OTTAWA, Nov. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne today announced the signing of Agreements-in-Principle on governance and the management of reserve land. These significant steps toward final self-government arrangements would give the Akwesasne community greater control over the decisions that affect them in these key areas.
"Today's announcement is a great example of how dialogue and partnerships between our Government and First Nations can deliver great results," said Minister Valcourt. "Self-government creates the foundation for a renewed relationship with Canada and an improved quality of life for First Nation people by promoting self-sufficiency and unlocking economic opportunities for First Nation communities."
"After years of deliberations with the Department of Indian Affairs, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) has come to the conclusion that there are elements of the Indian Act that are outdated and no longer useful in serving our community," said Grand Chief Mitchell. "In signing the Agreements-in-Principle, the MCA will continue to identify more key areas of the Indian Act that may be brought before our membership, in accordance with our community referendum process, to decide if Akwesasne should continue to take over more control and authority from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada."
There are two Agreements-in-Principle: one is concerning governance, the other concerning management of reserve lands. The goal on governance is to modernize the relationship between Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and ensure enhanced accountability between the First Nation and its own people. The focus is also to provide the First Nation with greater control over its own affairs in the areas of elections, membership and financial administration.
The goal of the lands Agreement-in-Principle is to set out a process for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to take control over and pass laws relating to the day-to-day management of their reserve lands. It lays the groundwork for expanded economic development on reserve and increased business partnerships with the private sector.
Once finalized, these self-government arrangements will create new opportunities for the First Nation to build on its successes in community and economic development with other governments and the private sector. Over the past 10 years, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has made great strides in the area of infrastructure, program and service delivery, law enforcement, housing and economic development. This includes many businesses located on their reserve, a leading-edge water treatment facility and higher drinking water standards for its community that exceed provincial standards.
The Government of Canada has signed 20 self-government agreements with 34 Aboriginal communities. Negotiated agreements balance the rights of all concerned, promote self-sufficiency and open the door to economic opportunities for First Nation communities. Fostering good government and strong accountability in First Nation communities increases investor confidence, supports economic partnerships and can improve living conditions.
Self-Government Negotiations between Canada and
the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
- The Government of Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne are working together through negotiations toward final governance arrangements that would give the community greater control over its own affairs.
- The parties have achieved a major milestone in their ongoing negotiations with the signing of two Agreements-in-Principle on governance and management of reserve lands.
- The goal is to develop new arrangements to modernize the relationship between Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, promote greater self-sufficiency and unlock opportunities for community and economic development as well as business partnerships.
Initial Steps toward New Governance Arrangements
- Unless they have negotiated alternate governance arrangements, most First Nations are currently governed by the Indian Act. The Indian Act establishes a limited and dependent form of local administration that is overseen by a federal Minister and does not take into account the specific circumstances of the community.
- Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has made many changes to the way the community is governed over the years based on a 15 year community process. For example, one area that was not working for the community was the election of Chiefs and Council, which was previously conducted under the Indian Act and experienced legal challenges at almost every election. As a result, a community referendum was held in 1986 that has since allowed all decisions regarding elections to be dealt with exclusively by the community on its own territory.
- The following year, in 1987, the MCA exercised Akwesasne jurisdiction by taking over membership, with the end result giving the community the authority to decide who shall be a member of Akwesasne.
- In the same year, the community took over education and set up its own board of education to establish local education criteria for the hiring of teachers and incorporating culture and language into community schools. Since that time, Akwesasne reports that it has had a graduation rate of 75-80 per cent. With these successes, Akwesasne has found that taking over authority and jurisdiction works better for Mohawks of Akwesasne.
Past Negotiation Milestones
- Governance negotiations between the Government of Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne began in 1999 under a Political Protocol. A Process and Schedule (Framework) Agreement signed in 2005 established the negotiation process that led to the Agreements-in-Principle. Negotiators for Canada and the First Nation concluded their talks on the draft Agreements-in-Principle in March 2012. The Agreements-in-Principle were signed by the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Canada on November 4, 2013.
What are the Agreements-in-Principle?
- The focus of the governance Agreement-in-Principle is on the structure of Akwesasne's government, its relationship to Canada and with its own members. The goal is to develop new arrangements that are based on a more respectful and modern relationship with Canada and ensure democratic accountability between the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and their people.
- The focus of the lands Agreement-in-Principle is on how the First Nation's reserve land base is managed. The goal is to set out a process for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to take control over and pass laws relating to the day-to-day management of their reserve lands. It lays the groundwork for expanded economic development on reserve and increased business partnerships with the private sector.
- This is not a land claim or a treaty. There is no new reserve land being provided to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne through this process.
Steps toward Final Agreements
- These Agreements-in-Principle are not legally binding on the parties and do not have legal force. They set out the framework for negotiating final arrangements, marking the second-step in a four-step negotiation process.
- No final agreement is possible without the approval of the people of Akwesasne.
- Now that the Agreements-in-Principle have been approved and signed by both parties, the next step is negotiations of final agreements, including the development of financial arrangements and implementation plans.
- Much work remains to be done before final agreements can be concluded. This includes consultation with the people of Akwesasne and those with direct interests as well as information sharing with the public. MCA will also consult with the people of Akwesasne through its advisory committees on the development of a community constitution.
- Once final agreements are completed, the next steps would be the approval by First Nation members, then approval by the Government of Canada. Canada must then pass enabling legislation before the final agreements can come into effect.
- Under finalized governance arrangements, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne would have law-making powers in these key areas: membership, elections, financial administration, managing their reserve lands, business and local economic development and the enforcement of First Nation laws.
- Mohawk Council of Akwesasne laws will apply only on the First Nation's reserve land base in Canada and will operate within the Canadian constitutional framework. Federal and provincial laws will operate in harmony with First Nation laws. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and other laws of general application such as the Criminal Code will continue to apply to protect the interests of all individuals on First Nation land.
- Governance agreements are not treaties and do not affect Aboriginal or treaty rights.
- Non-members residing on First Nation lands would have input into decisions that directly affect them.
SOURCE: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
For further information:
Fact Sheet: Self-Government Negotiations between Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
This release is also available on the Internet at: www.aandc.gc.ca
For more information, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Shannon Scully Burns
Manager, Communications Unit
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
613-575-2348 ext. 2210
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