Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Senator Andreychuk: For information purposes, how large is the territory that
you are claiming in square kilometres or miles?
Mr. Awashish: These are subjects that are being discussed at the table.
Senator Andreychuk: I wanted to know your claim.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
Senator Adams: No. You mention in your brief an agreement or protocol between
the Government of Canada and of Quebec in September 1997.
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.
Senator Adams: Mr. Chairman, sometimes you have an agreement on leases
stipulating the boundaries and compensation. My question is what is in the
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The committee adjourned.