, and that is not the way it ought to be.
Second, it is important that we develop a climate where the non-aboriginal
community is seen to be supporting these innovations. More importantly, we must
come to genuinely understand, respect, admire and thereby become truly
supportive of these kinds of things, developing the mechanisms that I have
attempted to discuss in my paper and which are more broadly discussed in the
Finally, the community's readiness must be respected. In my experience in
southern Saskatchewan, different communities have entirely different approaches
as to how local justice initiatives should take place. Different communities
have different philosophical orientations. Within communities there are
Spirituality plays a role. However, I hasten to say that spirituality does not
take place within the justice event, but it is terribly important before and
after the judicial process and on a personal level with each individual who
participates. Even at that level, there are several spiritual approaches, from
fundamentalist Christian through the whole range of different varieties of
Christianity to, increasingly and more broadly, traditional aboriginal
spirituality and links between that and understanding justice in an ongoing and
longer historical context. That is important to understand and support.
The report encounters more difficulty when it comes to dealing with a situation
where there has not been an admission of guilt. The key to the solution is
accepting the partnership approach that the treaty defined 125 years ago.
A man named Harold told me in a meeting, "You may think that this justice
system that you have here is fair and just. No doubt you are trying to make it
so. But to an outsider coming in, it looks like a system imposed by an army of
occupation, not by two peoples who had agreed under a sacred treaty to live as
brothers in this land."
He pointed to many factors, and I listed the four that I can remember in my
brief. He pointed out that all of the courts are in white communities and,
incidentally, at this time most of the accused persons are from reserves. He
said, "That does not look fair. You may make it fair, but it does not look
To address this problem, at the trial level there could be a system of courts
administered at either the local or regional level by aboriginal people,
aboriginal nations and communities, and they could be tied into a unified
system through the appeal processes. Or there could be a system of courts that
are designated as aboriginal at the trial level. Or the current system could be
modified so that there are as many courts on reserves as there are in
non-reserve communities. Whichever option is chosen, one must pay careful
attention to the consultations and the approaches that underpin the courts so
that they truly represent that kind of partnership.
In the courts that have moved onto the reserves, I have seen some interesting
evolutions. On Okanese and Carry the Kettle, where I sat until recently, we no
longer sit in the traditional way; we sit in a circle. On Okanese, the chief
and council have decided that, to render the proceedings official in everyone's
minds, not only should the traditional people for the purposes of court sit in
the circle, but that an elder selected by the community should as well. This is
to show the community that the court belongs to everyone. That is something we
failed to do in the past.
You will see those kinds of changes, and we should be open to them. When
everyone sits in a circle, appearing to be on the same level, and when the
judge wears the leather regalia with which the community presented the court at
its opening, for the purposes of presiding over the court, it makes it easier
for people to represent their point of view, particularly when they are accused.
Being in court is not easy for anyone, but particularly for one who is not
comfortable in the system. This will tend to deal with that, over time. The
community option is important.
On the substantive law, I attempted in my paper to summarize the debate which I
hear often, from some very learned people in the aboriginal community, that the
criminal law of Canada does not, ought not, and is only made by immoral people
to apply to aboriginal people. I believe that they have a legitimate criticism.
I believe that there has not been, in the area of developing criminal law, the
kind of consultation to which I believe we are committed under the treaties. By
the same token -- and this is important to all the other areas of your work
with respect to self-government -- there are a significant number of areas in
which there should be legislation at the reserve level, both quasi-criminal and
non-criminal. Those would include fishing, hunting, elections, marriage,
divorce, adoption, alcohol on reserves, and citizenship to aboriginal nations.
One must wonder whether most of the parts of section 92 of the Constitution Act
might apply to a significant degree in terms of consultation or actual
legislation at the reserve level. I encourage that because I think it is
important, not only to accomplish the partnership approach to justice about
which I spoke earlier, but also to deal with the increasingly loud and angry
criticism, that legislation ought not be made for Indian people on reserves by
anyone other than First Nations people.
I would be very honoured to answer questions.
Senator Chalifoux: Thank you very much for your presentation. I am very
interested in the improvements and advancements that have been made in
Saskatchewan justice circles as compared to Alberta. I have been involved in
aboriginal justice circles almost from the beginning. I am on the National
Aboriginal Elders Advisory Committee to the RCMP and to "K" Division,
which is in Alberta.
As you have said, justice circles work in some communities, but other
communities are not ready for them, and that is very important. I have read
that in Saskatchewan a sentence imposed by a justice circle was appealed by the
Crown. There was disagreement on what was happening in the justice circles.
Would you comment on how the justice system is recognizing sentencing circles?
Mr. Smith: The Crown has appealed several sentences. Those appeals concerned
many of us, the elders in particular, because they felt that the justice system
did not understand the philosophy behind the circle. They were probably right
However, some very good things have come from those appeals. I believe that
there is no longer any question as to whether there is a legal basis for the
sentencing circle. Due to the decisions of the Court of Appeal, and
particularly the decision of Chief Justice Bayda, sentencing circles are now a
permanent fixture in justice in Saskatchewan, and probably will be throughout
all of Canada. I doubt very much that the Supreme Court of Canada will
The chief justice went to the trouble of understanding the philosophical
underpinnings. One sees the potential for approaches taken in sentencing
circles to contaminate -- if I can misuse that word -- the rest of the circle.
For instance, very early in my sentencing circle career, two senior elders
walked into the teepee where the circle was to be held, saw the microphones in
the middle of the floor, and walked out. In the R v. Morin decision the court
made it clear that, although it is a good idea to have a transcript, if the
community believes that there is a better way, you do it the way the community
requires, not the way the judge requires.
The most important contribution that sentencing circles in southern Saskatchewan
have made to the process is teaching us that the community is in charge rather
than the judge, the court or the prosecutors, and that things are to be done
the way the community wants them done. Accordingly, each community does things
differently. That was reinforced by the appeal process.
As much as I try to understand the elders' concern about the possibility of
appeal, the potential for backlash in the non-aboriginal community, which is
already great, is dealt with to a significant extent by the integration of the
entire justice system, including things that are done in a new way on reserves
and elsewhere according to the aboriginal approach to justice. Tying those
things in by a common appeal approach guarantees that we have one justice
system for all in this country.
Senator Chalifoux: How do see that within the confines of self-governance? That
is what this study is all about. We have two different polls -- the
non-aboriginal and the aboriginal. How do you see that being implemented within
a self-government model? Through the years, I have found that there is a latent
discrimination within the justice system, and it is horrendous. I am sure I do
not have to tell you that.
Mr. Smith: I am satisfied that it is not intentional.
Senator Chalifoux: How do you see that in this part of the governance model?
Mr. Smith: You have asked how, on the procedural side, one goes about getting a
recommendation for sentence through a sentencing circle or other proposals such
as peacemakers or a tribunal of elders. At the original decision-making level,
a simple answer comes from the locals in accordance with the wishes of the
community in the way and at the speed with which the community feels
comfortable. Decisions may be appealed, ultimately and theoretically, to the
same court of appeal at the top.
As you indicated, different communities have different wishes as to how things
go. My recommendation is that the present court system be modified so that it
begins to sit on many reserves. I would modify the way it conducts its
procedures so that it conducts itself to the satisfaction of the elders. The
majority, if not all, of the staff that deals with courts on the reserve should
be aboriginal people who understand the traditions of the community. There must
be encouragement, support and incentives to develop new approaches within those
My second recommendation is that a branch of the provincial court in
Saskatchewan, for instance, should sit on reserves across the province, but it
should be tied through to an appeal.
Either of those approaches would work and, more important, would comply with the
commitment made in the treaty 125 years ago.
Senator Chalifoux: Less than 10 per cent of aboriginal nations live on reserves.
In Saskatchewan, the majority are Métis. How are you dealing with them?
Mr. Smith: I have held a number of sentencing circles in the City of Regina, in
the City of Yorkton and in some of the other non-aboriginal communities for
either aboriginal people living in the cities or off the reserves, or Métis
people. I have also been in three circles that were non-aboriginal altogether.
However, in terms of procedural innovations, I do not have any problem with
those taking place anywhere at all, as long as the appropriate criteria are
Senator Chalifoux: In your self-government model, then, you would not just limit
the sentencing circles to reserves because there are Métis communities
Mr. Smith: I would not limit the courts to just the reserves either. The
partnership upon which I base my approach states that First Nations people will
preserve the peace and bring people to justice, not just on reserves, but for
the whole tract of land that was ceded. In Saskatchewan, that starts in
Manitoba and runs across southern Saskatchewan and into Alberta in the case of
Treaty 4. We made an obligation with each other to be partners in enforcing the
law with respect to the whole province.
Senator Chalifoux: The only treaty the Métis have is the Manitoba Act,
which was approved by the Supreme Court a few years back. How would this
governance affect the Métis? The Métis are a separate and
distinct aboriginal nation. How would you view this governance model within the
confines of the Métis nation? There are also the Inuit. There are three
Mr. Smith: I have no experience in dealing with justice issues in the Inuit
community. My guess is that it would work in the same way.
With respect to the Métis in Saskatchewan, it could very easily work in
the same way. There is no reason why we could not develop a court in some of
the Métis communities. I believe they already exist in northern
Saskatchewan. There is no reason why Métis people could not develop
justice councils to support sentencing circles and to apply traditions that
belong to their community in that context. I do not have any problem with that.
Senator Gill: In your presentation, you spoke of partnership, of consultation
and of genuine, not merely symbolic, participation. You also talked about
spirituality and how it serves as a source of inspiration for aboriginal
As far as the aboriginal population is concerned, circumstances and conditions
can vary from province to province, and even from one community to the next.
This is true of the Métis, Indian and Inuit communities. Increasingly,
however, the majority of programs once administered by the federal or
provincial governments have been decentralized and are now managed by aboriginal
To further adapt the justice system to aboriginal peoples would certainly
require some involvement on the part of people working with the current justice
system. For example, in the past, many aboriginals were presumed guilty at the
outset, that is to say that even though they had not been found guilty, they
were treated as such.
Immediately after being charged, they were incarcerated until they were tried a
month or two later. These people believed themselves to be guilty when
confronted with an outside justice system, one that they did not understand.
And what were they guilty of? Fishing or hunting during seasons closed to
My question for you is as follows: should we do more than simply enforce the
provisions of the current justice system, which would mean amending laws or
creating new ones?
Mr. Smith: There is no question that there is a perception among most aboriginal
communities that I have encountered that the justice system has never
understood them. An elder with whom I have participated in sweat lodge
ceremonies many times told me that, when he was a young man, at Christmas his
family was hungry and he could not get permission from the Indian agent to
slaughter one of his calves. He slaughtered it anyway and went to jail for two
years for doing that.
Another fellow tells a story about how he ran across the border to Muscowpetung
because he had heard that his uncle had been hurt, was dying, and was calling
for him. His uncle did die as soon as he got there. The Indian agent saw him
and the man went to jail for six months for that.
These stories are true and they have contaminated respect for justice going back
a long time. That is why I say that we must develop a justice system based on
partnership which truly, and not in a token way, employs aboriginal people and
aboriginal concepts. We must talk to each other before we enact legislation. We
must do cultural training for non-aboriginals working in the system. We must
work together to understand the mistakes which were made and to ensure that
they are not made again, to build bridges so it is understood that that is no
longer what the justice system represents. I do not think that very many
aboriginal people feel that the justice system belongs to them in the same way
that you and I feel that the justice system belongs to us. That must change.
There will be no problem finding well-trained and qualified lawyers and judges
of aboriginal background.
Justice is different from other areas of self-government. In the treaties, we
committed ourselves to working together, and that means truly working together.
We can no longer have the misunderstandings that existed in the past. First
Nations people think that sending people to jail is an absolutely crazy way to
deal with anti-social behaviour. They wonder why we would choose to deal with
anti-social behaviour with something that produces anti-social behaviour. As it
has been explained to me, under the old Indian agent system there was a
presumption of guilt.
Senator Wilson: Thank you for your presentation. A book by Judge Rupert Ross
from Kenora was my first introduction to this. I welcome the aboriginal gift of
the circle to the dominant community. As a white woman, I have always felt that
the courts were set up to intimidate people.
Do you think that the Charter of Rights should apply to aboriginal controlled
justice? Beyond that, since the UN International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights is not the same as the Charter, do you think that applies?
More important, what signals do you get from the aboriginal community
concerning those questions?
Mr. Smith: My contacts among the aboriginal people are not with the leadership.
It is with the elders who come to circles and the traditional people who are in
my circle of friends, and we do not often talk about the Charter or
Senator Wilson: What is your opinion on that, then?
Mr. Smith: The longer I am in this game, the more I am of the view that there is
less necessity for modification of the law and more necessity for modification
of attitudes. It will, no doubt, be necessary from time to time to modify the
law. If that is the case, let us do it in partnership, for the first time.
I believe that most of the changes that were recommended in the report of the
royal commission in terms of justice, and that most of those changes about
which I am speaking, can take place with the jurisprudential base that already
exists. Although how you protect an innocent future victim from being
victimized is significantly different procedurally in the two approaches, the
basic concepts of justice are parallel in many ways. We have made so many
changes that have not been thrown out because of the Charter but, rather, have
been embraced because of it, that I do not think there is a major concern now.
My instinct is that we need changes in attitudes, not changes in the law.
Senator Wilson: I ask this because I find that many aboriginal people at the
grassroots level are quite aware of these international covenants. They are not
strangers to them.
Senator Johnson: Do you know what percentage of cases in Saskatchewan are
currently dealt with in sentencing circles?
Mr. Smith: I am not sure that this information has been rendered into
percentages. In the last five or six years, I have been in over 300 sentencing
circles, and that would be a very small minority of the cases with which I have
Senator Johnson: Therefore, it would be hard to assess the results from
Mr. Smith: We must be very careful about how we assess the success of circles.
Senator Wilson referred to Rupert Ross' book. At the beginning of his first
book, he talks about the Huron people and the Cree people coming together and
about how, in the course of attempting to understand each other's cultures,
they totally misappreciated what the other was doing.
Appraising the circle must involve more than simply asking if the recidivism
rate is reduced as a result. Preliminary studies show that it is reduced. I am
told on the reserves that the crime rate has gone down significantly, not just
amongst those who have been through the circles, but amongst others as well.
One elder said in a very colourful way that we should not to be concerned if the
recidivism rate does not come down. He said that it took over 100 years to
produce this problem and that we will not correct it with one circle. One must
take into consideration the fact that it is an ongoing, long-term process.
However, I believe that there are other factors as important as, if not more
important than, the circle. Amongst them is the fact that through participating
in the circles we are beginning to act in a way that we committed ourselves to
through the treaty. This is a partnership. We are doing things on the reserve
which no longer give any glory to the individual young person who goes out and
breaks the law of the white man. Rather, he or she sits in a circle with the
people in this world whom they most respect -- their elders. The elders tell
them why they did wrong not only in the eyes of the white man's criminal law,
but also in terms of the creator's fundamental laws. What they did was wrong
and not just an offence to the society outside; it was an offence to themselves
and their community. They have disturbed the harmony of their community. Over
the long term, that approach will have a different impact. Even if it does not
reduce the crime rate in the short term, it will certainly convince the
community that we are taking the first small step towards the partnership to
which we committed ourselves.
Senator Johnson: Our self-government work must be incorporated as part of the
Mr. Smith: Yes.
Senator Johnson: With respect to your last remark, perhaps you have seen a film
entitled Trial at Fortitude Bay, made by Credo Entertainment Corporation in
Winnipeg. It is an interesting look at the aboriginal justice system.
Has there been any backlash to circles by aboriginal people?
Mr. Smith: Yes, there has been by both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.
I have encountered a backlash in communities where young people have not
honoured the commitment they made to themselves and to their community. Some of
the elders have been very upset and have done things like asking the court to
bring people back under a probation order.
It is a diverse community, and there are a whole variety of opinions. The elders
in some communities have taken the position that they are not ready for circles
yet. Again, that is why I said it must be a permissive, evolutionary process.
Senator Johnson: There must be a certain preparedness in terms of everyone's
acceptance and understanding of this issue.
Mr. Smith: They must be prepared and we must be prepared.
Senator Mahovlich: My question has to do with the casinos that are being built
on different reserves, and off-reserve casinos as well that are controlled by
different bands. Do these casinos increase alcoholism, gambling and our crime
rate, or are they good for the communities?
Mr. Smith: In the communities where I have presided in court, none have had
Senator Mahovlich: You are from Saskatchewan, correct?
Mr. Smith: Yes.
Senator Mahovlich: Have you presided in Prince Albert?
Mr. Smith: I have not presided in Prince Albert nor anywhere near White Bear in
A significant group of traditional elders are very much opposed not only to
casinos, but to alcohol. They feel that the factors you mentioned are
contributing or will contribute to the problem.
I do not have the right to speak on their behalf, but if you are interested in a
bit of hearsay, I believe that there is concern.
The Chairman: Thank you very much for your presentation this morning, Mr. Smith.
Our next witnesses are from the Institute on Governance and the Aboriginal
Council of Winnipeg.
Mr. John Graham, Institute on Governance: Honourable senators, the Institute on
Governance is based in Ottawa. My two colleagues, Erika Ballentyne and Naomi
Handel, are from the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg.
This is a joint presentation on behalf of our two organizations. The basis for
the presentation and the submission was a conference that our organizations ran
in Winnipeg in November 1998. In our submission, we quote Rosemarie Kuptana,
with whom you are familiar. It is a submission, I believe, with a lot of
Ms Ballentyne will begin our presentation by describing the Aboriginal Council
of Winnipeg. It is an interesting organization. You may have some questions
about the council and how it operates. Ms Handel will then talk about the heart
of the presentation, and I will conclude with a few remarks about the policy
implications for the themes that ran through the conference.
The Chairman: Perhaps you could give us a clearer picture of the difference
between the two organizations you are representing today.
Mr. Graham: My organization is called the Institute on Governance. It is a
non-profit, charitable organization based in Ottawa. We have a relatively small
staff of 15. Half of our work is international. We have a small office in Kuala
Lumpur where we are managing a fairly significant CIDA-funded project on
governance innovations in Southeast Asia for ASEAN countries such as Singapore,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Within Canada, we have four major themes. The first is aboriginal governance.
The second is developing policy capacity at all levels of government. The third
is accountability and performance measures, and the fourth theme is citizen
participation and the relationship of citizens to government.
Ms Erika Ballentyne, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg: The Aboriginal Council of
Winnipeg is also non-profit. It was incorporated in 1990 as an amalgamation of
the Winnipeg Indian Council and the Council of Treaty and Status Indians. It is
very small, with only four staff members.
The Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg is a political organization that represents
people of all aboriginal origins in the City of Winnipeg. It also represents
the interests of these urban aboriginals by developing a sense of political
solidarity, which provides appropriate recognition and status to the aboriginal
people of Winnipeg. The council's office is located at the former CPR station,
which has been transformed into an urban aboriginal centre. The council acts as
an umbrella organization and is engaged in a wide range of activities in
support of urban aboriginal interests.
The council creates and endorses programming through other organizations that
are part of a comprehensive service delivery network. Access for aboriginal
people to utilize and influence systems that affect their lives is seen as
critical. In this regard, the council must be aware of the interests of
community members and must develop the capacity to deal with them. The former
task is rooted in community development work and the latter requires a
knowledge about delivering service.
The Chairman: What is the make-up of your board of directors?
Ms Ballentyne: They are all aboriginal people. There are no Inuit individuals on
Mr. Graham: Our board of directors is composed of non-aboriginal people
primarily based in Ottawa. We are in the midst of trying to recruit a number of
aboriginal people for our board. Our organization, as I have said, has a number
of international themes. We are not an organization that is controlled by
aboriginal people. Everything we do of any substance is done in the aboriginal
area with aboriginal partners. For the conference we hosted, for example, we
partnered very closely with the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg and another
organization called the Centre for Municipal Aboriginal Relations, CMAR.
Ms Naomi Handel, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg: We have 11 points, which were
themes in the conference that took place in 1998 at the aboriginal centre. The
conference was called "Completing the Circle, Aboriginal Governance in
Urban Settings." The first point deals with getting rid of
government-imposed categories of aboriginal people, which is a key step in any
definition of aboriginal governance in urban settings. Any system that develops
should be inclusive, not exclusive.
Many speakers spoke on this topic and decried the government-imposed categories
that had been forced on aboriginal people and advocated instead an inclusive
form of government. Perhaps the most forceful speaker was Grand Chief Matthew
Coon Come. He called for a new vision of aboriginal governance, one that spans
regional and provincial boundaries and rejects categorization of our people.
The second point is that the individual who takes responsibility for him or
herself is a starting point for moving towards urban governance, overcoming the
hurt of the past and the powerlessness of being a victim. The elders felt that
it was of fundamental importance to learn how to be responsible. Acting as a
victim is not being responsible. However, it is easy to blame someone who is not
developing a future for our children. Only by taking responsibility for
themselves can spiritual warriors then take responsibility for others.
The third point is that a bottoms-up grassroots approach appears to be the only
way to build sound governance systems. These are long processes that are not
without the risk of occasional failures. However, it is people -- not powers,
jurisdictions or money -- who are the starting point.
Mary Richard, of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, was probably one of the
most eloquent speakers to address these points. She described some of the key
elements of community development that have been successful for the council.
She stated that community development relies 85 per cent on people and only 15
per cent on money. Development is a long, slow process and there is trial and
It is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of those whom you are
dealing with. The trick is to turn negatives into positives in order to work
together. An appropriate leadership style is leading from the rear,
facilitating and clearing paths for people. Mary Richard concluded her remarks
by noting that we have a wonderful country, although it is one with problems.
Aboriginal people must rely on themselves to solve those problems affecting
The fourth point is that sound governance is about evolution. It is built step
by step rather than created all at once, and it must be earned by building
human capacity. It is not an entitlement. Several speakers spoke on this also.
Among these speakers was the Honourable David Newman, the Minister of Northern
Affairs for the Province of Manitoba. His starting point for approaching
governance is strengthening the community closest to the individual, for it is
the most responsive to individual needs and has the best opportunity to
reconcile the needs of the individuals with those of the community. Rather than
focus on power, control, jurisdiction and authority, the starting point should
be the needs of aboriginal people and how the aboriginal community can best
address those needs. The course and methods for moving towards these goals will
emerge in total as the characteristics of a form of governance.
Rosemarie Kuptana echoed this notion of the evolutionary nature of governance
with her observation that self-government arrangements are a misnomer. They are
not a wave goodbye, but a kiss hello.
The fifth point is that taking control of education at some early point on in
the development process is important for maintaining the language and culture
of a minority in their urban setting.
From the conference, the experience of Manitoba francophones was particularly
instructive. Following a lengthy court battle, the province agreed to create a
province-wide school district within the overall ambit of the provincial
education system; a school district for francophone families with their own
governing structure based on representatives from each school within the
district. Provincial funding for the school district is derived from a formula
where the key variables are a number of students in the average per capita
expenditure for education across the province.
The sixth theme in the conference is that aboriginal people can participate
actively in mainstream society without losing their identity and culture. They
can learn from other groups who face similar challenges in maintaining their
identities, however, the reverse is also true. Aboriginal people are becoming
significant contributors to new approaches for dealing with governance issues,
to the benefit of all Canadians.
The seventh point is that economic development is an important element in the
process of building sound governance. Governance requires a resource base.
The eighth point is that in an urban setting, a physical manifestation of "aboriginalness"
and competence, such as the Neeginan project, an urban redevelopment project
near the current aboriginal centre, is also an important building block to
creating the necessary pride and confidence that underpins sound governance.
Furthermore, a community interested in governance needs a place to meet and
celebrate its culture.
Mary Richard, in greeting delegates as the president of the organization hosting
the governance conference, noted the appropriateness of holding an event with
the theme of completing the circle in the Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg, a
place that had originally been an aboriginal meeting place, that had become the
CP railway station, and had now reverted back to being the major community focus
for the aboriginal people of Winnipeg.
Neeginan, meaning "our place," is an urban redevelopment project being
undertaken by the aboriginal council. It will emanate such a message, thanks to
the imaginative design of Douglas Cardinal, the project's architect. The first
phase will be a spiritual meeting place for aboriginal residents of the city,
to be followed eventually by a complex of homes and commercial spaces.
The political acumen and managerial skills required to effect such a
redevelopment bode well for future initiatives to establish sophisticated
governance in a variety of program areas.
The ninth theme is renewed volunteerism as a building block in moving toward
durable self-government. A strong civil society can be a moderating force
against the excesses of big government and business. Furthermore, such
voluntary organizations can provide the glue that creates strong communities.
Marilyn Buffalo noted that aboriginal peoples do not need per diems to help
their neighbours. She illustrated many of her points about strong communities
by referring to Little Italy here in Ottawa where grandmothers call the shots,
where religion is important, where everyone speaks their language, and where
there is an ethic of sharing.
Increasing the participation of youth and elders in helping to define urban
governance is also critical if the culture is to be maintained and if the
governing systems are to retain their relevance in the future. A good example
of this is that the conference was co-chaired by a 22-year-old Mohawk from the
Six Nations. The elders provided spiritual guidance to participants throughout
the event by opening and closing each day with prayers.
Finally, accountability and related concepts like transparency and openness are
fundamental to sound governance and any process leading to it. Many of the
delegates spoke of this to ensure openness and the transparency of the
governing process. This was high among the three priorities, including seeking
direction and endorsement from the grassroots.
Mr. Graham: At this time, Mr. Chairman, we will entertain questions. Perhaps we
can talk about some of the policy implications of those 11 points.
Senator Chalifoux: Thank you for that interesting presentation. It looks as
though your conference went very well. There are some very good points here.
How do you foresee these recommendations being implemented within a structure of
Mr. Graham: The significant policy implications of these points are as follows:
since the mid-1980s, the emphasis of the federal government with regard to
self-government has been on negotiating jurisdiction. Indeed, building
governance capacity was not even mentioned by the federal government until "Gathering
Strength," the document responding to the RCAP report. Even then, they
only talk about building governance capacity within the ambit of negotiating
self-government agreements. It is an adjunct.
The themes of this conference suggest that negotiating jurisdictions, while not
unimportant, should not be the centrepiece of an evolutionary process toward
building strong governance capacity. It may be a station along the way, but
building governance capacity is a long-term process with a very long start-up
period. I feel that the federal government has no views on that at all. It has
no policies or programs. It has no idea of what its role ought to be in the
whole process of developing governance capacity.
I believe that that is the major implication of these 11 points. The federal
government's approach, which is based on negotiating jurisdiction, should be
seriously questioned. Many people have said that it is clearly wrongheaded.
The Chairman: You are saying that the government has a tendency to deal with
jurisdiction in negotiations, regardless of the jurisdiction that was retained
by the aboriginal people. I refer to jurisdiction as characterized in section
91 of the British Northern America Act. Provincial jurisdiction is dealt with
in section 92. That is not normally taken into account in negotiations.
That being the case, can you suggest an alternative way of dealing with the
issue of jurisdiction? Would you prefer that issues of jurisdiction be mutually
agreed upon by recognizing that jurisdiction is in the hands of aboriginal
people as well?
Mr. Graham: Your analysis is correct that, at the moment, from a constitutional
perspective, sections 91 and 92 leave no room for aboriginal governments. The
federal government, following the recommendations of RCAP, has said that in its
view there is an inherent right to self-government. This suggests that there is
within our Constitution already some ground that constitutes aboriginal
jurisdiction. The federal government has pronounced on what it thinks that
ground is in its inherent rights policy.
Having said that, the federal government's view is that, in order to avoid much
uncertainty and potential litigation, there should be negotiations around how
harmonization will occur. I believe that negotiation is the only way to go. Any
other route is fraught with the potential for uncertainty and litigation
brought on by third parties who may debate in court that aboriginal jurisdiction
does not exist.
The notion of negotiation is an important one. My difficulty with federal policy
is that the notion of negotiating jurisdiction seems to be its only point in
terms of building governance and governance capacity. The fact that it is so
heavily weighted on the negotiating side contradicts many of the points raised
in the conference.
The Chairman: I have never been in favour of negotiating jurisdiction within the
negotiations themselves. If I understood you correctly, you are in favour of
taking that avenue. In other words, jurisdiction becomes an agenda item at the
Connecting that to the government concept, if a genuine government is to be
exercised one day by aboriginal people, would it not be expedient, if there
were a similar type of procedure to that of the federal-provincial
arrangements, that it could be established?
A third level of jurisdiction could be added to the federal-provincial
arrangement. If the governing structure could be given enabling legislation in
order to start elaborating their rights flowing from their jurisdictions and
stipulating it through the formulating legislation, allowing either the
provincial or federal government so many days to respond to that particular law
they are passing, would that not be a more expedient way of dealing with it in
that fashion? Negotiating who will have the power over what creates jealousy.
Putting aside aboriginal issues for a moment, jealousy already exists between
the federal and provincial government. That jealousy could create tension
between the two levels. If you add in a third element, aboriginal jurisdictions
may be in a grey area if they are given a tool to make laws but must then sit
down and negotiate after they pass the law before it becomes an enforceable law.
What is your position on this?
Mr. Graham: What would happen if an aboriginal government passed the law, and
then it went, as you said, to the provincial and federal governments, and one
of the others said, "No, this is not within your jurisdiction"?
The Chairman: Then I would sit down and negotiate. I would not negotiate until I
had an issue.
Mr. Graham: What happens if you cannot come to an agreement?
The Chairman: If you cannot come to an agreement, then you go to some kind of
tribunal in order to break the deadlock.
Senator Mahovlich: What if you can still not agree?
The Chairman: Then I think the aboriginal people should have the same kind of
ability to access resolution mechanisms in the international community. What is
wrong with that? Why should the aboriginal people be prevented from gaining
access to the various instruments at the international level?
Mr. Graham: Can you provide some examples of where other countries have resolved
internal constitutional matters through international tribunals?
The Chairman: I do not have any examples at this point. This may be a new way of
looking at things.
Mr. Graham: Certainly, from your perspective the need to negotiate is there. The
question is whether to do it at the front or back end.
The Chairman: If you do it at the front end, justice is not really being done.
One is already more disadvantaged than the other.
Therefore, if you wish to have a playing field, then both sides must have
enabling legislation to kick it off. If they cannot agree, then it becomes a
subject for negotiation. That is only a thought. I am not saying I am
proceeding with that; I am just throwing that around.
Mr. Graham: Mr. Chairman, we are more centred on the urban situation which is,
perhaps, somewhat more complicated and somewhat different, than if it is a
land-based situation with which, perhaps, you may be more familiar.
Certainly in an urban situation, it is difficult to imagine aboriginal
governance without some very close harmonization with other levels of
government. As one of our conference spokespeople said, in an urban setting
aboriginal and non-aboriginal people are in the same canoe. We are all paddling
together and there must be some harmony.
The Chairman: I have not really had a chance to read through your papers. I
would like to have an opportunity to respond more sharply.
Senator Andreychuk: The chairman has spoken about how to arrive at some
consensus using a different process than yours. I notice in your first
paragraph that you recommend getting rid of government-imposed categories of
aboriginal peoples. You say that this is a key step in any definition of
aboriginal governance in urban settings.
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples offered recommendations, some of
which are espoused by national organizations. The difficulty is that setting up
an urban governance model with aboriginals violates in some cases what
aboriginal leaders are saying they want, not just federal and provincial
representatives. How do you propose to resolve that discrepancy?
Ms Ballentyne: When you speak about getting rid of government-imposed
categories, it is not so much First Nations, Métis and Inuit categories.
Those are just there. It is more of the treaty, the non-status, the Bill C-31
type of categorizations.
One of the speakers from B.C. stated that in Bill C-31 alone there are 29
different categories of people. It is not so much that there are different
groups of individuals, the Cree and Ojibway, but we have a problem with the
government-imposed distinctions under the Indian Act.
Senator Andreychuk: My question is that there are also some aboriginal
leadership definitions imposed on the federal and provincial governments that
if we followed your examples would be violated. How do you propose bridging the
gap between what aboriginal leaders are espousing?
Ms Ballentyne: The Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg's constitution states that
membership is open to any aboriginal person living in the City of Winnipeg,
regardless of status. It is basically any person who can trace their routes in
whole or in part back to the original inhabitants of North America.
Our particular organization does not discriminate on any basis of what type of
an aboriginal person you are. Anyone is invited to become a member.
Some people would prefer not to have membership, but since it is a corporation,
we do not have a choice. There is the Manitoba Métis Federation and the
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and they certainly maintain that distinction. We
are saying that we do not wish to maintain that any more.
Senator Andreychuk: When you disagree with the Assembly of First Nations of
Manitoba, how should that disagreement be resolved?
Ms Ballentyne: That is a problem that the three groups in Manitoba must address.
The council is willing and able to work with those groups; however, they are
not willing to work with our group. At some point, the three groups must meet
and come to some consensus. I cannot say whether that will occur soon.
Senator Andreychuk: As there is that difference of opinion, are you indicating
that you think that it would be acceptable for the federal government to deal
directly with you, even though those other groups may object?
Ms Ballentyne: I understand your point. That is a difficult question to answer.
Senator Andreychuk: That will be one of the questions we must answer if we
accept some of your premises.
Ms Ballentyne: We would prefer to work with them. I do not think we can proceed
Senator Chalifoux: My question regards the other political organizations within
the province of Manitoba, such as the Manitoba Métis Federation and the
Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs. They appear to be the recognized political
organizations for the Métis and the First Nations. They also claim to
have representation in the urban centres.
How does your organization relate to the political organizations, and what are
their differences? Have you had any previous dialogue with those two
organizations relating to your ideas on self-government within urban settings?
Ms Ballentyne: Both of those organizations were invited to attend the urban
governance conference in November. Both declined and asked our keynote speaker,
Matthew Coon Come, not to attend as well. The council has an informal policy
that it invites those two groups to anything that it does. They prefer not to
We try to keep them informed of what we are doing, but they are completely
misinformed about what we do. Our council is just a political advocacy
organization. It is very small and those relationships are very difficult. The
council does what it can in terms of inviting them to events that we conduct.
Senator Chalifoux: Do you class your organization as a political organization or
as a programming organization?
Ms Ballentyne: It is a political advocacy organization.
Senator Chalifoux: How do you define "political advocacy"?
Ms Ballentyne: The council has a tripartite agreement with the provincial and
federal governments. Our four priority areas are employment training and
economic development, justice, children and youth, and health and wellness.
Each board of directors has portfolios, and they run a number of different
programs related to those priority areas. The council does community
consultation work with the public and advocates with the ministers and the
appropriate governing bodies to secure funds.
Senator Johnson: I have not had a chance to review the entire brief. Coming from
Winnipeg, I am familiar with many of the things about which you speak.
How do you feel about the Neeginan project? Is it proceeding as you had hoped?
Do you feel that it will be an important building block toward what we need in
Winnipeg? Much of what is in this document is not in effect on the ground right
now in Winnipeg. The reality is very different from what you all hope to
achieve as a community.
Ms Ballentyne: It is coming along. It has been delayed quite significantly. The
old buildings have been torn down and we are ready to start construction. We
are simply waiting for a groundbreaking ceremony. That should happen May 15. We
were hoping to have it completed by the time of the Pan-Am Games.
Douglas Cardinal designed the building. It is a round house called the Circle of
Life Thunderbird House. It will be a spiritual and cultural gathering place.
Future plans include an art gallery and a commercial complex, as well as a
multipurpose youth centre.
Neeginan is also in the process of acquiring land space for an aboriginal
personal care home. I am hoping that it will be what it has been designed to
Senator Johnson: We are talking about aboriginal governance in urban settings.
This is one of the many components we are trying to put together in Winnipeg.
David Newman, Manitoba's Minister for Native Affairs, said that down the road
the aboriginal community will become a wonderful part of our multicultural
community in Winnipeg. Do comments such as this sit well with you? I have had
many talks with Wayne Helgason and everyone out there. I am very much a part of
the community and I know what is going on. I hear that sort of thing and I read
what you are saying. There are no ideals, and we are all building and working
very hard together to build the community we want. In your gut, do you feel
happy with the way it is progressing? It will be a model for other urban
settings, too. Given the population of aboriginals in Winnipeg, it is
Mr. Graham: I am struck by the pride that members of the Aboriginal Council of
Winnipeg have in that centre and in their new plans. I think the elders' advice
to Douglas Cardinal about the Museum of Civilization had a significant amount
of truth in it. We discuss that in our brief. When Douglas Cardinal was
thinking of bidding for this building, he went to the elders. They said that, by
all means, he should bid for it because when parliamentarians look out their
window, they will see an impressive building with aboriginal characteristics
and realize that aboriginal people are here to stay. The physical presence of a
building with aboriginal characteristics sends out the message that aboriginal
peoples are important and have a significant amount to contribute to our urban
I came away from the Neeginan project thinking that it was very significant, not
only for the aboriginal people, but for the message it sends to others in the
city and in the province.
Ms Handel: Mayor Glen Murray spoke at the conference. He said that aboriginal
people were the first people he would meet with when he came into office.
Having leadership at any level willing to consider aboriginal people as a
priority gives me great confidence in urban governance.
The more I become involved in this issue, the more seriously I take the fact
that they are getting the youth involved. I am a youth myself, and my feeling
is one of confidence.
Senator Johnson: I am encouraged by those comments. We are studying
self-government, of course. One of the aspects that I have been hammering away
at is putting something in our report about urban aboriginals and governance. I
will look more carefully at your report. I will be at Neeginan and we will talk
Senator Gill: I would like to have your views on membership. You mentioned that
there are many categories of people in the Indian Act. That is probably because
membership has always been defined by people who are strangers to the
Have you a view on that? Bill C-31 created many problems. Have you thought about
having a system of membership defined by the people themselves; by the fathers?
Ms Ballentyne: As I said before with regard to council, our membership is open
to anyone who defines himself as an aboriginal person. The council would
probably continue along those lines.
Senator Gill: Do you not think that there is something missing? A person can
define himself as Indian, Inuit or Chinese, but you must be accepted by a
collectivity if you wish to be identified as a group of people, a nation. It is
good to define yourself, but what about the others with whom you have to live
and who must govern you? There are two conditions there.
Ms Ballentyne: We have not gone into that in depth, but I imagine that we would
consult with the community and the community would tell us how we should define
Mr. Graham: The question of membership is a very difficult one, and it is not
unique to aboriginal peoples. I read in the paper yesterday that Mr. Duceppe
laid before his party the notion that a Quebecer is someone who lives in
Quebec. He received quite an angry reaction from some in his party who said
that a Quebecer is more than someone who lives in Quebec; that he or she must
speak French; that there must be a French culture around the notion of a
Quebecer. To say that a Quebecer is someone who lives in Quebec is not good
enough. The question of who is a Jew is another thorny question.
This is a very difficult issue. It might be useful for the Senate committee to
look at some international experiences in this. The issue is not unique to
aboriginal peoples. This issue affects peoples throughout the world. It is one
of the most difficult kinds of questions.
The Senate committee might want to look at an interesting piece of research that
was done for the Assembly of First Nations and the Department of Indian Affairs
on the demographics of membership. This study showed that under the Indian Act
definition of an Indian, in about 120 years there will be no more Indians. The
rules that say you are only an Indian if both your parents are Indian would
mean that there would be no more Indians in about 60 years.
In addition to the membership issue being a difficult one politically, depending
upon which definition you choose, you can inadvertently bring about the
extinction of the very people with whom you are dealing. I recommend that study
very highly because some very bad mistakes can be made.
Senator Chalifoux: On that topic, your organization is registered as a
non-profit society. That is the same as a curling club or any other club, and
you are talking about membership in that club. We must look at the definition
and the nationality. I am a Métis. That is my nationality. It is defined
in the Manitoba Act, in the Rupert's Land charter, and in the Constitution.
However, my citizenship is Canadian.
I invite your comments on nationality versus membership. Anyone can belong to a
curling club, if they are so interested. Anyone can belong to the Manitoba Métis
Federation or to the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, as long as they follow the
membership criteria. We are looking here not at membership criteria but at
If you are Chinese or Jewish, you are so, no matter where you live. How would
you define your nationality? That is what we are looking at.
Ms Ballentyne: That is a difficult question. My notion of nationality may be
different from yours. To me, my nationality is Canadian. I am from the nation
of Canada. In terms of government-imposed categories, I would be a non-status
aboriginal person of Ojibway and Cree background. However, I am also an urban
person. Since I do not receive any of the benefits of being an aboriginal
person, I am just an urban person. I cannot comment on nationality versus
Ms Handel: I agree that that is a difficult question. The only time I call
myself Canadian is when I am outside Canada. I do not identify myself as
Canadian when I am here. Here I am an aboriginal person who is a status Indian,
but one who is living off reserve.
Senator Chalifoux: Are you Cree; are you Ojibway?
Ms Handel: I am Oji-Cree.
Senator Chalifoux: Okay, that is your nationality as I define it.
Senator Andreychuk: I have more of a comment than a question. From looking at
your brief, it seems to me that you began with the dilemmas and difficulties in
your community and proceeded to find ways to make things better for yourselves.
I commend you for going one step further and saying "better for everyone
in the community."
Your struggles with identifying where you are going, what you are doing and how
you are doing it have only started. You have given us something to think
seriously about; that there are identifiable problems in your area and you,
meaning the people who live in the community, have chosen to define how you
wish to start solving them.
I echo Senator Johnson's remarks. We had better pay attention to that and
reflect that in our report.
Am I correct in my assumption that that is how you started to look at your
problems, that it is not a question of asserting rights so much as a desire to
better your lives and conduct your own affairs?
Ms Ballentyne: Yes, you are correct in your assumption.
The Chairman: The Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg is a new instrument that you
have set up.
Ms Ballentyne: In this form, as the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, it is nine
years old. It was two different organizations originally.
The Chairman: Will that become a success? Suppose that down the road the
recommendation is made and the government acts on your belief of how you would
like to see the structure set up. Will that become a successor, or will you be
using that as a tool to get to a point where you wish to go by establishing a
government, agency or corporation, whatever that might be at the end of the day,
looking after the people outside of the reserve?
Ms Ballentyne: My understanding is that it would be a tool since it is a
corporation, not a government.
The Chairman: You would not necessarily become a successor, in other words,
inheriting that responsibility at the end of the day of the negotiations?
Ms Ballentyne: No, it would be a tool.
The Chairman: It would only be a tool. Therefore, in terms of collecting the
membership or citizenship, whichever way you end up describing it down the
road, if you represent not necessarily this particular instrument but the next
instrument that evolves, you need to have a clear understanding from the
various communities across the country. This is because the people in the
communities are not necessarily only Indian or Métis, non-status or
status or Inuit, they are from all over; they represent a cross-culture. Each
one of those people, at least on the Inuit side, has community-based
On those community-based memberships, they are also entitled to certain sets of
programs governed by various ethnic organizations in order to be retaining
their membership. They have rights to do certain things; being involved in
elections, being involved in many different sorts of activities. In some cases
they are also limited.
That basic criteria that is applied at the community level would need to be very
well-entrenched within your instrument that evolves down the road, in order
that there be a clear understanding between the two communities at the local
and regional levels. I assume that this is an area you will be moving towards
in trying to build some basic criteria that will be accepted by all Métis,
status and non-status Indians and the Inuit.
Would I be correct to assume that this is only the beginning?
Ms Ballentyne: Yes.
Senator Mahovlich: No one has brought up finance. Who finances all these
self-governments? No one has ever mentioned this. From what I can see,
self-government gets very expensive.
Does this operate like a private club, which is very expensive, too?
Mr. Graham: The aboriginal council is made up of a number of program deliverers,
all of whom receive some sort of public funds. They also raise funds on their
I believe that it would be very interesting to look in more depth at how other
ethnic communities in urban centres in Canada have evolved and developed. That
could throw some light on things like financing and also your question, Mr.
Chairman, about how the governance might evolve here.
At the conference, a francophone from Manitoba described his organization. In
some sense there were many parallels with the aboriginal council. He had a
council made up of a number of francophone groups in various kinds of service
organizations and he described the governing pattern there.
I found fascinating the story of how the francophone school system had developed
in Manitoba. It seemed on the surface to be quite simple. It was part of the
overall Manitoba school system, in other words, it was not an aberration except
that instead of having a small geographic area within Manitoba, such as the
Winnipeg School District or the St. Boniface School District, this school
district encompassed the entire province. It had some 27 or 28 schools within
this school district and the governance pattern was such that each school had
some electoral process for putting together a representative who eventually sat
on a board. It was financed by the Manitoba government. They provided this
school district, as it did other school districts, with a grant. Therefore, for
each person attending the francophone school district, the per capita grant
that would have gone to Winnipeg simply went to the francophone school
Some of these things are quite simple to effect, and looking at some of the
experiences of those ethnic communities would be very interesting in terms of
perhaps shedding light on how that developmental process could work in an urban
setting and how you could actually have hospitals and educational systems that
are aboriginally run and governed within a broader society.
We do this in the ethnic communities and, for the life of me, I do not
understand why this could not happen with aboriginal peoples, particularly if
Jewish people can run their own hospitals and francophones can have their own
Senator Mahovlich: That is very costly sometimes. A Jewish school is a private
school and there is an extra fee to send your child to a private Jewish school.
Mr. Graham: Perhaps the francophones in Manitoba are a better example.
Senator Mahovlich: I am not familiar with that, but it is interesting.
Mr. Graham: Those models are interesting. It makes some of these things more
concrete rather than talking about them in the abstract, and your question is a
good one. The Manitoba school system for francophones is a good example of how
you would finance it. It is eminently sensible; it does not seem to cost the
whole system more money.
Senator Mahovlich: That I can understand. What about the government itself, such
as the lawyers who must be looked after to run the government, to run all this?
Mr. Graham: In terms of what is happening with the francophone Manitobans, the
scale of the operation is such that they have made the entire district equal to
the province. Therefore, instead of having one or two francophone school
systems in St. Boniface, you actually have a system of some 20 schools across
the province. You have the kind of scale with that number of schools to allow
you to have a staff with a certain amount of expertise to run the school
It may be a question of scale, however, there are many ways of getting around
that problem and I believe the francophone Manitobans have shown some
interesting ways to do that, albeit they had a tough court battle to force the
province into this.
This is one of the areas that the council is interested in pursuing, looking at
how we have managed within this country to accommodate and encourage the
flourishing of many ethnic groups and their languages.
Both the Jewish community and the francophone community were adamant that you
must get control of your school system, otherwise you will never preserve your
culture or your language. I came away with that message from the conference.
Aboriginal people must get control of their schooling system in urban areas. It
should be a priority.
Senator Mahovlich: Then an Indian should marry an Indian, right
Mr. Graham: Indeed, the problems Franco-Manitobans face is they will preserve
their language and culture if Franco-Manitobans in the normal course of their
life go to university, operate in the work setting, meet non-francophones and
get married? As a matter of fact, the executive director of the
Franco-Manitoban Society married a non-francophone, and I was interested in how
he was managing the education and maintaining the culture of his children.
Indeed, he did manage it because he was committed to doing it, as was his wife.
However, it comes down to personal decisions and commitments.
Senator Johnson: I do not think you could continue to draw that parallel because
the French immersion programs in Manitoba have made some serious changes to
French language schooling. We have so many options. The French immersion
program there was one of the first in the country and remains one of the
strongest. You are advocating that all the schooling should be in aboriginal
languages, or did I not hear you correctly?
Mr. Graham: If you are to preserve aboriginal culture and language, you must do
it in the schools.
Senator Johnson: That is a given for any ethnic group, whether it is my
Icelandic crowd or anyone else. Is that realistic?
Mr. Graham: The executive director of the Jewish National Congress said 100
years ago that Yiddish was a dead language and no one was speaking it. It is
now flourishing because Jewish people got control of their schools.
Senator Johnson: They also pay the most for their schools.
Mr. Graham: That is true. However, as I said, the Franco-Manitoban system is
very instructive in that they have gone about that in a way that does not
appear to have added overall costs to the system.
Senator Johnson: How will having schooling in their own language improve
self-governance for aboriginals in urban settings.
Mr. Graham: The governance is only the means.
Senator Johnson: That is the focus of our study.
Mr. Graham: The end is surely preserving language and culture and a sense of
themselves; the governance is the means.
The means is running their own school board so that they can ensure that that
kind of cultural and language component is maintained.
Senator Johnson: An element of that could be incorporated. If we could break
down the $9 to $12 billion that is spent on aboriginal Canadians, I am sure
that some of that money could be spent on urban aboriginals and the work that
needs to be done with them.
The frustration of many Canadians is determining where that money is going now,
whether it is to on-reserve or off-reserve people. These are issues that factor
into what you are saying in terms of gaining control of one's culture in any
setting. That is obviously more complicated in the urban setting. Much of what
you are saying is theoretical.
Senator Gill: I presume that it is possible to be able to teach Indian language
and things like that. It was possible in the past to teach Latin and Greek. We
learned these languages for cultural benefit. I imagine that the aboriginal
language can be learned, too, by native and non-native students.
We continue to hear aboriginal people compared to other ethnic groups. This is
difficult to compare. The implications, the responsibilities and the
contributions to this country are different.
Mr. Graham: I do not disagree with that. I am saying that there are potentially
some lessons and experiences that can be drawn. The solutions will not be the
same, I agree with you.
In listening to the executive director of the Jewish National Congress speaking
to a group of aboriginal people in one session at our conference, I was struck
by the resonance that reverberated between those two groups.
Some interesting questions were posed to this gentleman about how the Jewish
folks within Canada dealt with the Holocaust, the hurt, the pain and the past.
He was asked how they have dealt with it in a positive way.
You could see where they were coming from in the sense of saying, "We have
had a terrible past, too, and we are very interested in how you have dealt with
your hurt and your tragedies."
I was struck by the kind of relationship that those total strangers began to
develop in speaking about common issues from their past, for instance, how they
dealt with discrimination.
The speaker said that 50 years ago no Jews were allowed at McGill University. He
said: "My father, when he went to get lodging in Montreal would come
across signs, `Pas de chiens, pas de Juifs'." The aboriginal people have
had that experience, too. How do you deal with that? How do they deal with
people desecrating their cemeteries? There are some things to learn here.
Moreover, there are some real alliances to be built between ethnic groups and
aboriginal peoples. They would be interesting alliances.
The Jewish people, for example, would be more than willing to start to build
some of these alliances. There would be some real strengths there for them.
The Chairman: Thank you for your presentation.
The committee adjourned.