To the Editor:
Re: “Ontario court ruling drives a wedge between Canadians” (Peter Best, Troy Media) and “United Conservatives ready, willing, and able to finish the job” (Jason Nixon, UCP) March 27, 2019.
In this part of the world, Indigenous peoples in what is now called Canada, and representatives of the Crown signed Treaties to share the land over 100 years ago. It is well understood that the authorities of that day felt that they were getting a great deal, and really putting one over on Indigenous leadership (see correspondence between the Treaty Commissioners to confirm this).
The only reason the Supreme Court of Canada has continuously decided to honour the ‘spirit and intent’ of the Treaties is in the interests of justice, and it’s a good thing they do so. The ‘spirit and intent’ of the Treaties refers to the fact that in the Treaties, Indigenous peoples are promised the continued use of their territories for livelihood activities (such as fishing, hunting, trapping, and gathering). It is now the letter of the law in Canada that this is so, and complaining about it only shows attempts at further discrimination.
The ‘common sense’ that Peter Best talks about in his article is only common to the settler side; ‘common sense’ for Indigenous peoples looks very different. The Canadian economy is founded on resource extraction. As we get further into environmental difficulties, including pollution, health effects, decreasing wildlife and wilderness, and climate change, Indigenous paradigms become more important. Concepts like ‘we are borrowing the land from future generations’ and ‘we have to consider seven generations into the future for the results of decisions we make today’ have a growing application in our sustainability as a society.
In Jason Nixon’s article, it looks like the UCP is willfully ignoring the long-term effects of their own proposals and ignoring whole sectors of people in Alberta. When the UCP promotes, “the right not to be deprived of enjoyment or use of property without due process of law,” are they including Indigenous peoples Treaty rights? Does the ‘rule of law’ he describes include respecting the ‘spirit and intent’ of Treaties?
I encourage citizens of Slave Lake to attend the ‘Flowing into Right Relationship’ workshop series, starting in September at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre. By attending each first Tuesday of the month, you will learn more about our history, Indigenous paradigms, and how we can better understand each other and work together to benefit our children, grandchildren, and future generations. Workshops include Exploring the Treaties: reviewing the appropriate Treaty, while inviting discussion on historic and modern perspectives, how this Treaty has been and could be upheld. Indigenous Water Governance: exploring pre-contact understandings about water and current paradigms while asking the question; can there be an Indigenous Water Governance model for Canada? Community Climate Action: surveying current climate science, the difference between climate and weather, emergency preparedness, Alberta’s energy efficiency and solar programs, sharing methods for designing a solar installation, along with preparing, distributing, and evaluating solar requests for proposals.
The KAIROS “Blanket Exercise:” This powerful interactive exercise educates participants about the history since European contact of Indigenous peoples in Canada. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: comparing the principles in UNDRIP to the UN’s sustainable development goals; workshop participants learn about Canada’s history and current challenges with this document. State of the Watershed: This talking and listening circle provides a venue for communities to discuss any watershed questions or issues that they are concerned about.
While we were not successful in obtaining local funding to provide these free workshops, a grant from Anti-racism Alberta allows us to proceed. We particularly encourage employees of institutions who work with people of Indigenous ancestry to attend, in order to build up your knowledge and understanding and build context into your work.
Each workshop will be presented once in the afternoon for those who are at work, and once in the evening for the interested public.
Keepers of the Athabasca