Posts tagged ‘Treaty Rights’

If you only read a few things about the Lake Nipissing fishery…













Let’s get “a few” things straight.

There are a few individuals who are getting it wrong when it comes to the issues surrounding the Lake Nipissing fishery. There are a few on the Nbisiing side, a few on the opposing side, and a few more smack dab in the middle of the controversy.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, Nbisiing harvesters who are illegally disobeying our self-imposed moratorium and community regulations on spring gill netting and spearing.
  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few Nbisiing harvesters who are losing their nets, are too lazy to go and get them, or forget about them in a fitful stupor of stupidity. We’ll refer to this problem as ghost nets.
  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few Nbisiing harvesters who are wasting perfectly good fish and not taking the care and consideration to reduce their by-catch waste and honour the fishlife that is provided to us by our Lake. They are making a mess of our back roads and garbage dump and upsetting a few petty anglers dedicated to spewing their agendas of hate.

Speaking to you directly: You are selfish and doing a great job at making us all look bad. You don’t deserve to fish. You’re reducing your Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to a few bucks at the expense of everyone else. You’re an embarrassment to our people.

  • There are a few of us – I’ll stress again – a few, Nbisiing people that want the commercial fishery shut down entirely until our Lake and the walleye regain their health. The number may only be a few, but that number is growing more and more everyday.

To other matters.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, media outlets who seem dedicated to feeding the monster of intolerance, growing a biased and racist readership and doing absolutely NOTHING to make the situation better.

Almost single-handedly, the local media have created a firestorm of racial intolerance that I haven’t seen the likes of in my lifetime. On one side, Nbisiing citizens defending their rights and dignity from the onslaught of negative media and social media comments. On the other side, readers and commentators who “think” they know something about these issues, or claim to have an informed opinion.

These media outlets continue to allow social media forums to disseminate uneducated and racially-divisive “opinions” about matters concerning inalienable legal rights.  One might argue that these forums border on inciting hate.

Some advice on your social media feeds and comments section: shut them down or moderate them. Play a role in educating your readers. Don’t just shrug your shoulders and let these types of divisive discussions and repulsive “opinions” linger in the name of free speech. People have a right to free speech, not advocate the elimination of legal rights, or promote racism and intolerance.

  • There are a few – I’ll stress again – a few, media and social media readers and commenters who don’t know what the heck they are talking about when it comes to the Lake Nipissing fishery and the rights of the Nbisiing people.  They don’t realize that their so-called “opinions” shows a complete and ignorant lack of knowledge, and an intolerance to learning the facts about Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

Let’s clear a few things up.  Nipissing First Nation is a sovereign nation. That sovereignty was not given up in the Treaties. With that sovereignty comes a set of rights and responsibilities as well as laws and regulations governing our people.  One of these rights is the Treaty and Aboriginal right to fish in Lake Nipissing. Even the offenders who I’ve written about above, have that same right. But this right is a collective right and not to be confused with some individualistic right to rape and pillage the Lake at the expense of our nation.

Moreover, with a great right comes great responsibility. We have a right to regulate ourselves and the commercial fishery to ensure conservation and the ultimate health of the Lake.

A singular message to the “ban gill-nets” people: gill-netting cannot be “banned” except by our own regulation. Period.  The right to fish is a constitutionally-protected legal right arising from the Treaties. This fact has been tried, tested and true by the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land.

The Treaties were the source of indigenous nations giving rights to Canada, and their descendants – not the other way around. If it weren’t for the Treaties, there would be no forestry or mining. There would be no resource economy. There would be no Crown land, municipal land or private land ownership. Nor would there be a sport fishery, angling, or tourist economy. These are the rights the settlers and residents received when Nbisiing signed the Treaties with Canada.

Legal rights should be respected not debated. No matter whose legal rights they are.

  • Yet, there are a few – I’ll say again – a few, who continue to openly write to advocate the taking away of Anishinaabek legal rights. This shows a complete ignorant, lack of knowledge and intolerance to learning the facts about Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

You’re constantly writing about “natives” this… and “natives” that.  You don’t write about solutions, perspectives or understanding, you write about blame, blame and more blame of an entire nation of people.  And you disguise this as an opinion.  When you use the broad brush of intolerance, you also paint our children, our Elders and non-harvesters.  You also point the finger of intolerance at the Anishinaabe man and woman just getting his coffee from Tim Hortons or picking up The Nugget at the corner store.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has states that Canadians need to better understand indigenous people. This includes our ways of life (i.e. gill netting and spearing), why our nation has these legal rights (because of the Treaties) and that our nation and our citizens have, and always will have these rights.

That’s right. Our nation and our citizens have, and always will have Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

Just a little fitful message to leave you with on this lovely Friday night.  Our people are always told: “well, can’t you just get over it?” when it comes to Aboriginal issues, residential schools, land claims and addressing the wrongs of the past.

Well, right back at you. Can’t you just get over the fact that we have and always will have these rights?

It can’t be that simple or obtuse.

We all need to work together to find a cooperative solution to improving the health of Lake Nipissing.  We need to learn more about each other’s perspectives.  Whether it’s the perspectives of anglers, lodges and outfitters, or the perspectives of the Nbisiing people.  We can’t just dig out heels in and come out swinging.  This mess isn’t going to be fixed by the MNR, it’s going to be fixed by all people, native and non-native alike, through regulation, conservation, cooperation and understanding.

Province abandons hunt cabin appeal

Bruce McKay Photo.

First Nations have the right to build cabins without permit

The Chronicle-Journal
**NOTE:  This article is from March 2011.

A provincial appeal in the Meshake hunt cabin case has been abandoned, clearing the way for First Nations members to build hunt cabins on Crown land without permits.
The provincial appeal was to be heard Tuesday in Toronto, but the province backed down, Aroland First Nation said.

Aroland members were at the centre of the case, which saw the Ministry of Natural Resources attempt to stop Elsie and Howard Meshake from building a hunt cabin on Ogoki Lake’s Comb Island in the summer of 2003.

The MNR issued a stop-work order, saying the couple needed a work permit to build at the site, which is not part of Aroland itself, but is part of the band’s traditional territory.
Initially, a justice of the peace ruled that the Meshakes were protected by their constitutional rights under Treaty 9 in building their cabin.

Ontario appealed to the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Meshakes won.

Tuesday would have marked the province’s second appeal had it been heard. With the legal proceeding abandoned by Ontario, the lower court’s ruling stands.

“Traditionally, we would go out all over our territory to hunt, trap and fish, and we would build shelters for this purpose,” said Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon.

“We still do this. It has taken a long struggle, but we are interpreting this move as a sign that Ontario is finally accepting our rights to build and use our cabins out on the land,” Gagnon said.

Why First Nations Shouldn’t Pay HST

Last week, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation entrenching the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario beginning July 1, 2010.  There is a lot of mixed reviews, both for and against the HST.  There is no question, the one thing that the HST is sure to do, is continue the trend that Ontario is one of the most taxed jurisdictions in all of North America.

On most purchases, most people won’t know the difference.  Instead of seeing 8 per cent provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST or PST) and 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), consumers will see a flat 13 per cent HST on their receipts.

However, the population that will be most adversely affected and will see the most change will be First Nation people.

For the first time since the introduction of the provincial sales tax, First Nations people living on-reserve will be subject to the 8 per cent portion of the tax.  We will have to pay the entire brunt of the 13 per cent sales tax.

Since time immemorial… well, at least my time immemorial, I’ve been able to go into Walmart or The Source, or any other retailer for that matter, present my status card and receive a point-of-sale tax exemption of 8 percent.  In doing so I’d have to endure my share of customer service ignorance, fill out a monstrosity of forms and put up with verbal jibes from the rednecks standing in line behind me.  The more noise they make, the slower I fill out the form.  In one case, after a couple of comments, I reverted to filling out the exemption form left-handed.

If the retailer tried to mess with my right, I would either get an individual fired or go corporate on their ass.

In the end, I felt that the point-of-sale tax exemption was my right.  The contemporary Anishinaabe teaching is that we are supposed to exercise our rights or one day we may lose them.  Apparently that day has come.

But I have a bombshell for many of you.  And it may be difficult for me to say.  But here goes…

First Nations do NOT have the Treaty right to tax exemption.

There, I said it.  It makes me shudder but it’s entirely true.  The majority of our Treaties, certainly the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty, does not make reference to taxation.  There are no references or right to tax exemption in most of the Treaties.  It’s a basic fact.

But the treaties said nothing of being subject to paying taxes either.

First Nations must assert that First Nations have the aboriginal right and the sovereign inherent right to be immune from foreign taxation.  Such a right is not only fundamental, it may be protected under international law.  For example:  the United States cannot enter sovereign Canadian territory and force Canadians to pay US taxes.

I think First Nations have a strong case in stating that Canada cannot assert unproven jurisdiction in First Nations’ traditional territory and force First Nations to pay Canadian taxes.

But paying the eight percent is no big deal, we can get it back at the end of the year, right?

Not exactly.  That’s what I thought.  That’s what First Nations leaders thought too.  That’s what a lot of people thought.

My latest research indicates that First Nation individuals are unable to claim a rebate for any purchases off-reserve unless it is delivered to reserve by the retailer’s official agent.

According to the HST/GST Information Update (B-039R3), “… If the purchaser uses his or her own vehicle to transport the property to the reserve, the acquisition is subject to the normal GST/HST rules.”

To their credit, the Government of Ontario is going to bat for First Nations on this issue.  The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs have asked the Government of Canada to respect and continue the current practice of administering the point-of-sale exemption for First Nations.

However, that’s the whole issue: administration of the HST.

Ontario does not have a say in the administration of the tax.  Canada is holding all the cards on point-of-sale exemptions.  Ontario may request a certain point-of-sale exemption, but it’s Canada that has to agree to it.  Unfortunately, the issue of First Nation tax exemption is not a deal breaker for either party.

The biggest argument against First Nations paying the HST should be a socio-economic argument.

First Nations are the poorest of all Canadians.  The socio-economic gap between First Nations and the rest of Canada is staggering.  In Ontario, the unemployment rate for First Nation living on-reserve is at least 3 times higher than the rest of Ontario.  The average income in Ontario is over one third higher than the average income of First Nations people.  One in four First Nations children living on-reserve are growing up in poverty.

Now these same poor people are being asked to pay more and live on less.

Right now, those same red necks in shopping lines everywhere, are praising the changes.  They cite equality and fairness.  “Finally, those Indians are having to pay tax.  What’s fair is fair.”

I’m all for equality and fairness, but that’s a few generations away.  So let’s start with the concept of equity.

What will it take to equalize the unemployment gap?  What will it take to equalize the income gap?  What will it take to bring First Nations children out of poverty?

Forcing the poorest people to pay an additional 8 per cent won’t do it.