It Is Time for Massive Change
It is time for First Nations people to stand up, organize and exercise our rights. We do not require permission to be self governing, to steward our traditional lands or to build sustainable economies from our lands.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vancouver, Jan 14, 2013 - The National Centre for First Nations Governance would like to express its support for the people in the Idle No More movement, Chief Spence’s efforts and for all those who are standing up across the country and making themselves heard. We encourage meaningful and respectful dialogue between First Nations leaders, citizens and the Government of Canada and we hope this dialogue will compel Canada to embrace and support First Nations inherent right to self-governance.
The time is now for change within Canada and within First Nations across Canada. Concerned Canadians must let federal and provincial governments know that it is time to fully address Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Crown’s legal obligations are clear and it is time for Canada to amend its laws and policies. Only then will Canada and First Nations achieve the certainty we both seek in our relationship with each other. Reconciliation will make Canada a stronger, more honourable country.
At the same time, First Nations citizens must take responsibility, come together with a clear vision, and find the courage and persistence to create positive change in our communities. We have achieved the constitutional recognition and protection of our Aboriginal and treaty rights. They cannot be extinguished without our consent.
It is time to exercise the inherent right possessed by all First Nations citizens to govern ourselves. We can rebuild our nations with our own governments and the capacity to address activities on our traditional territories. The Crown must justify those activities on our territories and First Nations have to become organized to meaningfully engage the Crown. As First Nations, we have to know what we want and that change begins with us.
We must encourage our youth and support our talented young emerging leaders who are bringing new energy and new ways to organize and create awareness. Their involvement is critical for continued change.
Staff at the Centre firmly believe that First Nations can build effective self-governance along with the capacity to address the development activity on their territories. This will strongly position First Nations to create healthy communities, steward their lands, enter into government to government relationships, negotiate with industry and proceed with the rebuilding of their economies and looking after themselves.
We do not require permission to exercise our right to be self governing, to steward our traditional lands or to build sustainable economies from our lands. Canadian courts have confirmed our Aboriginal title and treaty rights, and have decided in favour of the right for First Nations to establish our own systems of governance and to take back our rightful place on our territories.
At the National Centre for First Nations Governance, we deliver services to support First Nations citizens in their efforts to become self-governing. The Centre’s services are based on well established pillars of effective governance: The People, The Land, Institutions, Laws & Jurisdiction and Resources.
The Centre was working with over two hundred First Nations when our federal treasury board funding was cut. Last year we closed our five offices and laid off most of our staff – all experienced Aboriginal professionals who spent considerable time and effort rebuilding governance within First Nation communities across Canada. On January 31, 2013, the Centre will close it’s operations. We will launch a new organization and will continue to deliver services, but with almost no ability to help the nations that need it most.
It is time for all levels of government to recognize and respect that we are in a new era of Aboriginal and Crown relationships. What is called for is a government to government relationship to properly reconcile our interests. The Crown must engage First Nations at the strategic level of government (the highest level of government) in all activities that infringe upon our Aboriginal and treaty rights and we must, as First Nations, be organized to engage them at that level.
Most importantly, it is time for First Nations people to stop waiting for government to change and instead stand up, organize and exercise our rights. We must restore our connection with the land, rebuild our governance and participate in the broader national and global economy. We must remove ourselves from the stagnant security of the Indian Act and set a new course for our future.
No one else can do this but us.