Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 30 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 2, 1999

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 5:45 p.m. to examine and report upon aboriginal self-government.

Senator Charlie Watt (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we do not yet have a quorum, but we were supposed to start at 5:30. It is now 5:45, so we will proceed. Everything we do will be recorded. Even though a limited number of senators are here, please proceed as if the room were full.

The witnesses in front of us are from the Atikamekw nation; Ernest Awashish is president. Please introduce your two colleagues and proceed with your presentation.

[Translation]

Mr. Ernest Awashish, President, Council of the Atikamekw Nation: Allow me to introduce Marc Dubé, the chief negotiator for the Atikamekws in our land claims negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec as well as our counsel, Mr. Alain Sachel.

With your permission, I will speak in Atikamekw and I will make sure to repeat the same for you in French.

[Editor's note: The witness, Mr. Awashish, speaks in Atikamekw]

With these few words I simply thank you for inviting us here to your committee and to tell you that we really appreciate this opportunity to be heard.

Before beginning, I would like to quote one of our elders, César Nouashish, who bequeathed a message to us before he died. He came from one of the Atikamekw communities, namely Manawan. In 1994, he bequeathed a message to us in which he asked us to tell you that we have never given up our land; that we have never sold it; that we have never traded it and that we have never had any other policy regarding our land. This is the message that I had to deliver to you.

Following another traditional form, we are pleased to present and to table a brief from the Atikamekw nation, from the Atikamekw Kice Okimaw within the context of the special study on aboriginal self-government.

Before making this presentation I would like to take a few moments to share some reflections regarding what you have set about doing.

I am referring to the letter that your representative addressed to us as well as to Atikamekw political leaders, on October 14, 1998, where your representative mentions us, and I quote:

This exercise is a unique opportunity for you to express your point of view on the issue of self-government based on areas of jurisdiction, territory and representation.

This is an excerpt from the letter that Mr. Sioui sent to us.

Without diminishing the importance of your special study on aboriginal self-government, and especially without diminishing the importance of the mandate of the Senate Standing Committee for Aboriginal Peoples, with your permission, I will share some observations and questions that we have.

I note that since the 1960s, and on many so-called unique opportunities, we tabled a very large number of briefs; we made comments on the same issue before a large number of commissions, committees, departments and organizations. It would be too long to make an exhaustive list of them, and moreover it would be interpreted as a conversion of the Atikamekw to the written tradition.

However, I will quote a few examples for you. A unique opportunity was offered to us by the Tremblay commission in 1962; by the Pepin-Robarts commission on Canadian unity in 1979, and by the Special Committee on Self-Determination for Indians in Canada in 1983, namely the Penner report; and by the Beaudoin-Edwards commission on the Constitution in 1991. Another unique opportunity was also offered by the Inquiry on the New Partnership in 1994, and this was Justice Hamilton's report. And should we mention the unique opportunity offered by the Royal Inquiry Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

I will spare you the very large number of briefs that we also tabled regarding the integrity of the Atikamekw territory and of its resources. We have tabled briefs on acid rain, the use of phytocides, the Quebec forestry system, Hydro-Québec's projects, and many more. As you can see, this is not the first time that we have a unique opportunity to make our thoughts and positions heard.

The really unique thing about this in our minds, is the fact that all these commissions, or at least their work, all these briefs and all these comments have been put away in some unknown place. We wonder whether all the work of the Royal Inquiry Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and especially its recommendations, will not meet with the same fate by being shelved and forgotten.

In the course of its work, the Special Committee of the House of Commons on Indian Self-Government, which was set up in 1982 -- and we are still talking about the Penner report -- heard no fewer than 611 witnesses. Four large-scale research projects were commissioned by the special committee.

First, there was a project concerning the economic basis of Indian self-government; second, various models for relations between aboriginal peoples and the government; third, the fiduciary relationship between the federal government and the Indians of Canada; fourth, federal expenditures and certain mechanisms for transferring funds to Indians.

Just imagine the human and financial resources that were devoted to this committee. The outcome was that the reports were ignored. As for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, I will spare you the list of witnesses; it would also be too long. However, 142 researchers served as advisers to the Commission. This, too, represented a huge investment of resources.

We see that the aboriginal issue in Quebec and Canada creates jobs and work for some elected officials. Paradoxically, this issue does not create any jobs in our communities. We might call this an aboriginal issues project. We have become part of the machinery and it has cost us dearly!

To wrap up this point, let me tell you that, despite all this work, our territory continues to be exploited under strong pressure and to our disadvantage. For example, there is the unauthorized and unbridled logging being carried out by multinationals without any respect for our territory, with the blessing and backing of the Quebec government to boot.

The Atikamekw Nation continues to face obstacles to its development, and serious social ills confront us daily. In our opinion, the Quebec and Canadian governments have an obligation to halt this collapse, if they are to act responsibly. Only a fair and equitable treaty will put an end to this situation, in our view.

I will take a few minutes to describe the brief that I am submitting today. The first part describes the current situation. There was a more detailed description in our initial version, but we had to take out two-thirds of it, and so the first part comprises a short description of the three Atikamekw communities. The second part sets out the commitments made by the federal government, the Quebec government and the Atikamekw Nation to negotiate a treaty. The third part highlights the difficulties encountered in reaching an agreement in principle on land and the inherent right to self-government. The fourth part sets out the position of the Atikamekw concepts of extinguishment of ancestral or Aboriginal rights and absolute certainty, section 35(1) of the Constitutional Act, 1982, and the so-called integrity of Quebec's territory. In our last chapter, we talk about the Atikamekw government.

I also have a quotation to share with you. We think that it faithfully describes the part that the Government of Canada has played from the beginning up to the present time:

I climbed onto the back of a man and I am crushing him; I ask him to carry me, and without letting go of him I tell him I feel sorry for him, but that I have only one desire; to improve his situation in whatever way I can. However, I do not get off his back.

I thank you for listening to me. I hope that our brief will provoke much discussion. Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, we will be pleased to try to answer them as best we can.

[English]

The Chairman: Thank you for your presentation.

Senator Andreychuk: I have not had the opportunity to read your brief, although I certainly will.

I share your frustration that you have filed so many briefs and spoken to so many people and not received the results that you wanted. Our job as senators is to facilitate that dialogue between government and aboriginal peoples.

What would you suggest we should put in our report? Obviously not more briefs, not more royal commissions. What do you think we could suggest to the government to facilitate the position and the settlement of the issues between the aboriginal people, particularly in your case?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: The Atikamekw Nation has been negotiating for nearly 20 years. That does not mean that we do not have dreams; that does not mean that our vision began to take shape only 20 years ago. What we would like, or what we would suggest, is that the extinguishment of our rights is not part of the solution. The solution will have to be based on a recognition of these rights and on the ability of our government to exercise these rights. In our opinion, this solution does not threaten Canada's sovereignty. We have a partnership with the government and we wish to participate actively in the country's economic life. We maintain that the underlying conditions are the recognition of our territory and access to these resources through negotiations.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: Following up on that, are you saying that the protocol you signed with both levels of government is taking a long time but is the right route to go?

The Senate here is not sitting as government. It is not sitting as part of the government. We are studying self-government, at least from my perspective, to find ways to facilitate and to speed up the process of recognizing the need to deal with the self-government issue. Groups have come to us and stated, for example, that the talks are going very slowly and that they are being ignored, and they are asking for various devices or mechanisms to speed up the solution of these issues.

In your case, you signed a protocol with two levels of government. Is that the only mechanism, and do you think it is sufficient and that we should not be suggesting any further methods or measures? How can we help you?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: We feel that negotiations are the best way to go now. One of the measures that we are contemplating is the transfer of jurisdictions from the federal government to our government under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1982. A good starting point would be bilateral negotiations with Government of Canada representatives, direct negotiations aimed at recognizing the jurisdictions that currently exist and could be exercised by our government for matters that are within the jurisdiction of the Canadian government.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: Your council represents your nation. Do you have an all-inclusive way of electing your council? Could you explain that to me? I am a westerner. I know the structures of the aboriginal people there. In your council, does everyone get to vote on the leadership, and does that include people who may be living in other places in Canada or elsewhere, off your territory?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: At the present time, we have no choice but to work with the Indian Act. The Act allows for the election of councils that serve terms varying from two to four years. It is our plan to include, in the written part of our constitution, the possibility of allowing non-Atikamekw to receive the same services for which they would be eligible from another government.

Our policy is not to exclude, but rather to respect, the individuals who will be living on our land. Of course, we believe that the heritage handed down to us from our ancestors, our Aboriginal rights, can be passed on only to other Atikamekw. In our constitution, we will provide for the possibility of applying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: Could you clarify? Do you believe that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to you, or are you saying that you would consider applying it?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: It applies now and it will continue to apply under our constitution, along with an Atikamekw Charter that is in keeping with the aboriginal rights of the Atikamekw. Our intention is to respect everyone. We certainly do not want to practice discrimination, which is currently done under the Indian Act.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: For information purposes, how large is the territory that you are claiming in square kilometres or miles?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: These are subjects that are being discussed at the table.

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: I wanted to know your claim.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: We want recognition of title to the land and recognition that our rights may be exercised over it. There are areas of different sizes involved in the negotiations. We have initial positions and there are initial offers also. It may vary, depending on the table. Would you like more details?

[English]

Senator Andreychuk: I have never visited your area. Approximately how large an area is it? I was going to ask whether there are non-aboriginal people living in the disputed area, but you made a very good comment. You said that you were considering benefits and abilities for non-aboriginals to reside in your area. I wanted to cover that.

The Chairman: If you turn to the third page of their brief, it describes three communities and population and area. That might help you.

Senator Andreychuk: In that case, I will leave the questioning. I will read the brief, which we did not have before. If we have any other comments or questions, we can direct them through the staff to get the answers.

Senator Adams: Do you have a problem with people going to the city, leaving your community, living off-reserve, and then returning? I am concerned about Bill C-31. I forget what year that passed through the Senate.

The Chairman: I believe it was 1985.

Senator Adams: Do you have any difficulty with people living off reserve and then returning?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: We did not encounter any major problems when Bill C-31 came into effect on April 17, 1985. However, the housing stock available in our communities could help us. In our communities, there is no policy of exclusion: if members of our nation have left the community, it's mainly because of a lack of available housing. They are not being excluded. We would like to set something up to allow them to return.

[English]

Senator Adams: Bill C-31 should be able to provide money to people returning to the reserve. However, even with Bill C-31, people cannot come back to live on their reserves. We heard from others about people trying to come back, but they have been off reserve for so long that they are not recognized on the reserve. You have no difficulty with people coming back. If they want to, they can live in your community.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: We have no objection in the case of our members, as long as housing is available. They are not excluded in any other way. The main reason for members leaving us is the lack of housing. In our case, it's not a problem.

[English]

Senator Adams: You signed an agreement with the Government of Canada and the Quebec government in 1997. What actually was in the agreement or protocol? Right now, are you starting negotiations, or is the agreement part of the negotiations? Do you have an agreement on the land claim?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: Are you referring to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement that was signed in 1975 by Canada, the Cree, the Naskapi and the Innu? Is that what you mean?

[English]

Senator Adams: No. You mention in your brief an agreement or protocol between the Government of Canada and of Quebec in September 1997.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: Yes on September 11, 1997. It is a political agreement that we signed in order to increase the likelihood of reaching an agreement in principle quickly. At this time, it is the only agreement concerning land negotiations that we have with the government.

[English]

Senator Adams: Mr. Chairman, sometimes you have an agreement on leases stipulating the boundaries and compensation. My question is what is in the agreement.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: It is just an agreement to make it easier for us to have meetings, among other things, in the event that there is an impasse at the central negotiating table. We agreed that if things ever got held up at the central table, we would arrange for our respective political authorities to meet in order to deal with such a problem if it should occur.

[English]

The Chairman: I would like to get back to your paper and cover an area relating to your day-to-day negotiation with the Government of Quebec and deal with the question of Quebec integrity.

Let me focus on the question of extinguishment. I was involved at the very first stage of our negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, which in a sense extinguished your rights -- not directly, but indirectly -- by having an extinguishment provision within the James Bay agreement. I think both of us fully understand what happened during that time.

I have not known up to now whether any aboriginal groups in this country actually ever took the question of extinguishment to the Supreme Court of Canada to use it as a test case. I believe that it was dealt with indirectly by the Supreme Court of Canada when the ruling came down in regard to the Delgamuukw case.

I share your view that it should not be taken into consideration when dealing with the question of extinguishment unless there is a clear indication that whatever the trade-off might be is realized first. In other words, when you enter into a negotiation with the Crown, I have always doubted whether the Crown has the authority to extinguish any agreement in principle before you deal with your final agreement.

Is this what is happening in your negotiations today? Are the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada still calling upon pre-extinguishment before they agree to sit down and deal with you in a serious manner in regard to the ingredients of that final agreement in the future?

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: If I may, I would like to ask our chief negotiator, Mr. Dubé, to say a few words. First, however, I would like to get back to a question asked by Senator Andreychuk. She wanted to know how members of the committee could help us deal with the government of Quebec's claim to territorial integrity over our land. I would rather ask you how you could help us.

[English]

The Chairman: I am sorry, either I missed something or I did not get the concluding response. I did not capture the crux of the point you were making.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: Senator Andreychuk asked us how members of the Senate committee could help us. I returned the question and asked how members of the Senate committee could help us resolve the question of the government of Quebec's claim with regard to territorial integrity.

[English]

The Chairman: Perhaps I did not capture everything you said to her and how she responded to you. Perhaps that is why I feel there is some grey area in which we are not connecting in terms of our questions and responses. You are simply saying, "I already answered that to the previous senator." Is that not what you are telling me? If you could repeat it, I would appreciate it. This is a very important area of the work we are conducting today. We are almost at the point now of our last stretch as a committee, and we will be concluding our recommendations. You asked earlier what happened to all those recommendations. I, for one, am very much concerned about what happened to them. I am very determined as chairman of this committee, and I am also supported by the other senators, that we do not repeat the same thing over again. Therefore, if we are to make substantial recommendations, we want to ensure that our recommendations will suggest how the government can implement them, not just simply say, "Here are the recommendations." We will instruct them, as much as possible, on how to use the mechanics of the government to implement the recommendations we will be putting forward.

I share your concern about what happened to the report. Therefore, I need very clear answers from you on this point. If you want me to repeat it, I will repeat it again.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that one possible solution would be to recognize the rights of the Atikamekw through negotiations. We know that the government recognizes that we have an inherent right. In order to exercise this right however we need a land base which would enable us to make our own laws within this territory, while at the same time recognizing the rights and obligations of everyone in the territory and providing the necessary means to govern. We would also need to be able to legislate within the territory in order to finance our government, and we would therefore need access to its resources. This would not be possible in the case of extinguishment, whatever the term you want to use, such as "surrender" or even a definition of these rights in a treaty: it is the equivalent of surrendering or extinguishment. Formal recognition in a treaty is a fundamental solution for us, and one that does not threaten Canada's territorial integrity.

Mr. Marc Dubé, Chief Negotiator, Atikamekw Nation Council: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak. I would like to say a few words about extinguishment. It is a topic which is current, and many terms are used to say the same thing. A little while ago the president of the Atikamekw Nation talked about extinction, surrender and exchanges of our rights. These words all mean extinguishing these rights. At all our discussions at the negotiating table with the federal government and Quebec, the same points come up again and again. For several years we have been discussing the same thing.

The governments are willing to recognize our ancestral rights, our inherent rights to self-government. I do not really know what their problem is when they talk about recognizing our rights, because they want us to define these rights. They ask us: "What are your rights?" It is a big problem. On the one hand they tell us that we have rights, and on the other hand, they ask us for an exact definition.

For several years now we have been going around in circles, whether we have been discussing these matters with the federal government or the government of Quebec. It is always the same thing: the extinguishment of rights. No matter what the terms used, it is always the same thing. That is what I wanted to add.

Mr. Awashish: Could I readdress my question to Senator Andreychuk? Earlier you asked me how we could help the committee to help us. We turned the question around to find out how you could help us settle our problem with respect to the Quebec government's claim to territorial integrity over our land. As members of the committee, how do you see your stewardship role?

[English]

The Chairman: Did you want to respond, Senator Andreychuk?

Senator Andreychuk: No, but that gives me some idea of what those witnesses think we should do, and that is to exercise our fiduciary role. I think we can take that into account. We always must understand that the Senate is not the government. We must determine what we can do to further the Canadian government's participation. At the same time, as you quite rightly pointed out, all parliamentarians have a fiduciary responsibility. We must address that in our report.

I thought you might give us some concrete proposals as to how we could exercise that fiduciary responsibility beyond reminding the government of its responsibility. For example, one of the groups came to us and said that part of the difficulty of negotiating is that they are always negotiating with the people in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and that it would be better if there was some capacity, say perhaps in the Prime Minister's Office or elsewhere, where someone would consistently deal with these issues at a high-enough level separate from the people who manage the day-to-day issues of Indian Affairs. We can pass on that very concrete suggestion. I was looking for more concrete suggestions to facilitate you. We will take the broad one into account.

The Chairman: Thank you for your presentation. We will take your case into consideration in our report, especially the area dealing with the question of extinguishment. No presenters have discussed this as being a problem. As I indicated, if you look at extinguishment coming from the aboriginal perspective, there are two things about which you must be concerned. First, you are being asked for pre-extinguishment. You are being asked to extinguish yourself before you have any type of agreement. Then, when you have a final agreement, you are asked for a certainty, a surrender, extinguishment, surrender and release of whatever you have, whatever that might be. That is normally within the final agreement. Those two areas have been troubling many aboriginal people.

There is a bigger picture, looking at it from the aboriginal perspective. Who has the right to make the claim? Is it the third parties outside, or is it legitimately right to think that we are the ones that have to make the claims? Why should the other side not make the claims to us? Those issues have been thrown around within the aboriginal community over the years.

We will get back to you.

[Translation]

Mr. Awashish: Perhaps I could make a short observation in closing. The problem is the same when we are negotiating with federal representatives, among others. What we would really like would be to have a negotiator appointed who has full authority and can speak for Canada. This individual would be assigned only to these negotiations. At the present time the federal negotiator is sharing his time with three groups: two groups of Montagnais and one Atikamekw group. This suggestion might speed up negotiations.

[English]

The Chairman: Our next witness will be Grand Chief Joseph Norton.

Mr. Norton, unfortunately, we are almost at the tail end, trying to wrap up a lot of committee work right now, and we are very thin at this point. Assume that there is a whole mass of senators here, because you are being recorded. Make yourself at home and present your case. We would like to have an opportunity at the end to ask you some questions, so please leave us some time.

Grand Chief Joseph Norton, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake: Thank you, senator. I have a good imagination. I will pretend the place is full right to the top and that there are people waiting to get in, trying to break the door down.

Senator Andreychuk: We should say that some of us must cover more than one committee. Not being here does not mean that we do not take the evidence in. Part of our job is to read the transcripts. I assure the witnesses that what they say here will be read and reread and reread.

Mr. Norton: We have been before many committees previously, Senate committees and other committees, so we understand and know how this works. The three of us here sit on many committees ourselves in the community. We also spread ourselves thin at times.

I should like to begin by introducing Mr. Frank Vieni, who is one of our negotiators and researchers. He works within Kahnawake in a number of portfolios and has many responsibilities, just like some of the senators not here this evening. Mr. Arnold Goodleaf is the director of our Intergovernmental Relations Team, or IRT sector, as we call it. He and Mr. Vieni work directly together. At one time, Mr. Vieni was with the Department of Indian Affairs as a director general in the province of Quebec, so some of you may know him and have talked to him. He worked with the Government of Canada for quite a number of years in different capacities.

Thank you for this opportunity to be here this evening. We will try to be as brief as possible in order to leave room for questions.

It must be understood that although I represent an elected council and although the Indian Act has been a part of Kahnawake for over 100 years, the community has always wished to rid itself of the Indian Act. I have said on many occasions that my job is to get rid of my job. Some people have said that I am not doing a very good job of it, because I have been there for 21 years. Be that as it may, there has always been a call in the community to re-establish some form of traditional government.

It has been a long time since our people have fully practised traditional government. That is a strong motivator for eliminating the Indian Act.

Processes over the last several years have come into being, such as the community-based self-government process and the inherent right process. Certain court decisions strongly supported native issues, especially in the area of oral, traditional and customary testimony and belief. These decisions have fit quite well into the process that we have continued.

Each council has had the subsequent responsibility and duty of carrying on what the formal council was mandated to do and what the community has mandated itself to do, and that is to rid itself of the Indian Act. That has been a major process for us.

We have been involved with the Indian Act for over 100 years. That act has caused a number of disruptions in our lives. It had created a situation that has conflicted with our traditional and customary beliefs and caused divisions in the community. We have people who are traditional believers and who have continuously criticized and attacked an elected council because of the duties it must carry out.

I do not wish to go through the entire historical side of the issue, but we all know that at one point we had Indian agents in our community who ran the show. Once they left, councils began to take on more responsibilities and duties. However, as I say, the Indian agent moved out of the communities and established himself within the province or at the federal level. There is still an Indian Act tie that connects us to the Government of Canada.

We look at treaties as being the basis of the relationship between our peoples and Canadian society, in general, regardless of whatever regime is in place. I believe that is what we are talking about here; the relationship between the parties and not so much the imposition of laws on a particular group of people that had been identified through what we consider to be an oppressive act. It is generally admitted that the Indian Act has assimilated native people, taken away their identity, language and culture in order to make them like everyone else. We know the horror stories. You have heard them before. We will not go into them.

In recent years, there has been a reversal of that, with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the subsequent "Gathering Strength" response. Along with the court decisions, many other things have happened.

Modern-day treaties have been signed. We do not necessarily agree with all of their contents, but they recognize very unique nations of people in this country who have very distinct languages, cultures and beliefs. That has created a dilemma for this country, its laws, its different institutions and ministries that have an interest in one way or another in our peoples.

Kahnawake has a history that some people call radical or rebellious. In modern times there have been incidents that have caused a great deal of difficulty for ourselves and other people.

In 1988, the community was attacked by the RCMP and the SQ because of a controversial issue related to tax and cigarettes. That created quite a stir for our people for several days.

As a result of that event, the community called for negotiations and discussions at the highest level to be able to create a situation that would prevent those kinds of things from happening again.

Unfortunately, the Oka situation, as it is referred to, occurred two years later, in 1990. That occurred as a result of many years of frustration, anger and the refusal of Canada, the Province of Quebec and surrounding peoples to come to an understanding and arrangement with the people in Kahnawake. That frustration spilled over into our communities. The late 1980s and early 1990s was a tumultuous time for us.

Our people will not allow these kinds of things to happen again. However, the call has been to negotiate, to sit with Canada and Quebec at times. On March 30 we signed a series of arrangements with the Province of Quebec that will lead to some very beneficial things happening for the people of Kahnawake as well for the Province of Quebec.

The people of Kahnawake have demanded that Canada and Quebec not use force against us in the future. In order to prevent confrontation, we have had to sit at the table and face one another.

The federal government has agreed, one way or another, to the necessity of sitting together. They have encouraged us to become involved in whatever negotiation process was available at any given time.

We took on the task of the community-based self-government process. For a time we were involved in that. We made some headway and began to piece together the things that we felt were necessary for us to sustain ourselves. We targetted when these things could happen.

However, knowing how governments work and that changes in government create situations and circumstances that are beyond our control created a significant amount of frustration. However, we said we would stay at the table.

In 1991, we signed an arrangement in the area of the inherent right process. That began a nine-year period in which we negotiated and went through quite a number of different people at the table.

We went through a Prime Minister, we went through a whole new change in government, we went through several premiers, different ministers of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and negotiators, et cetera. We have been on quite an odyssey in terms of changing faces and attitudes and different kinds of court cases that have led to supporting the movement in which we have been involved.

This process has brought us to a point where very significant things happen. As the documents indicate, we are talking with Canada now in a process that we call the Canada-Kahnawake Relations Process. We are talking about education, Mohawk language and culture, and we have signed a tripartite policing agreement, which is very unique. If you have any questions we can expand on that.

We are talking about the policing aspects and the administration of justice in our community. We are talking about Kahnawake lands and the use of that land, our ability to administer and register the land for our people. We are talking about membership, about who will participate in this. We are at a stage where those things are significant, where Canada has agreed that we will embark on a process in developing those particular areas.

There are at least 24 other areas of jurisdiction. We are talking about jurisdiction here, senators. That should not scare you or should not send off warning signals. We are not trying to undermine Canada's sovereignty, nor are we trying to disrupt or create a situation that will be another Kosovo, or cause other concerns or a rebellion or anything of that nature.

We take very seriously what Canada and the provinces have said in terms of the fact that native people should be dealt with very differently. Perhaps there is one set of laws in this land, but surely people will understand, and studies and polls have proven in recent months and years that although there is only one law in the land, only one Constitution and only one Parliament, native people are treated very differently when it comes to the law, when it comes to jails, and quite a number of other things.

We are learning that in the area of economics. We are beginning to expand and look at our own source revenue. We are now looking at joint ventures, as we indicate in our document. We formed a partnership with people from the U.S. in the aviation business. We are talking about doing something at Mirabel Airport, which has been called a white elephant. We wish to turn that white elephant into a sacred cow and make it viable and feasible and, in doing so, create employment for our people and the people of Quebec and Canada.

We are getting into these things that we have been encouraged to do. However, in doing so, we have run up against different attitudes, both at the federal level as well as at the provincial level. They are not insurmountable and we will be able to overcome them, but we find that if you are a native person, particularly if you are from Kahnawake, you are automatically asked about your motivation. Are you trying to make money to create an army? Are you trying to launder money? Why do you wish to establish a bank? Why do you wish to do this or that? These questions are in the backs of people's minds.

That attitude disturbs us to some degree, however, it is to be expected. We do not accept it, but once they see that we are able and capable, then the process and the attitudes begin to change. That will take some time. We have gone as far as developing and establishing an economic development commission in the community that will do business on behalf of the community and be at arm's length from the council itself. We have passed and established a law that gives power to this commission.

We feel that we are in a position to be able to take on the duties and responsibilities of a government. However, harmonizing and actually being able to say yes, we want law and order in our community and we want to legislate but, at the same time, we will not do things that will be so far off the beaten track that they will disrupt or take away from the sovereignty of Canada and create a situation where people will be very concerned about what is happening in the community.

We are going through the growing pains, just as Canada is going through the growing pains of becoming a country itself. Do not forget, your Constitution is very new and it is being interpreted through various ways and means, particularly through the law. In our involvement in the Constitution, we are beginning to be recognized in one way or another, and some very positive things are happening.

All in all, I believe that the people of the community have set for themselves a very ambitious but achievable vision and corresponding goals. It is not the council or the intergovernmental relations team, or any of the support mechanisms that we have within the community that set the goals and visions. It is the community itself.

We have reached our capacity in terms of taking over administration. We are good administrators. We can administrate anyone. We now need to be able to legislate. Over the course of time we are willing to work with federal officials and ministries. We have achieved a good working relationship with the people who are across the table from us.

I have insisted that we create partnerships and ensure that we are heading towards and developing the same goals. We do not stand there with our hands out asking for more funds and then not be accountable for them. We produce, and the production people have seen that. We are able to sit down with the Province of Quebec, as volatile as the circumstances have been. We all know that Quebec is on a collision path, if you will, with us, in terms of their belief in sovereignty and nationhood and all the things that we have always professed that we believe in very strongly. At the same time, we have been able to sit together and come up with a bilateral set of agreements and arrangements, beginning with declarations last fall that we would work together.

This has created problems for the federal government because in their eyes and in their estimation it is a bit premature to be doing certain things that touch on some federal responsibilities. That has not deterred us. We have attempted to get the two parties together but, because of the political squabbling, we have been prevented from bringing them together. Perhaps that has been our role, to bring the federal and provincial governments to the table at times when it is necessary to have tripartite agreements.

This is not new for us. We have a very unique arrangement in the area of policing, from both the federal and provincial perspectives. In our arrangement, we are not provincial police, nor federal police. We are Mohawk police. We enforce all applicable laws, including Mohawk laws.

In a sense, perhaps that third order of government mentioned years ago is beginning to emerge in one way or another. We need understanding and support for that process. We need people to be imaginative, to sit down and take stock and recognize the value in what Kahnawake has established. It is leading the way across this country.

I do not mind telling you that I am very proud of the things that we have done. I am proud of the group of people and the teams that we have assembled. They are able to speak the same language as the people across from us, and to actually cooperate and develop the language that can meet the test in both our camps when we go back to our respective areas.

That is when Canada, the Department of Indian Affairs, the minister, and any other ministry go back to sit with the cabinet. When we in turn go back to our community and talk to our people about what we have, we feel that the language, understanding and the arrangements will meet the test and will pass.

Senators, I believe that in the brief period we have had together this evening, we have left you with a good impression of what we are attempting to do. This will not happen overnight. We know that. This will take time. These are the building blocks and stepping stones for the future generations of our people. We hope to also provide a way for Canada to begin to understand the relationship that needs to be developed between native people and the government of this country and with the general population. Whether we like it or not, we are going through a form of decolonization where the colonizer is not leaving. You are here. You will stay. We are striving to develop a system of co-existence. We will contribute, as we have contributed to your survival in the past. We can perhaps again provide a means by which we can live together, and perhaps the means by which you can live together amongst yourselves. There is a lot of turmoil between provinces, different parties, et cetera. You know quite well what I am talking about.

Finally, self-government is not necessarily our objective. We always had self-government. We do not need to negotiate that. As I mentioned, it is the relationship. Self-government can be used as a tool to achieve our self-sufficiency and self-determination, hand in hand with the government of this country.

The Chairman: Thank you for your excellent presentation, Grand Chief. It was very pointed and meaningful. I am sure that the senators here and those who will be reading your presentation will appreciate your willingness to move forward.

Senator Wilson: I am aware that the language and culture has collapsed temporarily because of colonization. You identified education, language and culture as three of the areas you are working on. I am interested to know what you are doing in language and culture, and how, because they are connected with education. How are you harmonizing what you are doing with the educational system in the province? If you were in control, what legislation do you think that would lead to?

Mr. Norton: First, we have to take control of the educational system. Over the course of a 30-year period, that is what has happened in the community. We have gone from a Catholic school, to a Protestant school, to a one-school system; we have gone to one board that oversees everything in the community; we have developed the curriculum; and we have put an immersion language program in place. We are not just teaching the language, we are teaching in the language. We teach the younger grades up to Grade 6 or 7. However, we have not yet reached our ultimate level of having a complete educational system.

In doing this, we have had to battle the perception that the provinces have jurisdiction over education. Through a lot of hard work and initiative, we have been able to get the federal government to understand that we have a right to develop our education system, and that language, culture and education go hand in hand. Language and culture are the mainstream of our educational system.

We are now striving to make our certificates official, so that our teachers and students are recognized. We need to make them official because we need to have a good relationship with the province of Quebec. We are striving to have the government there recognize that we have this right, and that we are exercising it. That is part of the process of putting it on our agenda and making it a priority with whomever we are dealing with. It is also part of the process that we put in place in the area of the Canada-Kahnawake relations situation that has arisen.

Senator Wilson: Are there still contentious issues in getting the province to recognize what you are doing educationally?

Mr. Arnold Goodleaf, Director of Intergovernmental Relations Team, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake: There are no points of contention in our basic understanding and relationship with Quebec. That was confirmed last fall. It is understood that the power, authority and jurisdiction rest with Kahnawake. That is not a contentious item. When two powers exercise that jurisdiction, how can there be compatibility, conformity without duplication, with some harmonization and common objectives? These agreements were arrived at in this spirit. We are carrying forward that spirit, not only in education, but in all the other fields.

In the area of culture and language, we have a language law in Kahnawake. For the first time it was necessary to put a law in place to encourage the protection and use of the Mohawk language in Kahnawake. The language law will be brought before the council next Monday or two weeks from now. Then it will be put to the community. It is a shame that we have to put a law together like that.

In the area of culture, we have cultural entities in our community such as a radio station and a cultural centre. We are trying to build a tourism framework that would be a cultural site destination and bring back pride in the culture. One of the reasons we hate colonization so much is because it has taken away our pride, and now we have to rebuild that. We are attempting to do that in many ways. We package the three of them into this arrangement with Canada. For many people, education, language and culture would be considered to be motherhood issues, non-contentious and very straightforward jurisdictional areas. However, we found that we got caught between the federal and provincial boundaries in some areas. If there is any contention, it lies between those two entities, not between us and those two entities.

Senator Wilson: I appreciate that you have cast it in terms of a relationship between parties. You have already said that you had to enact legislation to protect your language. Are there other areas where, if you were in control, you would need legislation?

Mr. Norton: We have identified 28 different areas. Some may be in conflict with Canada's Constitution. Canada has a list of non-negotiable areas and some of our areas may conflict with them because of our need to have some say about them. It may not be total jurisdiction, but at least there will be some harmonization with the cultural and traditional beliefs. That is where the conflict arises, rather than in the actual way that the law is imposed or implemented.

Senator Adams: We just approved Bill C-49 a few weeks ago. It affects only 14 communities. I think you have read about it in the papers. What do you think about that bill? At present, you have a golf course and everything is settled; there is no difficulty. Would you like some kind of law like that for your community? Right now you have no difficulty in the area you are claiming for Kahnawake. Your community goes up to Cornwall. You have the same language right up to Cornwall, is that right?

Mr. Norton: We are only one community of the Mohawk nation. In what is known as the province of Quebec, you have Kanesatake, or Oka, as it is referred to, and part of Akwesasne. You are talking about the Akwesasne, who are in Ontario, New York State and in part of Quebec.

We are attempting to establish not only administration over our territory but also jurisdiction on our territory. I am by no means an expert on Bill C-49 and I do not know all the details, but that is kind of a delegated responsibility from the federal government to the native people from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It is something that we would have to look at.

We do not always reject everything. We have looked at whatever options are available. If it is something that we can use bits and pieces of, then we will. We have the ability to be creative and imaginative enough to be able to use parts of Bill C-49 to our benefit. However, if it will be detrimental -- and, I think it is in some instances -- then we must be very careful.

Mr. Goodleaf: We must make the distinction between outstanding land claims and land issues versus land management. In land management within the territory of Kahnawake, the Indian reserve is something that we are negotiating and it is one of the agreements in the package that we are talking about. In that particular context of that agreement, we are talking about eliminating the powers of the department and of the Minister of Indian Affairs. That is to say, we will take over the jurisdiction and pass laws in the community about land management such as residential, commercial, recreational zoning. That is, things that are required to control a minimal land base. With 13,000 acres and 8,000 people, there is not much of a ratio there.

In addition, it is one thing to have the power and to have an understanding with Canada, but there also must be a further understanding that our current problems were created over 130 years of the Indian Act. It is not like we will sign an agreement and, at one second after midnight, we will be in control and we will have to accept all those problems and all of those liabilities. The agreement is more about getting Canada to understand that it has some responsibility to deal with and rectify some of those problems before we take them over. That is one of the problems that we have not only with Bill C-49 but also with the concept of transferring land over, taking the responsibility and accepting the liability with clean hands on the part of the federal government.

Senator Adams: That is why I asked the question. You have 8,000 people and there are only 13,000 acres. You need some kind of land base. I grew up in the Northwest Territories. I still like to go hunting and fishing anywhere I want to. However, with 8,000 people living within 13,000 acres, that land is very small. When you settle your claim, you need something that will have a large enough capacity for the future. You mentioned tourism and people in the future living off the land, and so on. The economy must grow. That is why I asked about Bill C-49.

I do not think Bill C-49 is different. You have people there who have been making claims and people who have lived in an area where land was leased. The band is now able to control that, according to Bill C-49. Do you have any overlap besides your claim that has been leased out to some people such as cottagers, and so on, within your community?

I should like to see you settle that part about the size of the land because with 8,000 people it is difficult to do.

The Chairman: Perhaps I understand Senator Adams' question. When we dealt with Bill C-49, we soon found out that there were a lot of third parties involved. The lands were leased out by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has the authority over those leases.

When Bill C-49 came about, the minister was to relinquish his responsibility under the name of partnership, delegating the authority down to the band level. The third-party interests then said, "What about those people who already have a piece of land? There is already a commitment between the leaseholders and the government. How will that be taken care of, then?"

You partially answered that by saying that you want those matters taken care of first before you assume the responsibility. In a sense, you answered Senator Adams' question, which was whether there would be a similar problem if you decided to opt into Bill C-49.

Mr. Norton: I will begin the response and then I will allow my colleague to complete it.

One of our suburbs is the City of Montreal. Around us also are quite a number of other mid- to fair-sized municipalities, comprising close to 200,000 people.

Quebec had a seigneurial system. We live in the Seigneurie des Hauts St. Louis. Part of our plan is to recover that territory. As you pointed out, lands were leased out to Europeans who came to Canada through the Jesuits. Later on, the responsibility for leasing was handed over to the different regimes that came in -- the military and whomever else that came after that.

Over time, that responsibility for collecting the lease money and turning it over, and whatever else was agreed to by the Kahnawake had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer done. That original relationship is no longer recognized.

It is understood that we have some interest. We are involved in the process of recovering the land. We have a broader plan for recovering territory in addition to the 13,000 acres.

We know that there are many complications. There are third-party interests and a lot of controversy across the country regarding them. However, we are planning a ways and means of accomplishing our goals from different perspectives. Public relations are important. We communicate with our neighbours on that territory.

Now is a good opportunity for Mr. Vieni to pitch in. He has been working quite diligently for the past four years on that particular process.

Mr. Frank Vieni, General Negotiator, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake: I would like to make two comments with regard to third-party interests. With regard to Bill C-49, Kahnawake is beyond that in its negotiation with Canada on an agreement in principle on land. Third-party interests are addressed in that agreement. There should not be any difficulty.

The Chairman: Did you say that you have an agreement in principle or are you negotiating that agreement in principle now?

Mr. Vieni: Five agreements in principle have gone through the federal steering committee. They will find their way to cabinet to be ratified sometime in late September or early October. After that, there will be a final agreement four or five months later. There is one on land among them.

The Chairman: Does that deal with extinguishment?

Mr. Vieni: No. I do not know what that is. It is not in the agreement, and it will probably never be in any agreement.

It deals with lands. This agreement goes beyond Bill C-49. It is not a delegated forum. It is recognition of Kahnawake jurisdiction with regard to land, and third-party interests are addressed.

With regard to the greater land issue, which the Grand Chief has mentioned, it is one of the oldest land disputes in the country. It dates over three centuries and over three political and legal regimes -- French, British, and Canadian. There is a process to follow. The federal government now has a legal opinion on this issue and will be engaging in negotiations of that particular land issue shortly.

Third-party interest will be a very complex issue. There are seven municipalities sitting on the Seigneurie des Hauts St-Louis. As per the policy of Canada, third-party interests are not to be adversely affected by the settlement. The Grand Chief has addressed all the mayors in the region. He has said, as the Supreme Court has stated, that everyone is here to stay, and that we must find other forms of compensation for the loss of land and revenues.

The Chairman: At this point, there is no revenue coming from your claims?

Mr. Vieni: Not yet, but it is soon to come.

The Chairman: You are working on it.

Senator Adams: You mentioned that the RCMP are policing and coming onto the reserve. Are they controlling cross-border issues? Are they stopping things from coming into the community? How does that work?

Mr. Norton: Since 1995, we have a federal-provincial Mohawk Kahnawake agreement on policing. The agreement is very specific that the primary responsibility for policing in Kahnawake is what we call our "peacekeepers." It is very clear in the agreement. As I mentioned earlier, they are neither federal police nor are they provincial police.

They do have, out of necessity, on-the-ground operational protocol with the SQ, with the RCMP and the MUC police. They actually have arrangements and understandings, perhaps verbal, with the Ontario Provincial Police, with other native police forces as well as contacts with the New York State Police, the FBI and others. They are a fully participating and recognized entity.

If there is any call for any kind of police action between the forces, the protocol kicks in. Since 1995, they have been the only police force in Kahnawake that patrols the territory. I am sure that there is still an undercover police force that comes into the community that they may not know about, as happens in any jurisdiction in any area. We cannot prevent that because we do not know. Officially, there is only one police force in the community. It is the Kahnawake peacekeepers.

Senator Adams: There is nothing stopping stuff from coming into the community?

Mr. Norton: If is not as prevalent as it was at one time. Either the RCMP or SQ would stop the people after they left the territory, if they were buying what was considered to be illegal goods.

The Chairman: Chief, we very much look forward to your ongoing participation. We are definitely planning to move ahead with our work. We decided to limit our responsibility at this point, rather than touching upon the question of models. If we touch on the question of models, it would be necessary to delve into the depths of the economics, jurisdiction and titles.

We have chosen not to make a comment at this point in our recommendations, but rather we will be limiting ourselves to addressing some of what we have heard, even though those are not the only areas we have heard about.

The issues of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development negotiating with itself, having a trusteeship responsibility over the aboriginal people, and the key holders of the Indian Act, need to be revisited. We definitely will be commenting on those areas.

We also will be highlighting a need for a separate party, rather than the government itself, to undertake the negotiations and somehow link back to the government. We are also looking into developing an implementation act. Some groups of people have an agreement over a period of years. Some of them have 20-year agreements now.

Your people have been living under the Indian Act over the years. From time to time the government has chosen to implement the Indian Act, when they feel like it.

There has been craziness within our society for quite a number of years. We would like to eliminate some of the uncertainty we have left over the years.

We look forward to your ongoing participation in examining the issues. People are asked to define their rights, their institutions and their authorities. At times you might even want to look at whether there is enough room to constantly continue dividing up the authority.

We need to consider whether we can work in partnership. If the partnership is to flourish in a meaningful way, there needs to be willingness on both sides to work towards a constructive solution in order to move away from the problems we have been living under for quite a number of years.

Your contribution will be very important. You have said that you are one of the hardest aboriginal hard-liners, I have always maintained that the line be held until the matter is resolved. We cannot say that everything is fine when it is not. When you put your foot down, it is not only appreciated by me, but by many aboriginal people.

The committee adjourned.