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Date set for sitting of First Nations international court.

World representatives will watch the second sitting of the First Nations International Court of Justice in Ottawa while the Canadian government continues to refuse to participate.

The court will meet Feb. 24 to 28, 1997 in Ottawa, and members of the United Nations working group on treaties and those from the European Parliament will attend the session, said court organizer Sylvia Thompson of the Chiefs of Ontario.

A court-appointed "friend" will represent Canada.

On trial will be Prime Minister Jean Chretien, representative of the Canadian government. In April the first sitting of the court found sufficient evidence to hear three charges against the government: unlawfully interfering with the internal affairs of First Nations; unlawfully imposing its laws on First Nations peoples and territories; and the unlawful seizure of First Nations lands, resources and tax revenues.

The seven judges at the first hearing found "the (Canadian) legal system itself is a violation of Indigenous peoples and their rights."

Testifying at the trial were the Onondaga, Hnahnu, Haida, Dene and Cherokee First Nations. Elders acted as court advisers and will do so again, Thompson said. Judges from Indigenous nations in Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand will again hear the testimony.

The British Parliament will also be served an indictment, Thompson said. The U.S. and Mexican governments will be put on notice.

The Court has put out a call for testimony from First Nations on how they have been treated by the Canadian government. "A pile" of groups have indicated they want to testify, Thompson said.

The court was born from an Assembly of First Nations resolution made in response to the federal government's revision of its tax policy on Native people. But the AFN does not officially support the court.

"We're laying the groundwork for an Indigenous legal system," said prosecutor Sharon Venne at the court's first sitting in April.

Justice does not come cheaply. The court has a debt after the first three-day sitting and will need a "bare minimum" of $150,000 for the hearing next year, Thompson said.

The court is paid for completely from donations, she said. "The people that gave the money are very supportive in what's been done," Thompson added.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Marty Logan
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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