Government direction remains murky.OTTAWA
Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice P. E. James Prentice, PC, MP (born July 20, 1956, in South Porcupine, Ontario near Timmins) is a Canadian lawyer and politician. In the 2004 federal election he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada. was on the receiving end of criticism in May and early June as he hinted at a new approach by the new Conservative government in dealing with Aboriginal issues.
After six month's of Conservative rule, specialists in Aboriginal Affairs are beginning to arrive at the position that the government has no political will to do any more than it must on Aboriginal issues, while at the same time trying to appear not to be anti-Aboriginal.
Long-time Lubicon Cree advisor Fred Lennarson said the recent controversy over the relocation of the flood-ravaged Kasheshewan First Nation in Northern Ontario Northern Ontario is the part of the province of Ontario which lies north of Lake Huron (including Georgian Bay), the French River and Lake Nipissing.
Northern Ontario has a land area of 802,000 km² (310,000 mi²) and constitutes 87% of the land area of Ontario, although it is a case in point.
The battle over whether or not the Liberals budgeted funds for the move--the Conservatives say they didn't--skirts the question of whether or not the new government has the political will to actually spend money and take action on the matter.
The controversy over the lack of funding in the federal budget to implement the initiatives agreed to by provincial and territorial premiers and Aboriginal leaders at last November's First Ministers Meeting in Kelowna also adds fuel to the fire. Former Finance Minister Ralph Goodale Ralph Edward Goodale, PC , MP, BA , LL.B (born October 5, 1949, in Regina, Saskatchewan) was Canada's Minister of Finance from 2003 to 2006 and continues to be a Liberal Member of Parliament. He was named Opposition House Leader by Bill Graham. and current Liberal Indian Affairs critic Anita Neville Anita Neville, MP, BA (born July 22, 1942 in Winnipeg, Manitoba) is a Canadian politician. She was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal in the general election of 2000, and was re-elected in 2004 and 2006. She is now the Liberal Critic for Indian Affairs. say money for the Kelowna Accord The documents referred to as the Kelowna Accord are commonly accepted to be a working paper (entitled "Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap") resulting from 18 months of roundtable consultations cumulating at the First Ministers' Meeting in Kelowna and a separate press was "booked" by their government. The Conservatives say there was no money committed.
Neville urged Prentice to retract TO RETRACT. To withdraw a proposition or offer before it has been accepted.
2. This the party making it has a right to do is long as it has not been accepted; for no principle of law or equity can, under these circumstances, require him to persevere in it. his statement that the former Liberal government did not financially account for the $5.1 billion in commitments stemming from Kelowna.
"I hope this was a case where Minister Prentice erred in speaking and not a deliberate attempt on his part to misrepresent mis·rep·re·sent
tr.v. mis·rep·re·sent·ed, mis·rep·re·sent·ing, mis·rep·re·sents
1. To give an incorrect or misleading representation of.
2. the facts," she said, referring to comments made by the minister during question period on May 30. "He certainly knows that the Liberal government committed the Kelowna Accord dollars in the economic and fiscal update that was presented on Nov. 14, 2005."
In an interview, Neville told Windspeaker she believes Prentice sincerely wants to help improve the lives of Aboriginal people. She's just not sure it's a priority for his party.
"We are all frustrated with the Conservative Party's stance on the Kelowna Accord and Aboriginal issues in general. Frankly so am I. So are the first ministers. So are Aboriginal groups from coast to coast to coast. However that does not give Minister Prentice the justification to misrepresent the facts," she said in a release. "If he spoke inaccurately due to the frustration he is experiencing because of his party's apathy towards Aboriginal issues, he should simply clarify the record. If it was a more deliberate attempt to misrepresent the truth, then he owes all Aboriginal Canadians an apology."
Technicians in Ottawa believe the government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is going to depart from the co-operative--and some say progressive--spirit that was demonstrated by the previous federal government at the First Ministers Meeting, in favor of something more dictatorial.
The minister appeared before the House of Commons House of Commons: see Parliament. Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs on May 31. Dr. Michael Posluns, a veteran Ottawa watcher who was, until recently, a Native Studies professor at St. Thomas University Schools with the name St. Thomas University:
tr.v. de·con·struct·ed, de·con·struct·ing, de·con·structs
1. To break down into components; dismantle.
He pointed to one quote as a sign that political considerations are getting in the way of action on the Aboriginal agenda.
"[B]asic democratic values must be promoted, such as transparency in governance structures among governments, accountability and responsibility of all elected officials to their members," Prentice told the standing committee, hinting at the return of governance legislation for First Nations.
"This is another way of disparaging dis·par·age
tr.v. dis·par·aged, dis·par·ag·ing, dis·par·ag·es
1. To speak of in a slighting or disrespectful way; belittle. See Synonyms at decry.
2. To reduce in esteem or rank. First Nations, of course," said Posluns. "Far from supporting self-government, Prentice will introduce legislation that aggrandizes his own office and subjects First Nations to greater controls rather than fewer controls."
Posluns pointed to successive reports from auditors general that insist First Nations are required to provide far more reporting than any local government created by provinces.
"Ministers who jump up and down calling for more accountability are saying exactly the opposite of what the auditor general Auditor general may refer to,
Assembly of First Nations (AFN AFN Assembly of First Nations
AFN American Forces Network
AFN Ancestral File Number (FamilySearch genealogy records)
AFN Alesco Financial Inc (stock symbol)
AFN Alaska Federation of Natives ) National Chief Phil Fontaine Larry Phillip (Phil) Fontaine, OM, (born September 20, 1944) is an Aboriginal Canadian leader. He is currently serving his third term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. , appearing before the standing committee on June 7, "respectfully but vigorously" challenged Prentice's remarks.
"The minister spoke of some plans to address his government's priorities. He may have left you with the impression that First Nations have been consulted and support those plans," he said. "While the minister and I have ongoing discussions and share concerns on a number of matters, such as education, housing and issues pertaining to women, children and families, we are not involved in any working groups. We do not agree that First Nations have been consulted on any plans and I have not given the AFN's support to those ideas the minister described."
So far, any criticism of Conservative policy made by the Opposition Liberals has been deflected. Fontaine challenged the wisdom of this strategy.
"I am deeply concerned that the current government is responding to criticisms about its lack of action on our issues by, in turn, pointing the finger at the previous government and its supposed lack of action. We should not be debating who's more inactive. We should be taking action. Real leadership means turning inertia into energy for the betterment of all Canada," he said.
Fontaine also took note of the fact that the Conservative Party has been lukewarm in its response to the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its 61st session at UN Headquarters in New York City on 13 September 2007. .
"Let us remember that Canadians are watching and the world is watching," he told the standing committee. "Canada's reputation as a beacon of Aboriginal rights has, frankly, always been built on shaky ground. And it has begun to collapse in recent years under the weight of international scrutiny by the United Nations, Amnesty International Amnesty International (AI,) human-rights organization founded in 1961 by Englishman Peter Benenson; it campaigns internationally against the detention of prisoners of conscience, for the fair trial of political prisoners, to abolish the death penalty and torture of and other international organizations."
By Paul Barnsley
Windspeaker Staff Writer