Aboriginals in today’s society are a large minority and are often the people that the majority would look down on. Reserves all throughout Canada experience very different programs and the care for their well-being. Provinces such as Manitoba, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory are far better at supplementing their indigenous people. Giving breaks to people coming out of high school, having psychological counselling and the ability to enjoy a life that is not full of prejudice. In this essay I will argue that, the right to self-government on reservations is vital for maintaining a homeostatic environment. If an Aboriginal band can get a self-governing body through government funding to help the Aboriginals in urban and rural settings, a reserve can thrive economically and make money back. It will allow residents of the reserve to make their own money, and sustain some economic development on land they privately own. I will help shed a little light on how Aboriginals are treated by government and the rest of society, I will support this by looking at a few different times that self-government was awarded or rejected and succeeded in other ways. Looking at Yukon and Manitoba specifically, in how they treat their Aboriginal persons and how they have tried measures to help them; until government intervention through cutting of social program funding has ruined all momentum they had going.
Self-Government or self-determination has had a snowball affect across aboriginal settlements in recent years. Mainly because the priority that the Assembly of First Nations puts on it, based on their inherent right; legal source being “…The original status of aboriginal peoples as independent and sovereign nations in the territories occupied.” (Royal commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, Vol 2, Part 1:166).
Manitoba has the one of the largest aboriginal populations, and Winnipeg as a city has a large amount of indigenous people. Not given many opportunities because they live in the city. In 1996, the Aboriginal Council of Manitoba had brought a meticulous and thorough document to the federal government. The “Tripartite Negotiation Compact” was a contract that requested $500 million in taxpayer dollars to control urban aboriginal political authority. (Paragraph 5. Western Communications) A request of 500 million from non-Indian taxpayers to help control program areas that include a separate school and judicial system, wherein they can control sentencing of Aboriginals in urban centres; its largest focal point was that of controlling health, and social programs. It also requested control over recreation and sport programs to avoid teenagers on reserve lands from going to drugs or alcohol instead. Which is what I think is the biggest problem faced on reserves in Canada today. No funding for social programs means that there is nothing to do on a reserve but go to a bar and drink, or go to a convenience store to buy government taxed cigarettes. The document was shot down by the Federal Government and has lain dormant since 1996. The document did however give many other aboriginal centred types of council to go out and get what they want. What the document did for Manitoba after it was brought up was give them an idea of what authority they do have over urban Aboriginal populations, as well as reserve populations. Which was not a whole lot, they were not afforded the right to rule judicially in their own courtrooms. The government did come up with a very brief and secretive counterproposal. Which simply stated urban Aboriginals would be afforded their own legitimate entitlement; however, they would not be treated differently than any other minority in Canada. Allowing the massive assimilation introduced by the Indian Act to continue unharmed. The government had no interest in what the Aboriginal council wanted, because they had pegged them as selfish and pegged them as going for self-interest instead of the collective. Sweeping it all under the rug, the federal government came up with a completely separate idea of self-government; however, the document was written so that the council would not be able to speak to the media. Suddenly, the Manitoban Indian Affairs office washed its hands clean from the entire idea to begin with. The main obstacle faced for the 2 parties is how responsible the council would be with taxpayer dollars. Where they had failed to bring up a step-by-step process on the allocation of resources, the Yukon had come up with a realistic economic and political approach. This council has brought about many issues involving reserve life, as well as the social stereotypes afforded to urban aboriginals. Many of these core issues, such as the economic layout were being worked on in the Yukon Brotherhood’s attempts to be awarded the right to self-government.
Way before the Manitoban council had put forward a document; The Yukon Native Brotherhood was working on relations with the federal government to be awarded some semblance of self-government. The Yukon Brotherhood had a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau, entitled “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow”. The presentation had triggered talks between Trudeau and Council for Yukon First Nations (formerly the Yukon Brotherhood).
Twenty years had passed from the first talks in 1973. In 1993, the Yukon First Nations council signed the first final agreements. The Umbrella Final Agreement recognized and established as a legal person, and allows the capacity to act and govern itself. (P. 18, Horne Marian C., MLA) The Council for Yukon First Nations (CYFN) was then instilled with the power to operate and control the lands. Control program funding and allow them to help indigenous citizens whom live in urban centres. Government-to-government relations had allowed indigenous peoples to be given the same services and programs experienced across the territory by others.
The indigenous community had won back some of its rights that were taken away unjustifiably. The urban aboriginal population were given social programs and the opportunity to have equality of education. Local farmers had thrived economically because they were allowed to own their own land and grow crops without government intervention. Stigma’s that were placed on the community seemed to be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Most notably, the atmosphere and natural land was not disturbed by any attempts at economic growth from multi-national corporations. Traditions were kept, and the right to own land was left alone, so a person could not go on your farm to take away your harvest. The only time government intervention is allowed was if you were causing harm to an individual or collective.
There are a few ways the Yukon’s aboriginal self-government is ran and appointed. Although a recognized government, it resembles more of a municipal government than what most aboriginals would really want it to be.
The accountability and responsibility is undertaken by leaders on Yukon First Nations reserves comes from the residents themselves. Checks and balances are maintained through meetings held annually, in which the general public can ask Chiefs and councillors political and economic questions. The General assembly then turns the information over to the chief who acts as an executive for new policies and legislature. (Paragraph 25, Dacks, Gurston.) The funding provided by the government to allocate towards the self-governing collective comes with its own hitches. The major one being Section 18, which has a very paradoxical explanation; the money saved by not delivering it to the first nations people and programs covered by the Program and Service Transfer Agreement, should be contributed back equally through the Program and Service Transfer Agreement. However, the 3 major Program and Service transfer agreements tackle culture, tradition, funding, schooling, land ownership, economic progress and health education. There are healthcare educated people readily able to discuss psychological issues as well as set up a healthy environment to help eliminate alcohol and drug addiction. Without the money to spend on these programs or services the self-governing nation reaches an impasse.
In conclusion, self-government is only attainable and maintainable if there is a certain level of trust between Federal Governments and Aboriginal communities across Canada. Although it would be very beneficial to Aboriginal Canadians, and crucial to repairing the talks between First Nations Canadians and the multiple levels of government; or aboriginals and ‘white society’ for that matter. Aboriginals can operate a healthy homeostatic self-governing practice if given the chance, and if given proper checks and balances. With a set amount of funding and a detailed written report semi-annually or annually to ensure that is where the funding is going. However, the questions that arise are far too great. How easy could it be for a person to take parts of the funding and create new social programs that do not exist? How much time and money would be required to start the infrastructure for creating a self-sustaining self-government? I would like to think that both sides could work together and form a very healthy agreement, but money is too much of an object in today’s economy. Certainly when it pertains to the minorities that people choose not to talk about when they talk about Canadian Politics, but will that ever change?
Horne, Marian C., M.L.A. "Yukon's Self Governing First Nations." Canadian Parliamentary Review 33.2 (2010): 2-7. CBCA Complete; CBCA Reference & Current Events. Web. 6 Oct. 2012.
"Canada's Biggest Reserve? Winnipeg's Indians are Angling for a Large Share of Self-Government Cash
(Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg's Concern for Representation of Urban Natives in their Negotiations with the Government)." Western Report Aug 26 1996: 7-. CBCA Complete; CBCA Reference & Current Events. Web. 6 Oct. 2012 .
Dacks, Gurston. "Implementing First Nations Self-Government in Yukon: Lessons for Canada." Canadian Journal of Political Science 37.3 (2004): 671-94. CBCA Complete; CBCA Reference & Current Events. Web. 6 Oct. 2012.
Google. “PSTA acronym Aboriginal”
Royal commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996, Vol 2, Part 1:166