Honourable Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H4
Your refusal to meet with First Nations leadership to discuss Bill C-33,First Nations Control of First Nation Education Actis inconsistent with the honour of the Crown.
On May 15th, 2014, the NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic, Jean Crowder, asked if you would meet with the Confederacy of Nations to discuss Bill C-33. Not only did you dismiss the possibility of meeting with this body, but you discredited the leadership of the Confederacy of Nations.
Let me be clear that these are not “rogue” Chiefs. The Confederacy of Nations is a body within the Assembly of First Nations. All Chiefs within the Confederacy of Nations are duly elected by their community and thereforealsosit in the Chiefs in Assembly. The Confederacy of Nations meeting itself met all requirements and was fully consistent with the Assembly of First Nations Charter. Labeling the Chiefs only serves to distract from your responsibilities as Minister to meet with First Nations leadership and promote a respectful dialogue.
The issue now before us is one of accountability. Up to this point, your conduct has not shown any manner of accountability to First Nations. You said that funding would be guaranteed in the legislation, yet Bill C-33 makes it clear that funding will be determined by the regulations set byyou. You said that your Department would work with First Nations on the legislation, yet you only worked with a National Chief that, under the Assembly of First Nations Charter, lacked the authority to hold such discussions. Now, you are attempting to radicalize Chiefs within the Assembly of First Nations and manufacture divisions and rivalries amongst leadership. At what point will you take responsibility for your own words and actions in this failed process?
Unfortunately, the issue of accountability does not stop with your conduct. The legislation itself formalizes an attitude of complete arrogance toward First Nations. Section 46 (1) of the legislation states:
Her Majesty is not liable in respect of anything done or omitted to be done…in the exercise of their powers or the performance of their functions under this Act.
Standing accountable for one’s actions is a reality that we must all live by. So, why is the Government of Canada hiding from its responsibilities to First Nations?
Canada needs to be accountable for its decisions and actions, and put an end to assimilationist practices. It is time for you, as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, to take responsibility for a failed engagement process and deceptive legislation. The approach of your portfolio should be upheld in a dignified manner that is consistent with the honour of the Crown.
Grand Chief Gordon B. Peters
Cc. AIAI Chiefs Council
Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, Québec/Labrador Assembly of First Nations Executive Committee Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Ms. Jean Crowder, MP, New Democratic Party Aboriginal Affairs Critic
Mr. Justin Trudeau, MP, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada