Native leader responds to leaked Cabinet memo



    NANAIMO, BC, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, a
candidate for National Chief and leader of the 42 member First Nations of the
Anishinabek Nation has real concerns with a leaked cabinet memo and apparent
plans for the government to overhaul First Nations funding arrangements.
    "Such paternalistic and unilateral actions cannot be pushed on us. We
will resist," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage, who is in Nanaimo for a
meeting of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
    "This kind of cloak-and-dagger, secret memos and clandestine government
schemes is a throwback to the times of Indian Agents, assimilation and the
1969 White Paper. Our government-to-government and nation-to-nation
relationship should be built on trust and transparency, not by taking two
steps backward."
    The leaked federal Cabinet memo, obtained by APTN outlines a bureaucratic
scheme to change the conditions in which First Nations are funded, apparently
without little consultation or the risk of attempting another controversial
legislative initiative. The previous Liberal government attempted similar
measures under the First Nations Governance Act, which was met with
significant resistance from First Nations leaders. The Act was eventually
scrapped.
    Beaucage is concerned over the tone of the memo and that it appears to be
ignorant of recent Supreme Court precedent which requires the Crown to
adequately consult with First Nations on changes in policy and, when required,
accommodate their interests.
    The memo states the scheme can be done without "the need for extensive or
time-consuming engagement with First Nations or third parties."
    "The government has a legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations
interests, especially when it comes to such significant processes such as
First Nations governance and funding," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "The
approach outlined in this memo, which appears to be legitimate, is not
acceptable."
    However, Grand Council Chief agrees that the means in which First Nations
are funded and how those dollars are accounted for requires significant
changes.
    "This is one of the areas we need fundamental change. But it has to be
driven by First Nations and not by anyone else," said Beaucage. "We need to be
looking at new ways of funding First Nations governments and not only focus on
transparency, but on the government-to-government relationship based on the
treaties."
    As part of his AFN election campaign, Grand Council Chief Beaucage
proposes funding First Nations government in the same way that provinces are
funded, through direct transfer payments and even equalization formulas.
    "First Nations need to be seen as legitimate governments within the
fabric of Canadian society. We are not part of the Indian Affairs bureaucracy,
we are bona fide governments. As our governments are reestablished, we will
have our own Constitutions. Accountability will be built into our
constitutions, not just to the federal government and taxpayers, but first and
foremost, to our own citizens."




For further information:

For further information: Bob Goulais, (705) 498-5250,
info@johnbeaucage.com; Marci Becking, (705) 497-9127 ext. 2290,
becmar@anishinabek.ca

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Anishinabek Nation

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Union of Ontario Indians

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