Chiefs mull issuing demand Harper scrap omnibus bills, Indian Act during planned Friday meeting

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets a delegation of First Nations chiefs in Ottawa Friday, he could face demands to scrap the Indian Act and to repeal his government’s omnibus budget bills, which have already passed into law.

APTN National News
OTTAWA–If Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets a delegation of First Nations chiefs in Ottawa Friday, he could face demands to scrap the Indian Act and to repeal his government’s omnibus budget bills, which have already passed into law.

The location of the planned meeting was still unknown Wednesday evening and it was even unclear whether the meeting would take place after Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is in the midst of a nearly month-long hunger strike, urged chiefs not to attend unless Gov. Gen. David Johnston, whose office said would not show up, also appeared.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced the Jan. 11 meeting last Friday, days after Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo requested via letter that Harper and Johnston meet with chiefs on Jan. 24.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of ongoing flash mob round dances, rail and highway blockades along with rallies occurring at historical proportions.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said it was imperative for Johnston to be there.

“If there is any honour in this Crown the governor general better get his ass there,” said Madahbee, whose organization represents 49 Ontario First Nations.

Madahbee, however, said late Wednesday afternoon chiefs had still not decided whether they would accept to attend the meeting if Johnston refuses to change his mind.

“There is an ebb and flow to these discussions (and) we are not there to make a determination one way or another, we are listening to people,” said Madahbee.

Chiefs met in regional caucuses late into the evening Wednesday discussing and teasing out their plans and positioning for the coming days.

According to a draft position from Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization obtained by APTN National News, it appears First Nations leaders are planning to put repealing the Bill C-45 and Bill C-38, the government’s omnibus budget bills on the table.

The draft outline, which APTN National News was told broadly reflected the direction of discussions, also called for Canada to set a timeline and process to scrap the Indian Act and replace it with a “Treaty Recognition and Implementation Act.”

The draft outline also set Feb. 11 as a deadline for the government’s response.

The Manitoba delegation is expected to officially lay out its position during a press conference Thursday.

While the meeting with the prime minister is seen by some as a pivotal moment, it’s doubtful the outcome will have any major impact on the still expanding Idle No More movement. Idle No More, which was sparked by opposition to the omnibus bill, is also hosting a gathering the same day in Fort Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan that will also be live streamed.

“It’s about the people, the people are the key, the people are the ones that no one listens to and that has to change,” said Idle No More founder Nina Wilson.

Wilson said she doubted the outcome of Friday’s meeting with a select delegation of chiefs would have any impact on Idle No More.

“This is long-term,” said Wilson. “We have to keep going whatever happens.”

Mass Idle No More-linked rallies are also in the works for Friday and another day of action is also in the planning stages for Jan. 16.

Canada has witnessed a tireless campaign of flashmob round dances, rallies, highway and rail blockades for over a month which shows no signs of abating.

And while the action continues on the streets and in the political backrooms, a traditional spiritual element was also unfolding in the lead-up to Friday’s meeting. In Ottawa and across the country, elders, spiritual leaders and grassroots people have also engaged in traditional prayer and ceremony. People gathered in ceremony in a room at the Delta Hotel next to the hall where chiefs gathered discussing their plans and strategies.

But even as chiefs discussed their planned approach for Friday’s encounter with Harper, they were also trying to find a way to end Spence’s nearly month-long hunger strike.

Spence, who met with chiefs at Ottawa’s Delta Hotel Wednesday afternoon, has said she won’t attend the meeting unless Johnston also shows up. The governor general’s involvement in the meeting has been one of the core prerequisites for Spence to end her hunger strike, which began on Dec. 11. Spence has said she wouldn’t end her hunger strike unless she was satisfied with the outcome of a treaty meeting between Harper, Johnston and First Nations leaders.

Johnston’s office has said he was not planning to attend the meeting.

Spence’s spokesman Danny Metatawabin told the chiefs earlier in the day Spence would like them to consider cancelling or walking out of the meeting if the governor general failed to appear.

Six Nations Chief Bill Montour said Spence should end her hunger strike on Friday and the chief should go to meet with Harper.

“For her own health, Jan. 11 should be the end of the hunger strike…she has the attention of the world and let the world judge Harper,” said Montour, whose community is in Ontario. “You never walk out of a meeting, if you walk out you are defeated.”

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said there is some concern about the extent of control chiefs feel the prime minister is trying to exert over the meeting, but she called on the leadership and the grassroots to remain unified.

“We need to remain unified as First Nations people across this country, we support Chief Theresa Spence and we continue to support her,” said Cook-Searson, whose community is in Saskatchewan. “There are questions about who will be present at the prime minister’s meeting and it is controlled by the prime minister…We need to have a strong position and present it to the prime minister and if the prime minister doesn’t accept that position on Jan. 11 then we continue with our movement.”

The chiefs have been told the prime minister would only be appearing briefly, for 30 minutes at the beginning and 30 minutes at the end of the meeting. The Prime Minister’s Office, however, said the details were still being worked out.

Friday’s meeting is also putting the Assembly of First Nations to the test and National Chief Shawn Atleo’s still young second term may be defined by what transpires over the next two days.

Atleo was scheduled to hold a press conference along with members of the AFN’s executive committee, including Saskatchewan regional Chief Perry Bellegarde and British Columbia regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould on Wednesday to set lay out their expectations for the meeting with Harper.

The press conference, however, was cancelled on short notice and rescheduled for Thursday after it became apparent the chiefs could not find common ground by Wednesday afternoon.

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

26 thoughts on “Chiefs mull issuing demand Harper scrap omnibus bills, Indian Act during planned Friday meeting

  1. The Government has agreed to meet but has not agreed to work with the First Nations of Canada….Bill C 45 is affecting ALL CANADIANS…but is everyone aware of this….I don’t think so…the Harper Government will continue to use words that have a double meaning to give the FN peoples the illusion that it is working with them….as they have in the past and will continue this in the future……as for the Government acknowledging the Metis and Non Status peoples…they will continue to cause confusion and in fighting within the Metis and Non Status peoples themselves to bring about the separation they have continue to provide to the FN peoples of Canada so we do not stand together to be addressed as a NATION….I will continue to pray to the Creator that he works on the FN peoples behalf to bring about the change and save the environment / land / resources for our children’s future….

  2. AND Maybe the meeting should be cancelled, and the Gov simply say, “When you people get your act together and can begin to stop the internally battle for power, let us know ,, THEN we can maybe get something constructive going”

  3. I was at Satsan’s meeting a few years ago dealing with various indigenous issues at the Indian Longhouse at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds and I heard something that deserves revisitation.

    One of the speakers had stated that he came from a treaty nation somewhere in Alberta and he was asking the 5% ‘treaty’ loving Northern Shuswap Leaders what do they see happening when the federal and provincial governments break the 5% ‘treaty’ which is being negotiated.

    Mr Yellowhorn went on to state that no matter how good a deal the treaty loving Northern Shuswap chiefs think they are getting ( 5% of land back ) through the bc ‘treaty’ commission, history has only proven one thing: The whiteman will break the treaty. The crown has many internationally binding treaties with indigenous nations across canada and she has broken each and everyone of them.

    He went on to ask what happens when anyone present breaks a contractual agreement? Take a car loan or house mortgage for instance. Does one keep thier car or house when they default on the original contract and stop payment? Or does the bank repo ‘your’ car or house?

    His talk went on to highlight the fact this should go for the land which indigenous nations made internationally binding treaties concerning.

    Do you get your land back? Do things go back to the way they were before before contact?

    Hurts my brain thinking about indignous sovereignty AND peace sometimes

    Arnie Jack

    Williams Lake Indian Band Opposition

  4. Canada and a few Chiefs have been negotiating behind the backs of our people (incognito) Harper used the argument for not recognizing the Metis and Non-Status Indians that he had no jurisdiction over them – and now he makes decisions outside his jurisdiction to terminate our sovereignty, inherent Aboriginal titles and collective rights as Peoples ? Surely he can’t have it both ways.

  5. You folks need to get a life, a real one. All this “we demand blah, blah, blah” makes you look like a whiny 3 year old screaming for more candy from mummy.

  6. The fight is not with the federal government. The fight is among the aboriginal leadership and who speaks for them. Demanding is not negotiation. Asking the government to abolish the Indian Act without some for of replacement or some indication of what its replacement should look like is not too swift. Likewise asking the government to repeal the omnibus budget bill is a road too far and if that happens you can bet the meeting will be very short.
    If the INM is really a grassroots movement they should be demanding answers from the aboriginal leadership and putting pressure on them for reforms to their own structure. Otherwise their protests are going nowhere.

    1. You completely overlook the fact that C45 was enacted without FNs consultation.[let along any other Canadian who isn’t totally business friendly] There are law suits right now that are headed to to the SCoC to argue this very point. FNs may not likely get the whole bill repealed but they can certainly get the parts that effect changes to majority votes on reserve with drawn. My guess this is what the courts will rule. FNs very rarely lose these sorts of cases nowadays.

      1. I am a retired Canadian citizen who has lived long time and watches and reads a lot. I gather you don’t like what I say but that matters not.

  7. Scrap the Indian Act (I just re-read it the other day and it still gives me chills), repeal the omnibus bill, and RESIGN!! Not only that, but won’t be allowed to be involved in politics whatsoever for the rest of his life…whether it being a politician in any way, or working for any company or corporation that supports politics monetarily in any way.

    The first one helps the Indigenous Peoples (but is open for debate on new policies), the second one helps the majority of Canadians who are affected by this bill (not just the indians), and the third may serve to protect all Canadians from further people like him…it could set a precedent for politics. I have yet to find an answer as to how he possibly could have been allowed to run for PM AGAIN after being found guilty of contempt of Parliament.

  8. Repealing the bills is not likely going to work – they’ve already been passed. But scrapping the Indian Act for a Treaty Recognition and Implementation Act – that would be interesting – as the governing agreement between nations should be the treaties, yet the Indian Act still rules over us.


    I don’t know if this is making the rounds in the FN’s communities yet, but here is evidence of the smoking gun many of us who oppose bills C38/C45 already suspected was out there. This PM more than any other this country has had is only really prepared to listen to and accommodate those who meet the requirements of his agenda… …unfortunately that doesn’t mean you guys – First Nations.You’re in the way.
    Keep up the struggle folks. Non Aboriginal Canadians of good will are with you. I’ve long thought it would come to this. That while we all want a better life for our kids it would come down to FNs showing the rest of us the way to do it. Live well, but be kind to the earth.

  10. Harper believes in outcome-oriented process.
    What if the AFN were to say one of the outcomes the AFN exec expects from Friday’s meeting is that Harper will scrap BillC-30 and Bill C-45.

    1. Bill C-30 or Bill C-38? I’d like to see Bill C-38 repealed, too…and rewritten to reflect the entire country’s pov.

      (Why do we always have so many bills to consider?)

  11. At the First Continental Indigenous Encounter that took place in Quito, Ecuador in 1990 it was Rose Augér, of the Cree Nation who brought the ceremonial message of the Sacred Fire which illuminated the path of continental indigenous solidarity, vision, and spirit to that historic event over twenty years ago. Today once again it is another indigenous woman of the north – Theresa Spence, Chief of Attawapiskat who has ignited a new phase of an ancient cause, one that goes back to our ancestral responsibilities as Nations of Indigenous Peoples, OrigiNations of the Natural World. We are called upon once again to defend our Nationhood and our Sacred Mother Earth.

  12. if the Chiefs leave the meeting because the governor general DOES NOT show up, it is NOT defeat, it is UNITY, UNITY WITH THE GRASSROOTS PEOPLE, who have and will forever be IDLE NO MORE, our treaties are sacred documents that the colony of Canada has NEVER respected, NOW is the time to STAND STRONG TOGETHER, Harper has NO interest in HONORING THE TREATIES OR THE CROWN, just look at his actions!!!! the women of your Nations are holding strong, the warriors wait patiently, the Chiefs have to decide if it is WORTH spending 30 minutes with Harper….you have Two days, MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

  13. Their deal is with the “Queen” Good let see these freeloaders collect their free money from the Queen . Good luck with that.

  14. good coverage … all Chiefs should take the opportunity to meet with Harper – tho a Crown representative should be there…the dialogue must begin.. if the Crown doesn’t show up … it is a disgrace – for it was with them this all began ..I messaged the Queen … using her FB page … The British Monarchy …

  15. If Harper leaves the meeting Fri; Atleo should convene a meeting of the AFN Executive and tender his resignation as National Chief effective immediately. The AFN at that point should be governed by a Vice Chief and the first order of business would be to call for a constitutional amendment to the AFN that would see the National Chief and Executive elected by the people bringing it in alignment with the spirit and intent of the idleNomore movement for greater accountability to the people. Replacing the National Executive by a ballot of the people should occur no later than 12 months from the resolution dated Jan 11, 2013. Let there be no doubt that had the last Chief been elected by the people directly the only person with the balls to get the job done right the first time doesn’t actually have any. Am positive that if she were the National Chief on Fri Mr. Smartie Pants would be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his pants and shown the door and told not to come back without his GG toy.

    1. Good Point. The credibility of AFM is being challenged both by Stephen Harper and his government and Idle No More which is effectively the popular vote. AFN must take a stand and come up with something concrete or face significant restructuring. Full sovereign government with Chiefs as an elected senate and a Congress of elected representatives. The replacement of AANDC with aboriginal government administering all financial distribution and program assessments. True nation-to-nation relationships. Obligatory revenue accountability and payments by Ottawa for Treaty obligations and land and lease revenue sharing, including all previous funds held in trust.

    2. I agree with some of what you said. However, installing a militant who has no idea what she is doing will cause all kinds of hardship for aboriginals. Being disrespectful of the PM is childish and you should think about what you are saying.

  16. Compliment to the A P T N for truthful Coverage, the appearance of Tony Belcourt was very significant to many of us in the Metis Nation, His position’s on the Idle No More echoed the opinions of many of us. The Other younger members of the panel also did an excellent Job, I and many other are delighted that the younger Natives are now involved.
    Friday should be very interesting as the Idle No More gains attention Internationally.
    We will watch with interest while drumming and dancing while still supporting Idle no more.
    Both the Chief and Metis leaders should be watching , commenting or even joining in, so aside from the President of the B C Metis Federation ( Keith Henry) where are the other Metis Provincial Metis Nations ?

Comments are closed.