Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 16 - Evidence - Afternoon meeting


WILLIAMS LAKE, British Columbia,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 1:15 p.m. to study the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (topic: issues pertaining to Indian Act elections).

Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.

[Traduction]

The Chair: Senators and those in the audience here, for those who have just arrived, we are the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. On my left is Senator Campbell, from the city of Vancouver. He is also a former mayor of Vancouver. Next to him is Senator Dyck from Saskatchewan and next to Senator Dyck is Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia. I am Senator Gerry St. Germain from British Columbia.

The committee decided to study the issue of the Indian Act elections, in part based on the concerns by First Nations that the requirement under the Indian Act is to have elections every two years. What we are looking at is the extensions of terms of office, the establishment of common-day election dates and the possible removal mechanisms should terms of office be extended.

We have been to Manitoba, and now we are here. Before us now, colleagues, we have an addition to the agenda in Mr. Bruce Mack, a retired administrator from the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council. He is here to share his experience in First Nations work over the years.

Mr. Mack, we welcome you here, and if you have a short presentation, I am sure senators would like to ask you questions.

Bruce Mack, as an individual: Thank you. First of all, Mr. Chairman, my apologies for not being prepared. I have been retired for six years so I am a little bit out of the loop. I just got home the other day and I had a message that you were to be here today, and I wanted to welcome you. Thank you for coming to Williams Lake.

I basically came to see what was going on, but I would like to make a couple of comments on some of the issues that you have been discussing, and I certainly would be open to answering any questions that you may have.

Virtually all the issues that you are grappling with are things that we have been talking about and debating over the last 20 or 30 years. A lot of things have not changed. You are looking at changes to the Indian Act, as you know, and what might they be, and again this is a recurring discussion. My own feeling, and it is shared by a large number of people, is that changing the Indian Act is virtually impossible. There is so much diversity. There are 600 First Nations across the country, 200 of them in B.C. They are all different, and everyone is looking for different things.

The Indian Act has a lot of serious problems that really need to be remedied. At the same time, however, it does have some protections and some benefits, and there is a real concern about losing those.

To reach a consensus on what kind of changes might work or be acceptable, I think, is unrealistic. I really encourage you to go with your approach and speed up the approach that is already in place, which is allowing, in a variety of areas, the option to opt out. This is what is happening, obviously, with the election codes and my understanding is that something like two-thirds of First Nations in Canada now do have their own election codes. It is something that I think is rapidly having a very significant impact and, as you heard today, those bands that have it do value it, and so it is not prescriptive. There are concerns, there are different approaches, and I guess I would encourage you to stay away from a prescriptive approach.

The presentation from Theresa Hood was excellent. The idea of family councillors is something that a lot of bands have expressed an interest in, in developing codes, and I have worked with a half-dozen bands on developing their custom election codes. When this question has come up, or when any question comes up, we kind of go through what are the pros and cons, and there are a lot of advantages to something like family councillors.

On the flip side of it, there is a real concern, as I express it. If I am seeking election or support for election from the Mack clan, I will be promising a house to Auntie and that I will get jobs for all of the Macks, and so on.

I think what most councils and most communities are looking for is people who are thinking of the whole community. Without exception, when it is looked at in those terms, every single community has said, ``My God, we had not thought of that.'' There is already, in most communities, enough of a problem or enough of a concern about family focus, and they want councils that can represent the community and can act in the interests of the whole community.

That is not to undermine in any way the important role of families. Some bands have actually developed parallel family councils that act in an advisory capacity to their elected council. Through the band meetings, there is constant encouragement to share the information, get it out to your family, so that the family can become the conduit to sharing information and getting staff and councillors to share the information through their families.

To have the decision-making based on a family focus is similar — and Senator Campbell may have views on it. I am on the school board here, which is essentially a ward system. For a school board to work, when it is based on that system, it is important that all trustees think of the district as a whole, not that: ``I will support a school there or I will support a programme there if I get a programme in my community.'' It cannot work that way, to be effective. I am sure, for example, for the city of Vancouver, the councillors are coming from individual areas and representing their own wards, but here they are not. It is not a ward system. I would suggest that that is a good thing. I think there would be far more problems if it were a ward system.

What I am saying is that it has to be what works for that community, and if a community chooses to go with a family system, that is great; that is their choice, but it is important that they weigh what will work for them. I think it would be inappropriate to look at changing the Indian Act and saying, ``This is how it has to be,'' because there is not one size that fits all. The traditional cultures from First Nation to First Nation, even within B.C. and certainly across the country, are very diverse and that has to be respected.

The process of allowing for opting out, for allowing communities to develop their own processes for governance and other things, and land management and so on, I think is a far preferable way to go. Some are already chomping at the bit to make the changes, to develop their own structures, and they should be allowed and encouraged and supported to do that. Others who do not feel that they are ready to do that, I suppose, in the interim, if the Indian Act is what is available and they are okay with that, then that is okay. I think to impose a change would be very inappropriate and probably not even workable, and I think the past attempts to amend the Indian Act have failed because of that. There has not been any success in reaching any kind of unanimity.

That was really the most important and general comment I wanted to make. By and large, as I say, the custom election code process seems to be working reasonably well. As I say, I have done a number of elections for bands with their own custom codes. Some of them go back quite a ways. They have had their custom codes for decades, and some of the original ones have very serious problems, including things like no amendment processes, so no one is really sure what the code really says now. Such questions as: Can council change on a whim? Can it be changed at a band meeting or does it have to go out to all the membership and go through a formal process and so on? There are a lot of things in some of the older codes that need to be changed, but the bands themselves are recognizing that and they are moving on those things: We want to get this changed, we want to tighten this up, we want to clarify that.

I do not think there is really any need to come in and legislate or direct those kinds of things. The newer codes, by and large, are fairly well crafted. There is a lot of concern around the delays, as you heard from Chief Charleyboy. You did not seem to feel that it was a delay, but certainly it is taking much longer than it used to. Their upcoming election is in January. They had the ratification vote in early July and certainly fully expected to have it approved. The earlier drafts have been approved so it is pretty much a formality, once the ratification vote has gone through, because it has already been approved by INAC. The concern that their next election is will not be under the custom code but will have to be under the Indian Act regulation is a real disappointment. It appears that that is due to some recent changes, some court rulings, the Gull Bay decision in particular. Ottawa is swamped with appeals, so all their staff are dealing with those and they have not had time to address the new codes and get those in place.

There has been some frustration around those kinds of delays but, in the longer-term picture, that probably is not a huge problem. As I say, it is a disappointment right now, but it is not a major problem.

The other thing that bands are aware of that would be helpful is that there are frustrations when some of the things they would like to see are not approved by INAC. I just remind them that once the first one is approved, you can make whatever changes they want. Once the first code is approved by INAC, and there are some kind of absurd things they insist on or do not allow, and so on, the bands can then make the changes as long as they follow the process that INAC has spelled out, which generally requires some form of referendum process going out to all band members.

All in all, the processes are, I think, reasonable and legitimate and seem to be pretty well accepted. I do not think there is a whole lot of need to tinker there. As I say, there are serious problems with the Indian Act regulations, but there is a process in place to deal with that and I do not think you will have a great time coming up with a blanket solution that will serve everybody's needs.

I think, going to a broader level, as you have already alluded to, a far bigger issue is addressing land claims treaties and just the broader issues, if government can be encouraged to look at treaties as an essential solution to a lot of the concerns and problems, not only with First Nations but also with non-First Nations. The reason British Columbia got into the treaty process was that there was a fairly conservative government at the time but they recognized, in fact they had Price Waterhouse study and look at the economic costs of the unsettled land claims in B.C. It was something like $2 billion a year in lost investment, and that was not just a figure pulled out of the air. It was identifying specific projects. Do not quote me on the names or the amounts, but Mitsubishi is holding off on an $800 million plant in wherever because of uncertainty over the land title; Canfor will not open this mill because they are not sure of secure tenure to the timber, and on and on.

There are those kinds of costs, but I think the biggest problem is that, as a government and even as a society, we are being encouraged to look at the settlement of treaties as a cost, and I think that is an absurd way of looking at it. It is not a cost. Transferring land and resources to a First Nation is not a cost. That is an internal transfer. It is like me moving $10 from my left pocket to my right pocket. The First Nations will be using those resources, whether it is cash settlements or land or resources, to invest in the province, in the country, in the region. That is not a cost. That is an investment in our future. I think, until we can change that basic thinking, there will be a continuing reluctance by governments to, in their view, spend this kind of money. It is easy for them to appeal to the public, and I think public support has been slow in coming, partly because of this sense of the cost of settlement.

I think it is important to remember the comments of the mayor of Terrace. I have forgotten his name but he was one of the leading opponents of the Nisga'a treaty. In fact, he led the legal fight against the adoption of the Nisga'a treaty. Two years later, he publicly stated that the Nisga'a treaty was the best thing that ever happened to northwest B.C.

A lot of the concern that we felt here — and it is a fairly conservative area, as you may be aware, there was a lot of opposition to treaties — much of that has changed. Businesses are working with First Nations. They are finding partnerships that work. There is not the same apprehension about the uncertainty that there was 10 years ago but, in spite of all of that, both the provincial and federal governments really seem to be dragging their feet on the whole process.

As I say, I participated as the tribal council's representative at the First Nations summit in the development of the B.C. treaty process. It was an excellent process, but before the ink was even dry, Canada and B.C. were reneging on commitments that they had made. They have never been honoured. Therefore a process that could have been done in a matter of a few years has not been completed. We were kind of joking over lunch about settling a land claim in a matter of minutes. It is not rocket science. A lot of the essential elements are already there. We are talking of land claims and self-government. The opportunity is there but because of the intransigence of Canada and B.C. and their insistence on a cookie-cutter approach and a fear of setting a precedent, ``Well, if we give you this, everyone will want that,'' you know, ``We cannot do this here because we could not do it there.'' The fundamental principles of the treaty commission were that every table was unique. That has never been honoured. The whole issue of what were originally called ``interim measures'' and now they are called ``treaty-related measures'' were to ensure that we could move incrementally towards treaty. That was taken off the table within weeks of the signing of the agreement.

Anything that you can do as an organization, as a committee, to encourage the federal and provincial governments to honour the commitments that they made in the establishment of the treaty process and to get it back on track so that progress is being made instead of just lining the pockets of the lawyers, that would probably be the single most important thing you could do.

Those are really my only comments.

The Chair: You sort of put into question the hereditary process that was discussed here this morning by Theresa Hood, where the families would pick two and the election process. The hereditary system in the Gitxsan Wet'suwet'en, mainly the Gitxsan, up in Hazelton, they operate under the house system or the wilps, which I am sure you are familiar with.

Mr. Mack: I am.

The Chair: They say that this works phenomenally. Do you think we, as non-First Nations people who have lived in a communal system, can fully comprehend the complexities and the possible necessity of going to this system?

Mr. Mack: Well, a couple of things: First of all, I think there is a distinction between the hereditary system and the family-based system. There can be overlap but they are, I think, different things. I have done some workshops, actually, with the Gitxsan. They have a parallel system. They have their government commission system, which is their elected chiefs and councils, that handle kind of the government services side of the functions, and their traditional tribal council system, based on their hereditary chieftaincies, that deal with the political issues around, particularly, land and title issues. That works for them.

I am not arguing against that at all. What I am arguing is the imposition of any particular model. They have a very strong and functioning traditional hereditary system that is in place; that has always been in place. They are continuing to use that system and it is working well, and nobody should say, ``You cannot do that,'' which in fact the Indian Act and regulations attempted to undermine. The Gitxsan have been able, in spite of that, to maintain their system and they ought to be able to continue to do so. It is a healthy and strong system. To impose that on another community that does not have that would be just as inappropriate as to say they cannot do what works for them. That is all I am saying.

The hereditary system does not exist in nearly the same way in this area. The First Nations in this area, particularly in the Chilcotin, were more semi-nomadic. They did not have communities so much the way they existed on the coast and along the major rivers and the Gitxsan Wet'suwet'en areas, and so on, so the traditions are very different. This is why I am arguing for a process that allows First Nations to adopt, design, maintain and continue what works for them.

Senator Dyck: As the chairman indicated, I am from Saskatchewan, and of course our history there is quite different than it is out here, because we were party to all the numbered treaties. I definitely see the point that people have talked about changing the Indian Act for decades and it seems to end up not going anywhere, but I think from what I understand, the advantage for B.C. First Nations is with the modern treaties. When those are concluded, the First Nation is actually out of the Indian Act. I think what you are saying is we should be trying to speed that process up so that the modern treaties are concluded, negotiated and finalized more quickly than they are now?

Mr. Mack: Very much so, exactly.

Senator Dyck: With respect to elections, in your experience working as a band administrator, how did you see the success of elections that were occurring under the Indian Act? Did you see that they functioned well? Was two years a good time?

Mr. Mack: No. Virtually all bands in the custom election codes are getting away from the two-year terms. The biggest problem is that it is not a long enough period for a person to get to know the ropes, get to know their responsibilities as a councillor and to actually plan something and see something at least get started. The two-year term just does not cut it. There are pros and cons to any solution or any system, but a short term has those disadvantages. It has, however, the advantage of having a more frequent accountability component.

I might say that there is concern. Some bands have five-year terms. One of the concerns there is if council is off- track, you are stuck with that council for five years. Four of the recent custom election codes in this area have chosen to go with a four-year staggered term, and Chief Charleyboy alluded to that. That is the system that their community has chosen. It is a four-year term, but half the council members are up for election every two years, so it is kind of the best of both worlds. It gives that degree of continuity. You never have a completely new and green council, and yet there are elections every two years so that if council is off-track, you can put someone else in and perhaps we can get back in the direction the community has in mind.

Again there is not a cookie-cutter approach and I think what is critical is that the various options are laid out and the community has the opportunity to discuss and choose what works for them.

The Chair: I have a question of you, sir, that the young lady on my right here wants me to ask you. I would like you to elaborate on whether you have concerns with the department's existing conversion to community elections system policy for First Nations wishing to revert to custom. In your view, how can the process be made more accessible and more efficient?

Mr. Mack: To be honest, and over the last 30 years I have been, and continue to be, fairly critical of a lot of or most of what the department does. However, this is one area that I think really works quite well. I think we are fortunate that there is an individual — I would go so far as to say a rare exception — in Vancouver who deals with custom elections who is very helpful, very knowledgeable. Up until a little over a year ago, we had someone in Ottawa who was also very knowledgeable and quite helpful. We were discussing earlier the problem with the high turnover in INAC staff, and I am not sure where he has gone, but that person has moved on.

That may or may not always be the case, but I think the process itself, the funding, I think, is adequate; it is roughly $12,000 per community for the process. Most of that money, more than half of that, should remain with the band. It depends on how long the process takes, but I would not expect a consultant to charge more than a couple of thousand dollars for the process. It should not take more than that. There are enough good models out there that bands are willing to share, so that you are not reinventing the wheel. It is simply facilitating discussions.

I think there are, as I say, the frustrations around INAC saying, ``You cannot do this,'' and the reasoning does not always make sense. What I have generally said is that it is not worth the hassle. We can argue with them for 10 years and they are not about to change. Let us pass the thing and then draw the referendum at the next election and make the changes that we want.

I do not find that it is overly restrictive. The communities that I have been working with that have developed their custom election codes seem to be quite satisfied with the process and the results, so I do not think there is a big problem there.

The Chair: Yet we have heard that some of these custom code applications have been sitting for years with the department. I am not questioning what you are saying. All I am saying is that we are getting some information that there is an unusual delay and it is good to hear that you have had great experiences, but you are one of the few who have come before us with this.

Mr. Mack: I think you would have to get some clarification on what, in fact, was submitted in 1993 and so on, because there are a lot of codes around, and I have run elections for bands throughout the province that have had custom codes for 20 or more years, so most recently with the new process, a couple of years ago it took a matter of three or four months for approvals. The last one that was approved took 11 months from the time of the band's ratification vote to the ministerial order.

Respecting the one Chief Charleyboy was referring to, the ratification vote was in the first week of July. We were hoping to have that ratified by this time. It sounds like it will not be ratified in time for the January election. I do not know what the other delays have been. I cannot speak to those.

The Chair: Given the numbers that were floated around at lunch time, you indicated that you certainly do not benefit to the tune of $12,000 for being an electoral officer. Do you feel, with your experience, that if an election commission and electoral officers were established so that First Nations could draw upon this facility, that this would work? I am thinking of your term that ``one size does not fit all.'' The thing is if it is costing $12,000 for someone to come in for a day or so, that is a lot of money, regardless of where you come from. Many of these bands cannot afford that, and if they do they are taking money from their band allocation. Have you any comments on that?

Mr. Mack: I think an organization would be helpful. We had one briefly here. I think it existed for two, maybe three years at the most, a First Nations Electoral Officers Association. It was funded by INAC for whatever — two years or something. It provided the training, so most of its funding was contract work for INAC to provide training for electoral officers. It established some guidelines. The cost scales that they provided were, I felt, very high. Again I cannot speak to specifics. It strikes me, you know, that $12,000 is an awful lot.

There are some very large bands, in particular some of the ones on the coast. I know, from talking to one electoral officer, that he takes a team of five deputy electoral officers there. I believe he takes them from the island, so it is Vancouver Island to Vancouver and then to the north coast. Different codes require different things. Some require the electoral officer not only to attend the nomination meeting but also the all-candidates forum, and at times the advance poll and the election, so it is often a lot more than one day.

I encourage bands to do their own mail-outs. The mail-outs can be quite time-consuming, particularly for larger bands with perhaps 1,500 off-reserve members, and so on. I think having some mechanism to give particularly First Nations electoral officers support and give them some of the credibility that they deserve would be useful.

One of the big problems with a lot of custom election codes, and I encourage bands not to put it in, is a clause that requires the electoral officer to be someone from outside the band. You do not need that if you have someone from inside. There can be a lot of pressures, and many band members are not comfortable doing their own band elections, but it should be at least an open option. We can only hope that, in the fairly near future, bands will be comfortable with the idea that, yes, this person is a trained electoral officer, we trust her or him, and they have credibility, so he or she can be our electoral officer. They should not be precluded from doing that.

Just quickly off the topic, there is a suggestion about having one day a common day for elections. It would not work. There are not enough electoral officers — not nearly enough — and this is part of the problem. Many bands have trained electoral officers, but they are either not allowed to, or do not feel comfortable doing their own band elections, so it falls on really a handful of people from the outside and there really is not any reason for that. There should not be.

The Chair: What you are saying is that if the B.C. Treaty Commission got in high gear and were able to function properly with the support of the federal and the provincial government, we would have all modern treaties with constitutions and proper electoral processes?

Mr. Mack: We have an awful lot of them. The majority of bands are ready to go. There are some that are not ready, but those that are should be able to move forward, yes.

Senator Raine: Given that you have a lot of experience, could you share with us some of your experiences in terms of bands that have had to remove officials or recall officials, or where elections were contested?

Mr. Mack: I have not actually dealt with any appeals myself. I was called in to a band out on the coast that had a custom election code. With custom codes, one of the advantages — but that also in some cases could be seen as a disadvantage — is Indian Affairs seems to consider it just none of their business, ``You guys just straighten it out.''

In one particular instance, they had an appeal board. The appeal board made a ruling and then the board was dismissed, and a couple of the appeal board members said, well, it really hadn't been their decision, so they were really in a quandary on what to do, whether to uphold the appeal or deny it or whatever. That was a bit of a mess and I was asked to go and help out. We had a band meeting that went until midnight. I said, ``I do not have any authority. I have been asked to try and help you straighten this out, but the appeal board has been dissolved; Indian Affairs will not deal with it, so either we settle it now, as a community, or you will fight it out in the courts with lawyers.'' We went over the evidence and I made a recommendation, based on the evidence and my interpretation of it, that the appeal ought to have been upheld and a new election held, and ultimately that is what they decided to do.

That is the only case that I have had any experience with. There can be appeals on anything. I have had people call up a couple days after the election and say, ``I want to appeal. There was bribery.''

``Well, what was the bribery?''

``My dad's house was fixed up a month before the election.''

``How long had he been waiting to have it fixed up?''

``For years.''

``Why is that bribery?''

``Well, it was just before the election.''

I don't know what to say. The elections that I have been involved with, the electoral officers that I have dealt with, the deputy electoral officers at the community level have all done, I think, great work. The recent election I did up on the north coast had all kinds of concerns. They had had a number of appeals, and so on, and all kinds of allegations of corrupt practices. The election band staff were directly involved, and it is really just a matter of developing trust. Was the ballot box stuffed? Well, these are the steps that we take to ensure that they cannot be stuffed. These are the records of the ballots and who voted, and so on, and those are open records. Therefore I think that if the process is open, it is not difficult to develop trust.

The cynicism within First Nations is no different from the cynicism anywhere else. I think politicians, by and large, are unfairly tainted with a pretty negative image. I argue, because I believe very strongly, that for the most part in many ways First Nations leaders are the strongest leaders that we have in the country. Just as I used to argue that — and I think for the same reasons — a number of our best leaders in Canada have come out of Quebec, because a generation ago there were not a whole lot of options; you go into politics or you go into the priesthood. With respect to First Nations, again there are not the same range of opportunities, so by and large it is very often the best people who aspire to be the leaders.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Mack.

Mr. Mack: Thank you for the opportunity.

The Chair: I hope we may draw on your expertise in the future.

Mr. Mack: Please feel free to call.

The Chair: Senators, we have an open microphone session scheduled at 3:30 p.m. I have suggested that, in the future, we consider conducting the open microphone session when we start the afternoon meeting and then move on to witnesses, which will give us more flexibility. When we travel to communities outside of metropolitan areas, so many things could take place that would inadvertently delay witnesses or prevent them from attending. That would give us a better format for the meetings.

Is there any comment? Are you O.K. with that suggestion, Senator Raine?

Senator Raine: Yes.

The Chair: On this trip we must leave things as they are, but in the future, as a committee, that is how I would recommend that we look at things.

Colleagues, we have another witness before us: Cary Morin from the Alexandria First Nation.

Mr. Morin, let me introduce Senator Campbell from Vancouver, former mayor of Vancouver, Senator Lillian Dyck from the province of Saskatchewan, Senator Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia, from the Kamloops area. I am Gerry St. Germain, senator from British Columbia, and I happen to chair this committee.

What we are studying here is the issue of Indian Act elections, in part because concerns have been raised by First Nations that the requirements under the Indian Act to have elections every two years makes it difficult. There are three aspects that we are considering: The extension of the term for chiefs and councils, which is presently two years if you come under the Indian Act. We have also been asked to research and possibly make recommendations on a common- day election when all the First Nations would have their elections, much like the national elections in the country. We have also been asked to study a possible removal mechanism, should the term of office be extended for accountability or whatever.

That is where we are at the moment, and if you have a presentation we would appreciate your making it and keeping it to 15 minutes so that the senators can ask you questions. The floor is yours, sir.

Cary Morin, Band Manager, Alexandria First Nation: As far as a presentation goes, and just for clarification, my comments will be regarding the extension of the terms of office to four years and also same-day elections. Those were the two issues.

The Chair: Would you tell us where you are from and the organization you represent, sir?

Mr. Morin: Yes. I am actually a Canoe Creek Band member. My dad is from the Meadow Lake Saskatchewan Metis settlement. I am also the band manager for the Alexandria Indian Band, the Chilcotin Band or Tl'etinqox Band, just across the river here. It is southwest of Quesnel, and half-way between Quesnel and Williams Lake. I have been the band manager there for three months.

Previously, I worked as a contractor through the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres. Before that, I worked in Williams Lake here in policy research, communications, whatever — you name it — for the treaty society here. I worked for four bands, so I have, I guess, about four years' experience working for First Nations since I left school.

Now I will just go into my presentation.

The Chair: Yes, that is right. Whatever you are comfortable with.

Mr. Morin: Yes, I have just a few issues. I marked these down this morning. Time is not a luxury band managers are usually afforded, so I scribbled all my notes on the back of a fax confirmation.

Some of the issues with the Indian Act I have noted from my own experience. I will just state for background that the band I work for has not completed an election code, but they are in the process of doing so. They received professional institutional development dollars to actually get a membership code and an election code done, and our deadline is that we are hoping to have it done in time for our next chief and council election, which will be next year. Actually, after this meeting I have to go to a community meeting on the election code, so this is actually really perfect timing for me to kind of review the policies that we will be reviewing.

Going to the two to four years for elections, from my previous experience the problem with the two years is having different chief and council elections, specifically for tribal initiatives, for larger initiatives, for large tribal groups that want to work together. They will have different elections at different times and they will have different chiefs for different terms. What ends up happening is that if you want to move forward on some strategic visioning that you have been working on for a length of time, then basically a new chief and council can come in at any point and if they do not share that same vision, that will move everything off-track. The short term periods and the different elections make it highly challenging because different chief and councils obviously can have different agendas and different platforms. I know from my previous experience working in treaty, you could just as easily have a chief from one band out of four that supported the treaty process and then, within two years, have a plan. Then next year you will have three chiefs opposed to the treaty process and abandoning that plan, which probably explains some large deficits in the treaty process in British Columbia for tribal groups especially.

I am not sure if these are all relevant to your purpose, but I would say that I think off-reserve and on-reserve is still an issue. I was kind of told to concentrate on the election code as a whole. Do you want me to stick to the same two issues that you just spoke to, or do you want me to go off-track at any point?

The Chair: You can make comments, we hope on the subjects and what have you, but it is up to you what you want to share with the senators. We have about 25 minutes before we go to an open microphone session.

Mr. Morin: One of the things I would say has to do with small communities, where there is an issue regarding population and capacity. With four-year terms, I think you are more likely to see that communities will actually support four-year terms if they have confidence in their capacity or in their leadership to actually deal with basic band services and such. Where you will see less confidence in communities, basically, is where there are smaller communities where they do not have a great pool of talent to select from. With these election codes coming out now, some of them are actually restricting the numbers of our people who can actually run for chief. While they are broadening the numbers of people who can run for council or vote for council, you will see, in some of the election codes, that they want only band members running for chief. If you look at the Indian Act, I could, of course, speak hypothetically, but actually, I can mention that our chief is not a band member of the Alexandria Band, but his mother is from there. He is a band member of the Anahim Band, and under the election code, if they were to change that, to amend it, then he would actually be ineligible to run.

If you have small communities that are not confident in their capacity, they are comfortable at two years, that is what I am trying to say, because it gives them that peace of mind that there will not be a chief and council in there to ruin everything for four years or five years. Where there is capacity, I would say that there needs to be stronger accountability and such for four years and five years, to monitor what chiefs are doing. There needs to be some form of oversight. That is what I would say. That would make community members probably a little bit more comfortable with longer terms. I know this from working in the treaty process, where you had to explore these issues. This issue is really in the blood quantum, community membership, eligibility, enrolment, all that. That all ties into the larger issue.

For same-day elections, I think it is a great idea. I remember the last Senate committee investigation — I am not sure if it was the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, it might have been, but one of the things they were exploring was one vote for one band member for a grand national chief with more clout. That was part of some sort of self-government initiative, potentially, in the past. I remember coming across that memo when I worked in the treaty process. I do not know if that is true or not. It might have been the Chrétien era, 2003, the era of exploring self- government.

The Chair: It might have been the House of Commons committee.

Mr. Morin: Yes, probably. I think there might have been in that, too, the question of same-day elections for all chiefs, and I think that that has its advantages as well. It gives it a little bit more authenticity, and I think it would give our First Nations more ownership over the process, knowing that there is a grander scheme at work here.

Under the Indian Act, of course, we all are under that umbrella of this legislation and I will just say this, too, for the record: I kind of find it funny, too, that in all the band offices I have worked at, I have had to actually obtain my own copy of the Indian Act. We are supposed to be governed under the Indian Act, but I never see a copy of it anywhere. I just throw that in as a side note.

I was just talking with my mother, who has had about 30 years' experience of working in aboriginal governance, and we both seemed to think that it would have been nice if we could have a two- or three-party system, or something like that, on reserve, but that is just not the case. We have competing ideologies and you are not always guaranteed to have a government that sees things on the same page. Of course, the chief is the chair, you have the councillors or the voting members, and there is always that contentious issue. I do not think that these issues here will necessarily, in themselves, solve all the problems under the Indian Act. I will say that right upfront.

There are a lot of issues in First Nations communities, in British Columbia especially; a lot of division, a lot of things that need to be worked out if we are ever to have reconciliation amongst ourselves. We will need to work more outside of that kind of area. The same-day elections is one step towards that and First Nations have to see these kind of small steps, too. When they talk about consultation and such, they do not like big, huge documents. I have learned that. I have seen it while working in my previous job with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, when the child welfare legislation got beaten out by the leadership council. I have seen it with the Recognition Reconciliation Act that B.C. tried to pass. They like small steps, like this, that work towards something that they can all agree on, little issue by little issue. I would say that for these two areas that we are discussion, I would not see too many First Nations disagreeing, except that you can never tell for certain, but it is probably the right approach.

I think I have summed up everything. There are many other issues on the side here, but they are not relevant to your proceedings, so I will skip them.

The Chair: The question of outside chiefs is possible. In Manitoba, Chief Murray Clearsky of Waywayseecappo, which is Ojibway, was also the chief of Birdtail Sioux, which is a Sioux Nation. Does that happen quite often in your experience? Are there many chiefs that are from the outside?

Mr. Morin: I do not think so, no. Not in my experience. There is a complicated history, I guess, in B.C. as opposed to Manitoba. We were the last province to be inhabited, the last one basically to have to contend with settlement on this continent, except that there might have been Inuit or northern bands in the north after 1680 that experienced contact a lot later. I would not be surprised at that. As far as the major provinces go, as far as the lower coast of the provinces that line the American border, we were the last ones.

To answer your question, we do not see a lot of that because I think there is still some adherence to the band agenda. I do not think we see such things in tribal groups as much. It is hard to conceive, I guess, for a First Nation person from another nation being the chief of your nation, or of any band within your nation, when you can barely tolerate somebody from another band being the chief of your band.

The Chair: You say you are going to a meeting after this?

Mr. Morin: Yes.

The Chair: I missed what the meeting was. Was it on custom codes?

Mr. Morin: Yes.

The Chair: All right. Questions?

Senator Campbell: I do not have a question; it is more of a comment.

I have not heard this before, but I agree with your comments having to do with the size of your community and its capacity. I do not think that we have heard a lot about that and I think that it is really a crucial consideration for a group who are picking their leadership. I agree with you that you must have real confidence in the people that you are voting in when you have a small population because you do not want to wake up one morning and find out that you have made a mistake, and that it is will take you five years to get out of it.

The second thing that you said that I have not really thought that much about, but I I agree, is the idea of small steps, of moving along, moving towards the goal. I would like to pose a question to you. Let us just stick with the election; I will not go any further than that. I will not go into the Indian Act. Let us say on the issue of the election, it is not too big a step to consider going from what is under section 74 of the Indian Act and going to custom; that is not too big a step. Then when you get into the actual design of it, where you have your choices, does that become problematic because it is simply too big, on-reserve/off-reserve, the length of time that you are elected? How are you remunerated? If you do not show up for a meeting, what happens? When you get into that type of thing, does that become overwhelming or do you simply take it issue by issue until you come to a resolution?

Mr. Morin: I think we will find that out, probably, but right now some of the bands here have included those provisions that you spoke of about, which are basically provisos for removal. I actually went through all the contents of your typical election code and I listed 12.

Senator Campbell: Can you list them for us?

Mr. Morin: Yes. Contains provisions for meetings, roles and responsibilities of chief and council, qualifications to sit as chief and on council. There is nothing about education. This is an issue I see with bands, having worked with them; there is no guarantee you are getting somebody who is even literate, let alone somebody who has a good reading comprehension or is capable of reading. You are very lucky if you get somebody educated, oftentimes, because of the low education levels in our communities. Voting eligibility is on there, removal of chief and council: provisions for that. Nomination protocol, the process for nominating people to run, and the payment fee for chief and council used to offset costs; residence of chief and council.

That is a huge issue: who is able to run for chief. You do not see people living in 100 Mile House being the mayor of Williams Lake. That is the old mentality, right? Then again, you do not see Williams Lake applying for funding from people living in 100 Mile House on their per capita schedules. There is a double-edged sword there that is a very divisive issue, and that has been going on for many years that First Nations need to reconcile. I would say that would probably be the biggest divisive issue that you will meet, as a band, when you go into an election code is residence of your elected leadership.

Voting procedure, terms of office, of course. The one I have evaluated, they set it at four years. The appeal procedure for anybody who gets in, in case there is a corrupt election practice, and amendments to the election code itself. Those are the 12 I listed down for tonight's meeting.

Senator Campbell: That is great. If you could not agree on all 12 of these, would it necessarily mean that you should not go forward with what you agree on in a protocol system?

Mr. Morin: All 12 of them?

Senator Campbell: Right.

Mr. Morin: I do not think that is the mentality we are going to follow, myself, from our end. Our mentality — and I think most First Nations will be just like us — is that we will run this through the community. We will run it by as many people as we can, off-reserve, on-reserve, and we will come to an agreement on something that can be voted on. If the vote is no, it does not get in; if the vote is yes, it gets in.

Senator Campbell: At some later time, you can address the issues one-on-one as you go along, when you have perhaps more time or more interest?

Mr. Morin: Yes. We could possibly do that. Doing it kind of piecemeal, is that what you are getting at?

Senator Campbell: No, I was not suggesting that. I was suggesting that you address the bigger picture and then, once you have that done, as any other type of governance is being formed, then you have the opportunity to say, ``I think we should tweak this here or we should do this there.'' I am suggesting that you do the big step first, but then you still have the ability to tweak it as you go along.

That is great. Thank you very much, I really appreciate that.

Mr. Morin: Yes.

Senator Dyck: You were talking about the two-year time frame perhaps being best for small communities, and this gets to the point when the time frame for elections is set in the framework. If the community does not agree, I was wondering if it was possible to put into the amendment section that you could start with two years. At a later date, having arrived at whatever process you decide, and when you are comfortable with what is going on, that everything is working well, then at that point you could decide for four years or five years, or whatever, to build into the code that you have the flexibility, if you think you might need it, rather than committing to something in, you know, black and white, where you are boxed in. Do you think that is an option?

Mr. Morin: Yes, that is definitely an option. Actually, that is there under the amendment procedure for the one I reviewed. The only thing is — and I will just make one little minor correction: I would support four years, but if we are to have longer terms for all chiefs and same-day elections, if that were all to go through, ideally there needs to be a little bit more oversight on corrupt practices on reserves to give community members some peace of mind, right? As I said, there is a limited comprehension level, education level, on reserve capacity and such. I think four years works better, because they can complete a treaty, potentially, if the right people get in consistently, and it at least improves the chances that the work will get done, and that they can maybe even go to a vote.

With the one I worked on, I would say they could not even get to the point where they could vote on the next stage of the treaty process because of the limitations of the Indian Act. Yes, I would agree; that is definitely the way to go.

Senator Raine: Could you give me a little clarification of where Alexandria First Nation is? You said Alexandria and Canoe Creek; are they the same?

Mr. Morin: Canoe Creek is my reserve way out in the boonies, up Dog Creek Road. It is quite a way southwest, I guess, of Williams Lake. Alexandria is more to the north. It is up the highway, half-way between Quesnel and Williams Lake, and there are two sides to the reserve. There is the east side, which has about three houses. You will can the Alexandria Ferry Road. That is right around where the houses are. Then there is the west side reserve, where there are about 13 houses, and to reach them you need to take West Side Road from Quesnel, or Soda Creek Road and go through Rudy Johnson's bridge, then you keep going up that dirt hill and eventually you get there. That is the road I am taking today.

Senator Raine: Right now, you are band manager for the Alexandria Band —

Mr. Morin: Yes.

Senator Raine: — or First Nation, but you live at Canoe Creek?

Mr. Morin: No, I do not live at Canoe Creek; I actually live at Deep Creek.

Senator Raine: You mentioned Canoe Creek, and I was not sure whether you said that you had been working there before. How many people are in the Alexandria First Nation?

Mr. Morin: About 150. I can give you an exact number for on-reserve; I believe it was 65, at the last check.

Senator Raine: The rest of them are off-reserve; a bigger percentage off-reserve?

Mr. Morin: Yes. It is a band that has not really realized its potential, yet. Right now we finally have a chief and council dedicated to technological development and we are looking to move ahead on that front, but for the most part it is one of the lower-end bands as far as socio-economic growth is concerned.

Senator Raine: You were about to comment on the on-reserve/off-reserve issue in terms of voting practices and if that is working and whether you are in favour of that, and then you did not really comment on it.

Mr. Morin: Yes. As far as the political aspect is concerned, are you asking me do I agree?

Senator Raine: Is that the practice now, to have everybody in the band vote during elections?

Mr. Morin: Yes. You try to include everyone, and encourage them to vote. That has to be. We all know the recent court decisions, Corbière and such. All these elections go under legal review and they are all checked. The lawyers check the election code and decide whether the election meets the standards set out by the federal government and by court decisions, I think is how it works.

The only thing is if a band is really opposed to distant leadership, or leadership by correspondence, I guess, then they will put it in their policy. They will work it in and they will find some way to manage it. If they do not have a problem with it, though, then that is what these election codes are all about, right? You trust the membership with the vote as much as you can. It depends on who is on the committee and what the committee membership is, who is running the election code, and whether or not they are not doing it right. Perhaps I will not make a value judgment, but if they see that there are a lot of problems that they need to fix and they do not trust the band member to vote based on their own perception of things, then you will see a large election code with a lot of stipulations on who can run, who cannot run and where they have to live and thing like that. My personal opinion is to let everyone vote and let us see which way it splits, and that should solve things, typically.

Senator Raine: You are not so concerned about the actual voting by off-reserve members. Is it hard to get people to vote? What percentage of your off-reserve members vote in elections now?

Mr. Morin: Oh, yes, it is very hard. I actually question how many bands really consistently update their band lists. We are trying to make the effort to make sure that everybody is included, but it is hard because band members will not contact the band office, and the band office has virtually no way of contacting them. There is the mail-in ballot process for off-reserve members. They receive the mail-in ballot. They have a witness sign the ballot when they are doing the nomination and the voting and such, and they return that ballot to the band, and we hope it does not get lost in the mail, but that is really the best procedure we have for voting.

My own idea on that, but I am not sure how it would work — I do not think it could work, actually, but it is always worth evaluation — is on-line voting for off-reserve members. How off-reserves seem to communicate best is through newer technologies such as computer technology.

Senator Raine: It is probably coming in the future.

Mr. Morin: Yes, we are hopeful on that.

Senator Raine: One other question I had was what you said about the same-day elections for all chiefs. You raised something that I had not heard before. We have heard comments that it would be difficult because there is a shortage of electoral officers and it might create some problems, but obviously if you are dealing with tribal councils and the chiefs are changing at different times, it does create problems.

Mr. Morin: Yes.

Senator Raine: That was interesting. Have you thought about whether, perhaps, it would be good to have it staggered, so that half would change at one time and half would change another time? In other words, the terms would change?

Mr. Morin: Yes. If it was staggered, then I would see the same problems emerging, because that is what we have in the treaty process: staggered councils, councillors being replaced every which way, left and right, and you never knew whether the chief was getting the full backing of his council or her council. I would say that a lot of bands are looking at that for their election code. It may work for individual bands on Indian Act issues or band programmes, services, you know, all that. For grander projects, though, multiband projects, I can see how the staggering could severely slow down those grant initiatives.

Personally, I am just saying that, from a tribal perspective, that is what may happen. Personally I think bands are entitled to their own opinion. That is what I think. Large governments representing little, tiny crops of people and not representing everything they believe in, to me, is not conducive towards good living. That is my own political rant for the day.

Senator Raine: It has been interesting to hear from you.

The Chair: You are saying that short terms are a problem, as is accountability. In your discussions today, will you be talking about a recall procedure in case of irregularities in the election, or else mismanagement?

Mr. Morin: Yes.

The Chair: I think everything has pretty well been covered. I would like to thank you very much, Mr. Morin, for coming in and making your presentation. Obviously, your relatives most likely came from Manitoba originally, where I came from as a Metis.

Mr. Morin: Thank you.

The Chair: Colleagues, we will now begin our open microphone session. We have before us Eleanor Lowe and Leonie Spurr from the Nadleh Whut'en Indian Band in Fort Fraser, B.C.

Ladies, as you know, we are studying the electoral process under the Indian Act, and if you would like to make a short presentation, you are more than welcome to do so. The senators may have some questions of you in regard to your presentation, and we will be seeking your views and experiences. You can go ahead now.

Eleanor Lowe, Nadleh Whut'en Indian Band, as an individual: Good afternoon. My name is Eleanor and I am the Lands Manager Assistant for Nadleh Whut'en near Fort Fraser, B.C. I also coordinate the election code committee and the two elders with me are part of the committee. We just started in March, and we are getting our professional development fees from the government, from INAC.

We heard of these hearings through the ``moccasin telegraph,'' and we are here to tell you our views. We are starting our election code also and we have elders on our committee, we have youth on our committee and we went through the four clans approach. It means that we had to have members from each clan to be representatives on our committee, so everything was fair and above board, because we want to have the best election code for our membership, for our band.

You were asking questions about same-day elections. We disagree with that, because it will create a lot of problems. Just look at Canada.

Senator Campbell: We would rather not.

Ms. Lowe: You would rather not. We will forget about that part, then.

The Chair: Forget about elections, we do not need elections.

Senator Raine: You are not alone.

Ms. Lowe: What we are trying to do is lots of research on the election codes, and we have contacted other First Nations bands within B.C. We have not dealt with treaty; we are not part of treaty, so there has been no consultation with the province of British Columbia or with Canada.

What we are doing right now, we are still under the Indian Act and we intend to develop our own election code. It is a long process, I know, but we find that two year terms are very short terms for the councillors, as well as for the issues. If a new person comes in, it takes them about one year to find out everything that they are supposed to be and know as a chief, like anything about the government, about B.C. and about all of the industry that is involved, and they have to start from scratch. By the time the year is over and they are starting to do their projects in their second year, they are out. Then a new person comes in and you cannot tell whether that new person will continue with the projects of the previous chief or not.

Because so many people always nominate, there are so many nominations within our community that we will try to slow it down somewhat by having the nominees pay a fee. The fee will go towards their campaign, because they will have to be sent out to the on- and off-reserve membership. That will be the same for the chief and for the councillors. Right now, we have five in our council, including the chief.

We do have off-reserve people in our band who do vote by proxy, and that is a big cost for our elections, because there are over 400 people who must be contacted.

The other thing is the code of conduct within the council, or the accountability and the code of ethics. We feel that is very important. At one point, Nadleh had a family representative system instead of the chief and council, and that was very effective, but the thing about it was that there was no structure, and it just kind of fell apart in the end, but at the beginning it was really strong. We are considering the appeals board for our community.

My next point is in relation to something that the last witness said, in answer to your questions. That was really similar to what we are striving for in our election code. For our chiefs, we wanted to get a resume because, as he said, you need someone who is educated. However, compared to experience, such as experience in dealing with the government, you cannot do that unless you are right in there, so experience means a lot to us. We need someone to speak for us and if we are not there, who will speak for us? We are a small community.

The other question that you had was on the longer terms for chief. We agree with that, but not with the same-day elections for everyone, because we see lots of problems with that.

The other thing is that we just sent elders and youth and our proxy voter to Calgary for the AFN elections, and we would like for all of us to be able to vote for who our national chief would be. Leonie, would you like to speak?

Leonie Spurr, Nadleh Whut'en Indian Band, as an individual: One of my concerns is that I was an urban Indian for all of my life, and Eleanor was an urban Indian, too. What I do not understand, but I want to, is why all urban Indians seem to be left out of what goes on in a community. They have four councillors or five councillors, you say?

Ms. Lowe: Four.

Ms. Spurr: The number of people who live on the reserve is about 169 and the total band membership is 700, so why do need four councillors and a chief if you just have 169 to deal with? That is my question. We do not even have that much money. Why do we need that many councillors? If you do not deal with us off-reserve members, then what is the point?

The Chair: I would guess the big problem, from what I saw as we travelled across the country, is that if you have people living on-reserve, how do you bring fairness to it? They are living there, they need to live on the reserve, whereas the people who are living in town have the ability to do whatever they want, and in this case they outnumber the on- reserve members so greatly. They could make decisions that would adversely or negatively affect the people on reserve, and this is the argument that they use. I know of one band in Northern Alberta, now, where they intend to have one of their councillors from off-reserve and the remainder will be on-reserve.

I hear what you are saying, but everything under the Indian Act is really geared for people on-reserve.

Ms. Spurr: If you are a band member, you should be treated equally.

The Chair: The argument is that there is no question that they should be treated fairly, but why equally? It is just like the situation where one son stays on the farm and works with his dad and the other son goes to town. I do not know whether the son who goes to town should have as much.

Ms. Lowe: I know that very well.

The Chair: Do you have a solution? What would be fair? You say you have spent most of your life in the urban area, off-reserve. What would be fair, do you think, to the people on-reserve? A lot of the benefits are only designed under INAC to benefit people on-reserve.

Ms. Spurr: If that is the case, then they should not have so many councillors still in place with the small amount of people who are on-reserve. That is part of my grief. If we do not have any money to pay that many people to do the work for people on-reserve then they should have two or three councillors, not four. That is an extra expense from our budget, whichever way they pay themselves.

Senator Dyck: On the question you raised with respect to the amount of money that the band gets, how much of that would go towards paying the chief and council?

Ms. Spurr: I have no idea what they get paid or what their salary is.

Senator Dyck: On the issue of on-reserve and off-reserve members, would you guess that most of the off-reserve members are women who have left? Do you think there is a gender dimension to this?

Ms. Spurr: I do not think they are mostly women, because even though I have more daughters than sons — I just have one son — and they all live off-reserve, too. I can only speak for myself and I do not know how many males there are off-reserve, but if you look at the list, I suppose you could find out.

Ms. Lowe: For the on-reserve population, there are more women than men.

Senator Dyck: On-reserve?

Ms. Lowe: On-reserve, except for one age group, but most age groups from 0 to 19 are all high in women; from 19 to 30, they are all women and right in between, I think, in the 40s and 50s they are all male and then when you go to the elders, they are all females, so we have a lot of six-to-one.

Senator Campbell: I think there are two issues here. The first issue deals with democracy and what it looks like, and that will depend on how you set up your protocol. I do not think that it is either right or fair for INAC or anybody else to tell a First Nation, or even further down to the band level, what their democracy or their governance should be.

In saying that, if you decide that every band member gets a vote, then clearly if the off-reserve members organized themselves, became informed, knew what was going on and what was happening, they could easily elect the council and the chief.

Also, in saying that, I understand your point about four councillors and one chief, but you must remember that the four councillors and one chief actually represent all of the band, so in fact they actually represent 890 people because, given even the way the election goes now, all band members have the opportunity to vote. Therefore I think the issue really will come down to the protocol: What will this protocol be? How will people be afforded a vote? What are the qualifications for being elected? Do you need to be on-reserve or off-reserve? I think once you have those answers, then you will be on your way.

I also understand how expensive it is, but at the same time, government in and of itself, because of the small number, will always be expensive. That will be the price that has to be paid to have your own protocol. I do not have the answer. I wish I had the answer to your question, because it is exactly as Senator St. Germain says: I stay on the farm with my dad and my brother goes to the city. When my dad dies, we each get half of the farm. I have been working my guts off for the last 50 years on the farm. I do not know how you come to a conclusion on that, or how you make a decision on that.

I do know this: You are going in the right direction with the protocol. I also know that the matriarchal system works much better than the patriarchal system, and I believe firmly that your results will be steeped in much more wisdom than if it were the other way around. I commend you. I have been to Fort Fraser and to Fraser Lake. It is a beautiful place. I also know of the difficulties that have befallen your community, so I wish you luck.

The Chair: You have lived all your life as an urban First Nation person?

Ms. Spurr: Yes.

The Chair: Do you receive any benefits that flow through the band back to you, if you do not mind me asking?

Ms. Spurr: No.

The Chair: Nothing?

Ms. Spurr: Nothing.

The Chair: All the moneys that come from the INAC that go to the band, none of it flows to the off-reserve people; is that what you are saying?

Ms. Spurr: We have our medical service, which was covered by medicare. Is that part of INAC? At any rate, we have the medical service.

The Chair: I am not sure. I believe it is Health Canada that provides your health coverage.

Ms. Spurr: Well, we all have that.

The Chair: That is pretty well it?

Ms. Spurr: That is about it. We get covered for our travel and stuff like that through the medical service if you are under the Indian Act, or if you have a status card.

Senator Raine: You can purchase gasoline tax-free?

Ms. Spurr: If you go to the reserve, yes.

Senator Raine: Yes.

The Chair: If you have a white card.

Senator Raine: Or any reserve?

Ms. Lowe: There is no white card in B.C.

The Chair: Oh, there is not?

Ms. Lowe: No. I went to Alberta and they asked for a white card, so I showed them my status card and they said, ``No, that does not work here at all. You have to pay the regular prices.''

The Chair: I know that Alberta have the cards.

Senator Raine: Cannot all registered band members — no?

Senator Campbell: On-band. For instance if you are a member of the Tsawwassen Nation and you go to the service station at the ferry then they get the tax off, but if they go anywhere else there is no recognition.

The Chair: The question is when you are drafting this document, are you thinking of putting in more councillors or are you thinking at all of putting in councillors who live off-reserve?

Ms. Lowe: There is a survey that has gone out to the membership on-reserve and off-reserve regarding the election code, and that was one of the questions being asked, about increasing the number of councillor positions. A lot of people just wanted to keep the same number. Another question is that they want to elect someone off-reserve as one of the councillors.

The Chair: Because that is happening in some of the First Nations in Alberta that I worked with, because we work with First Nations right across the country.

Senator Raine: You mentioned that, when you set up your election code committee, you had representation on it from the four different clans. Your band registry, does it list the membership by clans?

Ms. Lowe: No, it does not, but we are part of the potlatch balhats system, and this one would be the leader for the Frog clan, and the other one would be the leader for the Caribou clan.

Senator Raine: The clans are not based on family?

Ms. Lowe: They are based on families, because we follow our mother, the matriarchal system. We do have one person that is off-reserve on our committee also.

Senator Raine: Is there thought being given to having representation by clan on —

Ms. Lowe: Yes, we did talk to James Westhaver from INAC, and he gave us some information on the clan system, because there is a clan system within B.C. There is First Nations that do vote through their clan system.

Senator Raine: You mentioned that you wanted candidates for chief to submit a resume and to have some education and experience. I just would warn you that there are some very wise people in our world who make great leaders who may not have formal education. If there is a way to become educated, if you are a wise and honourable person suitable to lead, I would say that it would be a little bit dangerous to exclude people who might make great leaders. Education can be learned.

Ms. Lowe: Yes, and we still have not finished our code yet, but we are hopeful in expecting a really good result from our code.

Senator Raine: You started doing this process in March?

Ms. Lowe: Yes.

Senator Raine: Have you got a time limit for when you need to be finished or when you want to be finished?

Ms. Lowe: We want to be finished in March and have the ratification vote this winter.

Senator Raine: In March?

Ms. Lowe: Yes.

Senator Raine: When you have your code to a certain level, a draft level, will you then have that looked at by INAC?

Ms. Lowe: Yes, we do have to have a draft, and it does go through the whole process.

Senator Raine: Have they told you how long it will take?

Ms. Lowe: Yes, two years.

Senator Raine: If you approve it in March, then you should have it for the following March.

Ms. Lowe: Yes, and then it has to go through a community ratification vote and then we would have to wait for INAC's approval.

Senator Raine: Do they say it will take two years after you have had your ratification vote?

Ms. Lowe: No.

Ms. Spurr: They mentioned two to three years.

Ms. Lowe: Two to three years, yes.

Senator Raine: In total?

Ms. Lowe: Yes.

Senator Raine: I wish you good luck. I am sure it will make a difference in your community.

Ms. Lowe: I sure hope so.

Senator Dyck: You mentioned that at one point in time you had a family representative system that you said was very effective for a time, but then it fell apart. How long was that system in effect?

Ms. Lowe: This happened about eight years ago. The elders were still alive then, and between eight years ago and now, we have lost a lot. It was in effect for close to two years.

Senator Dyck: The other point was with regard to who has the authority, actually, in determining how you conduct your elections. There are people who would argue that under the Constitution Act, section 35, it is actually your own right to decide how you run your elections, and that perhaps INAC is not the one that should be deciding how you do conduct your elections. Maybe this family representative system that you had would be preferable to the custom election codes.

Ms. Lowe: Yes, and we are still investigating that.

Senator Dyck: Do you think it will be possible for you to go back to the family representative system, or was that really dependent upon having elders that had the knowledge on how to conduct that?

Ms. Lowe: Yes, it was really dependent upon the elders, and now the elders have gone on and we are left with young elders, like myself, who are still learning.

Senator Dyck: Yes.

Ms. Lowe: It was a great system. It was really fair because about seven people were part of it, I think, and they did quite a few things within the reserve and everyone was involved, so it was a real, united community.

Senator Dyck: Is it possible to somehow build that into the custom code, if you go the custom code route?

Ms. Lowe: That is a possibility.

The Chair: Your family units, are they similar to the Gitxsan who have their houses, their wilps? You know, in Hazelton, the Gitxsan govern themselves even to this day with hereditary chiefs who are determined by families or houses or wilps; they call them w-i-l-p-s. Is your system similar? Are they in your tribal council?

Ms. Lowe: No.

The Chair: No? Are you Carrier-Sekani?

Ms. Lowe: Yes, we are.

The Chair: The one thing that I will not comment on is the vote for the AFN elections. That comes up often. We will let First Nations deal with that.

Ladies, we do not have all the answers. We had a witness here who said that one size does not fit all, and that is correct because each First Nations community is unique unto itself; they have their own unique aspects to their communities. We wish you well in working out your custom code and we thank you for your information, because some of the things that you have brought forward are consistent. There is a consistency right across the country in relation to the shortness of terms and the accountability factor. The recall process is another thing that is of great concern; recall in the event that there are irregularities in the election or irregularities in the operations of the band.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for coming. Do you have anything else you want to say before you leave?

Ms. Lowe: I just wanted to say thank you for listening to us, and I will take the senator's advice on the family rep. Nancy? Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

We will now call on Dennis Patrick to make a presentation.

Tell us where you are from, if you would be so kind, and what you do.

Dennis Patrick, Stellat'en First Nation as an individual: Yes. I am from Stellat'en First Nation, also known as Stellaquo. We are situated two hours west of Prince George, with a population of approximately 400; 200 live on- reserve and 200 live off-reserve. I currently assist the band in consulting. I was formerly the chief in 1984 and 1989 and I sat on council for a number of terms and managed the education programme, the social development programme and the natural resource program. My last training was in environmental monitoring, so I have done extensive environmental reviewing and contract work as well as technical consulting in computer knowledge and technology. I wrote the technology plan for our community.

Many organizations do not have a budget for technology. They do not have the capacity to manage technology because it is changing every month with new gadgets, new devices and new software. The devices that are in the stores today are outdated by the time they're marketed. I do a lot of things but currently within the election process, I was taught quite well that the chief system is a government chief system, it is not our traditional values. It is not our traditional beliefs and it is not our tradition to have an elected chief. We have four clans and each clan has its own spokesperson and they, in turn, elect a head person to speak on behalf of the community.

That is confusing to our people, because you have an elected person telling the hereditary chiefs what to do, and it should be the contrary; it should be the other way around. There is also a misconception that the chief is ruling with an iron thumb, where he has an absolute say in all aspects of the community; in fact, technically, he is only the head spokesperson of the council, the chief councillor of the community. For community members, it is quite confusing because a lot of chiefs tend to run amuck with their power, making unilateral decisions on community development, for example. They may espouse a project without having input from the community members.

The electoral process is flawed on several grounds. You have an on-reserve population and you have an off-reserve population. The people who live off-reserve are not affected by the dynamics and the decisions happening at the community level. Democratically, I am sure they would have the same rights as in the Canadian voting public, but the fact is that the power of the chief only resides in the community. It does not go into the territory; it does not go into the province. Another misconception that people have is that if you are chief, you are walking around with a base of power, but that base of power is only tied to the community.

Our traditional leaders have the power base in the territory, and in fact we have not relinquished our rights and title to the community since time immemorial. That is another confusion, where our authority and our sovereignty is in question any time the province decides to develop the property in relation to mining, forestry or resource extraction. It gets even more confusing because we have trapline holders and some people refer to them as ``kaya'' and in different dialects it is ``kayo.'' Kaya is a territory that our traditional leaders held, and they are confusing traplines with actually the boundaries of the hereditary chief, and those type of things need to be discussed and fleshed out: What are traplines and what are traditional territories, and what is a chief's delegated responsibility?

The key term there is delegated authority. It is not absolute authority. It is not within the jurisdiction of community. I mean the European concept in terms of mayor, the way the mayor looks after a community.

I am probably the last of the few who can speak to you in terms of actual history that has happened in our territory. The generation that is living now has little understanding of the language, of the culture, of the way we live, of the way my grandparents lived off the land and the traplines, actually making a living harvesting furs, harvesting salmon and hunting within our traditional territory. Over time, we have lost sight of our goal. We have lost sight of the Penner Report, of the Pearse Commission and all those things that went before, and deliberating what our ills are at the community level. Although there are a lot of bright aboriginal people out there, we are not utilizing their skills at the community level. The one thing I have heard is that we are hiring a lot of outside sources and we lack the doctors, the nurses and the technicians. They are out there, they exist, but they are not in the communities; they are in the mainstream society.

As we become more aware of our responsibilities, the elections tend to fall by the wayside because of lack of awareness, lack of education, lack of these types of settings where you actually understand what the electoral procedures are. Within our community we have developed an election code; it clearly describes how an election is run and in the last two formats, we failed to follow that rule. Once you are nominated, you have two weeks to reply. If you do not reply, then your name is removed from the ballot list. There is a distinct community forum for all the candidates to give their platform, and in most cases the candidates were already realized without the election process. It is connection through family members, through relatives.

It makes the election process null and void when a candidate is already proclaimed chief, and that has happened in our community where we have a generation of people who have so many members that, no matter who runs, it will be up to that family to decide who becomes chief. Once you have awareness and education, it would bring light to those inaccuracies or dysfunctions of the electoral process.

I think in these last hundred years that we have come through, the history of our people has been diluted. They call it Indian studies and the stuff that those Indian studies comes from is the U.S. prairies and everywhere else but the Carrier people, who are a distinct nation within our territory. We have a distinct language, we have a distinct culture, we have a distinct way of life. I appreciate the prairies and all the other First Nations having their culture, but it is not Carrier culture. We have a different value system with our hereditary leaders. We have the clans, we have houses and the traditions that fall within those houses.

I think we are 99.9 per cent close to assimilation at this point in time. These new discussions will continue when my grandchildren will be talking about Indian affairs and the Indian Act, and I find that to be disheartening: that the Indian Act is the law of the land and it is not being followed in the community. It clearly states in black and white that status, registered Indians are to reside in the community and it is not happening. It is so diluted that anybody who comes into the community can live there without cause or without question. I understand that there are some places where lands are leased and they are legally allowed to live there, but aside from that, the Indian Act is clear as to who can reside in the community.

I will be glad to answer any questions that you may have.

Senator Campbell: How big is the Carrier Nation? Would you be the northern part of the Carrier Nation?

Mr. Patrick: We are part of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council. There are eight member bands, and historically there are 14 member bands of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council.

Within the Carrier Nation you are looking at a territory from Quesnel to the Yukon border, from the Alberta border out to Smithers. That is a good third of the province, I would say.

Senator Campbell: So you are Telkwa? You say the Yukon border to Smithers?

Mr. Patrick: Smithers, yes.

Senator Campbell: And how far south?

Mr. Patrick: Quesnel.

Senator Campbell: You would not take in Bella Coola?

Mr. Patrick: No.

Senator Campbell: Alexis Creek?

Mr. Patrick: They are border; they are Chilcotin.

Senator Campbell: I am just trying to get some idea of the size here because I am trying to put that into — if you had an election, how would this look? You know, I understand what you are saying. The concept of ``chief'' is a white concept; it is not a First Nations concept.

Mr. Patrick: Yes.

Senator Campbell: All the way over to the border, so McBride, Nazko, Quesnel. Is that Quesnel?

Mr. Patrick: Carrier, yes.

Senator Campbell: Wow. There was something you said that I do not have an answer for, and maybe you do, and this is off the topic. More and more we know that First Nations people are becoming educated in law, in medicine, in engineering, in virtually every field. Why do they not come back?

Mr. Patrick: The way the band functions is on program funding and there is no advancement in the programs. They are limited. You stick to a budget, and you must live within that budget and you die with that budget. There is no advancement in the profession, where you can move up the salary scale, and you are just stuck with that basic program.

Senator Campbell: Would you agree that if we looked at the Carrier Nation as a whole — not a band of 169 here or 150 over here — if we looked at this nation and the size of it and within that nation there being also many communities, would you not see a way of somebody being able to go there, make a tremendous contribution, obviously, and be satisfied and happy from a salary point of view? Am I dreaming in technicolour?

Mr. Patrick: Yes, theoretically it could be done, but the thing is that the politics and the dynamics of people who live on-reserve and off-reserve, those are two separate, unique mentalities. The people stuck on programs are marginalized, and the people who live off-reserve have access to employment, have access to greater programs and have opportunities to advance themselves.

Senator Campbell: They would argue the opposite. I have heard the exact opposite. Now I am just finally coming to see both sides and understand that in fact you are both marginalized because of the way the Indian Act is set up, deciding who is and who is not within the confines of this huge budget, this huge funding. Thank you very much. Please continue.

Mr. Patrick: For example, in the city of Prince George, you have a funding source for economic development; you have PGNAETA, the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Education and Training Association, or some other training capacity to allow people to have some training source; you have UNBC and you have CNC and they all provide aboriginal training, technical and professional development. In the city of Prince George, there are 30 urban aboriginal organizations for people living there to access if they need help.

Senator Campbell: You are right in the middle of this. You have Prince George, you have Burns Lake. Why would the people who are from your band, your nation, not be able to take advantage of those same facilities? Is it because of the distance? Because they have to leave? Because they have to move?

Mr. Patrick: I have had personal experience with all of the funding agents and I have done some work with some clients and set out a business plan. First, they will say, ``We will have a budget for $20,000,'' and then they come back and say, ``Well, because we can speed it up, but do not bring it to the board, we will bring it down $10,000.'' At the end of the day, when they quit giving you the spin, they will maybe give you a thousand to advance your project, the funding sources.

Senator Campbell: Who are ``they''? Indian Affairs?

Mr. Patrick: No. They are a body in Prince Rupert, I think they are called Tricor. In Burns Lake they are called the Native Development Corporation.

Senator Campbell: I understand what you are talking about now. Very well. Here is what I am talking about: I want to go to university, I live at Stellat'en. What is stopping me from going to university in Prince George?

Mr. Patrick: Absolutely nothing. Probably a transcript. You need to apply to university and have your transcripts sent to the band, and then university has to accept you, so there is absolutely nothing. It would just be the fear of the unknown that would be stopping you.

Senator Dyck: You mentioned something about non-Indians living in your community and I was not sure what you were referring to there. Were you referring to actually living on the Stellat'en First Nation reserve, or in the traditional territory?

Mr. Patrick: According to the Indian Act, it says status registered Indians may reside in the community. We have status and we have non-status; we have white people or Caucasian people living on the reserve, and if we had to enforce the Indian Act, a good third of the community would have to leave the community.

Senator Dyck: How would that affect anything to do with your elections?

Mr. Patrick: They do not vote. They do not have the authority to vote. It is only status registered members who are allowed to vote. Their names are ticked off on a list. However, these non-status people live there and they impact on programmes. It is social assistance, water, sewer, garbage collection. They impact on service delivery to the community.

Senator Dyck: They are receiving services from the band, although they are not band members?

Mr. Patrick: Yes.

Senator Raine: Mr. Patrick, could you clarify something for me? The people who are living on the reserve, are they there at somebody's invitation?

Mr. Patrick: Well, it is complicated. People go outside and fall into relationships and some are common-law and some are friends of people. We are currently working on our membership code, but it has been kicked from lawyer to lawyer to lawyer, and they have not found the fine points in trying to please everyone, to accommodate them. If these people are to continue to live there, I would like to see a taxation base to cover the cost of education, to cover the cost of garbage, water and sewer, as you would in the city of Prince George or in any municipality.

Senator Raine: I guess that should be the same for everybody who lives there?

Mr. Patrick: Yes.

Senator Raine: Yes. That is a whole other kettle of fish, is it not?

Mr. Patrick: Yes, it is.

The Chair: Mr. Patrick, I would like to thank you for presenting and responding to the senators' questions.

I would like to thank the people in the audience who came and who stayed. As this is the end of the meeting, I want to thank all the support staff, the interpreters, stenographers, clerks, specialists, analysts, communications people and organizers for helping to this point.

We will have a fact-finding meeting in Vancouver tomorrow morning, and then Senator Campbell will convene the committee meeting to receive information on Friday morning in Vancouver.

(The committee adjourned.)


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