Posts tagged ‘Constitution’

Nbisiing Citizenship and the Trust

NFNconstitution2I just got back from a walk this morning and was giving some thought to some social media comments I read about the Nipissing First Nation Boundary Claim Trust.  Last week, our First Nation began consultations to discuss what to do with about $2.2 million in interest earned by the Boundary Claim Trust that was settled in 2013. This income needs to be moved or else it will be subject to taxation.

Setting aside that $2.2 million is not really a lot of money for a community our size. Set aside further that a decision could have been made to simply move it to another Band-owned investment fund that would protect it from taxation.

I take significant issue with those who want to distribute any further funds on a per capita basis. In other words, divide it up and spend it.

Back when our community voted on the trust two years ago, I felt we had already made the mistake of distributing a massive cash payment of $20,000 to every Band member. Sure it was nice to get new windows and some new siding for my home. I am thankful for that. My point at the time was that the settlement of $179 million over an unresolved reserve boundary doesn’t belong to us individually simply because we were voting on it. This restitution for Canada’s swindle belongs to the Treaty signatories, our ancestors, Nbisiing citizens and our future citizens, from now to the seventh generation and beyond. This money needs to leave a long lasting legacy or else it will be for nothing. I’ll repeat for emphasis: long-lasting legacy. (Think of the three “L’s”.)

But notice in the above paragraph I referred to Nbisiing citizens – NOT Nipissing First Nation Band Members.

Citizenship has everything to do with our Gichi-Naaknigewin, our constitution, and should have very little to do with the Indian Act and some list managed by some dutiful bureaucrat in Ottawa.

Debendaagziwaad refers to the people, the citizens of the Nipissing First Nation. In our language, it means “those who belong” to our community.

These citizens go beyond current Indian Act registered Band members. I’ll give you a real-life examples from within my family:

My beautiful wife – who just happens to be a member of another Band – certainly has a right to be a part of this community and has a significant stake in the future of our First Nation. She most definitely belongs here as a part of our family, our community and our nation. She is truly Debendaaziwaad.

My boys – who just happen to be members of another Band – have just as much Nbisiing blood running through their veins and connection to the community as those registered under Section 6.1 in the Indian Register. They are most definitely Debendaaziwaad.

My future grandchildren – who may not be entitled to be register as a Status Indian – will know they are Anishinaabe and that they belong here. They too will be Debendaaziwaad.

You may have your own personal, real-life examples. All Debendaaziwaad should have the right to services and benefits from Nipissing First Nation. All Debendaaziwaad should have a right to hold land. All Debendaaziwaad should have a right to vote in our elections.

All Debendaaziwaad certainly have the right to see benefit arising from the Boundary Claim trust.

I’m not advocating any further per capita payouts. As far as I’m concerned, no one has a right to spend the money that belongs to generations of Debendaaziwaad yet unborn. However, we are all entitled to see benefit from the long-lasting legacy of this land claim settlement.

Nor should we be so community-centric that we are considering capital and program benefits that will solely benefit on-reserve citizens. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of need here. We need infrastructure, community growth and to create economic programs that will take pressure off our Lake Nipissing fishery. However, how will that lend itself to showing a long-lasting legacy for those Debendaaziwaad who live off-reserve? Consider this even further. How will this ensure a long-lasting legacy for those future generations who live off-reserve?

Perhaps we can consider creating a citizenship program that will reach out to off-reserve Debendaaziwaad, instil community pride, and provide cultural education to ensure all members have a lasting connection with our community and their citizenship as Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.

A long-lasting legacy means fostering strong Nbisiing Debendaaziwaad with a valued, and tangible connection to their home and their Nbisiing family.

Say Yes, to our future. Say Yes, to Nipissing.

yesAdvance Polls open today and Friday

NIPISSING FIRST NATION — Today and tomorrow are important days for the future of our First Nation.  It is the start of the official vote for the Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin, our Constitution.

The Gichi-Naaknigewin will be the supreme law of the land for Nipissing First Nation.  It will give our leadership the law-making authority to create our owns laws without the interference of the great white father, the Government of Canada.  At the same time, our new Constitution will ensure accountability in how our First Nations develops it’s laws and exercising it’s authority.  The Gichi-Naaknigewin has been in the works since 2005.  Many of our First Nation members have worked very hard to bring this well thought out legal document to this point.

Band members are encouraged to get out and vote, and by all means, support this important step towards self-governance and self-determination.

ADVANCE POLLS:

Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 10 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the NFN Community Centre in Garden Village.

or

Friday, December 6, 2013 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Nbisiing Secondary School in Duchesnay.

You can also vote by mail-in-ballot.  But you will have to mail it in right away or drop it off before December 11!!  You can also vote online.  I’ll write a blog post about that a little later.  Please refer to your voting packages that have been mailed out to you.

The official voting day is January 10, 2014.

Gichi-Naaknigewin: the Preamble

Gchi-Naaknigewin_coverA constitution has to be inspiring.  It should eloquently outline the aspirations and dreams of a nation and wrap it in a protective layer of self-governing law.  A constitution’s preamble is an important source of context for THE document that asserts our nationhood and sovereignty.

The United States for example:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Constitution Act of Canada does not have an extensive preamble, but offers a weighty introductory paragraph to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

“Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

The Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin has an extensive preamble, that speaks to our Constitution being our supreme law and references our values, history and our Treaty.  In my opinion, this is one of the strongest parts of the document.  The preamble may not be enforceable, but it provides an important context for ourselves and those who interact with us.

The Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin Preamble:

We, the people of the Nipissing First Nation, known as the Nipissings, ordain and establish this Gichi-Naaknigewin as our supreme law in accordance with the values and principles upon which our heritage has existed. 

By this Gichi-Naaknigewin, we declare and acknowledge the Creator for the gifts of Mother Earth, sovereign rights to govern ourselves and for our cultural heritage. 

The history of the Nipissings confirms the people as a peaceful, productive and thriving people who have relied on the abundance of natural resources. The history of the Nipissings is well documented, expressing the strong inherent values and principles cherished by its Debendaagziwaad. This Gichi-Naaknigewin reflects those strong inherent values and principles. 

Prior to the signing of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, the Nipissings had occupied and enjoyed the lands surrounding the Lake Nipissing watershed for their sustenance and survival through harvesting and other means. 

At the signing of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, Chief Shabogesic agreed to set aside lands on the north shore of Lake Nipissing for his people’s exclusive use and protection. We the Nipissing First Nation people affirm that we have absolute ownership of our traditional territory based on the belief that participation in the Robinson – Huron Treaty of 1850, did not extinguish ownership. We assert that our ancestors simply selected and reserved designated lands and resources for their people. 

This Gichi-Naaknigewin confirms the rights, responsibilities and freedoms of First Nation’s Debendaagziwaad, its government and its governing institutions in relation to the jurisdictions set out in this Gichi-Naaknigewin as confirmed by the ratification by its Debendaagziwaad;

Download the full Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Gichi-Naaknigewin – Defining Our Citizenship

[youtube]http://youtu.be/IjhJgEC90fo[/youtube]

Nipissing announces Ratification Process for our Constitution

NFNconstitution2

“With this step, we begin to break free of the paternalism and oppression we have been subject to for 163 years.” – Bob Goulais

 

My Fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg:

For the past few years, many hard working people of our community have been working to establish our very first Constitution, called Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin.  This is truly our first real step towards self-determination by establishing our very own sovereign law.  This law is truly “by the people, for the people”… by Nbisiing, for Nbisiing.  It has with nothing to do with the Indian Act or any colonial process.   For me, this is the direction our First Nation needs to go.  With this step, we begin to break free of paternalism and oppression we have been subject to for 163 years.  This is our opportunity to take our own responsibility for our future.

Important Dates:  

  • From November 13 until January 10, community engagement.  We have 59 days to learn about Chi-Naaknigewin and to show your support for our future.  Ask questions.  Get involved.
  • December 5-6, 2013 advance voting days
  • January 10, 2014  Ratification Day.

You will be able to ratify our Constitution through online voting.  For the first time in our history, we are using the Internet to support our First Nation’s governance.  That is, in itself, a positive step forward.

This was shared via Facebook earlier this afternoon:

Nipissing First Nation Administration said:  

The ratification of the Nipissing First Nation Chi-Naaknigewin (Constitution) is underway. 

In response to community feedback regarding the ratification dates, the time to learn about the Chi-Naaknigewin and to vote have been extended to January 10, 2014. 

NFN is attempting to expand opportunities for members to engage in the voting process for this important initiative. In addition to in person voting on December 5, 6 and January 10, members can vote by mail in ballot or can cast their ballot over the internet using a secure connection provided by Scytl Canada. This new approach of using internet voting is an effort to make it easier for members to engage in the process. Online voting will be launched next week and will be open until January 10, 2013. Members will only be permitted to vote once and controls are in place to ensure duplicate voting between mail in, in person and online voting doesn’t occur.

On November 16, Scytl will be on-site at NFN’s Community Meeting to demonstrate how the online voting works and to answer questions. 

You can also visit a separate information booth to learn more about the Chi-Naaknigewin, which is available online for download at www.nfn.ca

Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin – A Supreme Law of the Land

NFNconstitution2To my Fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg/Nipissing Band Members:

It is time for our First Nation to take a real step towards our own self-governance, and more importantly, self-determination.  It is time for Nipissing First Nation to adopt our own Constitution.

Right now, under the existing legislative framework, Nipissing First Nation is nothing more than an arm of the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.  Under the Indian Act, our Chief and Council and Band administration are simply keepers of the status quo, purveyors of our own poverty, assimilation, oppression and likely extinction.  We have to do something significant.

These are harsh words and criticism over the Indian system, not necessarily our Chief and Council or those others who are trying to work within it.  The Indian Act is nothing more than pure racism, a means of control, dominance and abuse over our people.  We must take steps to move ourselves away from it’s forlorn wretchedness.

But how do we do that?  In the words of my friend Gordon Waindubence, channelling the wisdom from Nike:  “Just do it.”

The movement towards change has to start by having a one “supreme law of the land” – a point of reference that all subsequent acts, regulations and policies can adhere to.  If we were to start over, develop our system of governance, our legislative, judicial and administrative frameworks – where would we start?  A Constitution.

I was pleased to have been there at the beginnings of the Anishinabek constitutional discussions.  In 1995, the Union of Ontario Indians began negotiating two self-government agreements with Canada, first in education, and a few years later in 1998, in core governance. These negotiations are still progressing in the final agreement stage.  Very early in these discussions, the Chiefs and their advisors realized that Canada’s point of reference was two-fold, the Indian Act (the source of the Minister’s delegated authority) and the Inherent Right Policy (the policy directive that defines Indian self-government).  Neither of these truly apply to the Anishinabek as nations or people, nor does it reflect our needs, aspirations and unique culture.  Our focus at that point was to figure out how to restore our own jurisdiction.  What is the role of the Anishinabek Nation – Union of Ontario Indians?  What was the role of our Clans?  What were the roles of individual First Nation communities?  In 2004, while I was working in the Grand Council Chief’s office, we began to work on Constitution development to fill those voids.  The Anishinabek Nation Constitution was proclaimed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly on June 6, 2012.

During this exciting time, the member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation began to research and study their own constitutional needs.  I remember raising this and supporting this when I was on Band Council back in 2002.  To truly assert our own jurisdiction, we need to know where we have come from and where we were going.  We set in place a strategic plan, hosted constitutional workshops and began to explore the development of a Nipissing First Nation Constitution.

Through the work of my uncle, respected leader Fred McLeod Jr., our very own homegrown lawyer Fred Bellefeuille, our elected leadership, working group members and dedicated staff – we have come to the point where the Nipissing First Nation constitution is a reality.  We now have words on a page that reflect our needs, aspirations and culture.  The words will be our legislative point of reference.  These words will be our future supreme law of the land.

The Nipissing First Nation Constitution – Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin, if accepted, will be applicable on our lands, by our people, our guests and those who do business with us.

But right now, they are only words.  Those words now require Spirit which will be provided through sharing, acceptance and ceremony.  Sharing, acceptance and ceremony refers to consultation, ratification and celebration.  Body, Mind and Spirit.

It is not, however, THE supreme law.  It need not be confused with Sacred Anishinaabe Law.  Our Creator, through the Original Instructions and Sacred Gifts given to Anishinaabe through our Ancestors, remains our most important law.  Having reflected on Gichi-Naaknigewin, through academic analysis and in ceremony and prayer, I feel that these words are indeed consistent with Sacred Anishinaabe Law.  It is well thought-out, respectful, consistent with our traditional values, and ultimately ensures the protection and survival of our people and nationhood.  It does have Spirit and a purpose which needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

Over the next few weeks, our NFN leadership will be moving forward in a consultation and ratification process to formally accept the Nbisiing Gichi-Naaknigewin.  I urge you to review the document and ask questions.  Moreover, I urge our community to support our Constitution as a major first step towards self-government and self-determination.  I look forward to publishing future Blogs and information to help you make an informed choice.

Miigwetch.

For Canada, the UN Declaration remains "aspirational"

It’s a two-drink minimum at the Canada’s “Aspirational Bar”.  Today’s Special:  Aspirational + Non-Binding.

Today, Canada announced it is endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  Sounds tasty.  But without a plan to implement it, it likely won’t be served.

Sure it’s a nicey, nicey announcement.  It probably made for a good photo op for Minister John Duncan and officials from the United Nations.  But once again, Canada left First Nations out of the process.  Our Great White Father didn’t offer First Nations a table or even a seat at the bar.  We are once again looking in from the cold with their “No Indians Allowed” sign, illuminated outside.

The Government of Canada’s position all along was that the declaration is not compatible with our current Constitutional framework – meaning we still have the arbitrary and unilateral Indian Act, and Canada’s legislators are not willing to secure First Nations with a seat at the table when it comes to developing public policy.

When it comes to aspiring to something higher, Canada really has a long way to go.

Now that the government has endorsed the declaration, and has set the proverbial Aspirational Bar, it’s time for a proactive plan on achieving those aspirations.  Canada needs an implementation plan on how it will implement the articles in the declaration.  We need to call on Canada to convene a First Nations-Crown Gathering to begin this work in earnest.

However, implementing the right to self-determination, self-government, language, culture nationhood and citizenship are near impossible tasks for a Conservative government that pulled the plug on Kelowna and killed a $160 million investment in languages.

We need to take the Crown-First Nation relationship back to formula.  By amending the Constitution and implementing the Treaties.

Canada needs to work with First Nations to firmly establish self-government as a legitimate third-order of government.  First Nations need to have a seat in developing a new framework to implement the treaties and find new and sustainable means of funding First Nations governments.

But perhaps we have to start somewhere a little further down the Aspiritational Bar menu.

A significant part of the UN Declaration is the rights to land and inclusion in resource development.  First Nations should not only be consulted on activities that affect their rights, but have a seat at the table in decision-making and sharing in the bounty of resource development.  Perhaps Canada can start there and clarify laws surrounding the duty to consult on resource matters.

Come in from the cold, my friend.  Have a seat at the Aspiration Bar.  But given Canada’s aspirational approach, those First Nations who have been placed their order of free, prior and informed consent – will be left high and dry.