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The First Nations Governance Act is bad legislation

Dear Editor:
On June 14, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Robert Nault, introduced in parliament his “First Nations Governance Act”.
We have heard from many, First Nations leaders and others, that they can not support this initiative. This is not surprising because the act is not about governance it is a continuation of the archaic and paternalistic federal government polices in respect to Aboriginal peoples. The act actually increases the involvement of “the Minister” in the day to day lives of Aboriginal people. The act will expand the bureaucracy and increase the requirement to report and submit detailed deliverables to the federal government. Will the resources be available to the bands to enable them to produce the reams of new paperwork that will be required by the act? The 5% promised increase in Band Support funding will not be sufficient to meet current needs in staffing and training at the community level let alone the increased demands. According to the act, if bands are not able to met the new requirements they will be subject to the default regulations prepared by the Department of Indian Affairs. Is that progressive changes? I think not. It is certainly a far cry from self determination.
The community leaders are honest and hard working people dealing with overwhelming problems at the local level. They are accountable to their membership. Fully 96% of all First Nations have submitted approved audits on time.
Is our Member of Parliament too concerned with providing a legacy for Prime Minister Chretien, the author of the 1969 “White Paper”, that he has forgotten who he represents? With 51 First Nations in this riding I think it would be appropriate for our representative to listen to their concerns and speak on behalf of his constituents in Kenora-Rainy River, not against them.
The governance act is bad legislation. Before the act was even conceived, there were positive discussions and processes being developed at national, regional, and local levels co-operatively between Aboriginal people and the federal government. The act was not developed through these processes, but has been created by the federal government without dialogue and meaningful input from the people who’s lives will be affected.
The Indian Act should be changed, but this should be done with the full participation of the Aboriginal people. There were effective traditional governing structure in this land long before my ancestors arrived. The Minister needs to show respect for the First Nation leadership and aboriginal people by listening to their concerns and working with them to address the real issues, housing, education, health and other day to day concerns that have been brought forward time and time again by grassroots people.
The First Nations Governance Act has been introduced in Parliament, but it has not yet been passed. We must speak out! Tell our Member of Parliament that this process is unacceptable and that he needs to deal honestly with First Nations if there is to be an amiable resolution that will empower Aboriginal communities.
It is not too late.
Yours sincerely,
Susan Barclay