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It's a matter of trying hard to be equal.

It isn't surprising that First Nations Canadians want to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as their fellow citizens. But there is a dilemma: If they are to maintain their historic treaty rights, achieving equality with other Canadians will actually put them in a position of "citizen-plus-plus" status in our country.

As an Aboriginal Canadian and a MEtis, I enjoy the privilege of being a citizen-plus. That is, I enjoy rights that non-Aboriginals do not enjoy. However, my circumstances have allowed me to choose not to take advantage of my Aboriginal rights and its race-based laws. I simply want to be equal with my fellow Canadian citizens, not more equal. It is important to me that my fellow citizens know that.

A First Nations person with treaty rights, that is, one who is a registered status Indian, has even more rights than I do.

But if history has proven anything it is that being a citizen-plus-plus is actually detrimental to one's health and well being. I really don't think non-Aboriginal Canadians would want the special treatment and so-called benefits associated with being a citizen- plus- plus. Having your life controlled by the Indian Act is just not acceptable for many and so many band members are simply leaving their reserves to get out from under such degrading legislation.

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Moreover, many of the over 500 treaties signed between the British Crown and numerous First Nations have not been honored by the Canadian government. There are even discrepancies, due to a misinterpretation of what the First Nations said they said and what actually got written into the documents. It is for that reason that suits for breach of contract have become part of the natural order of things.

It is now time, however, to start moving beyond the confrontation and misunderstanding. The first step comes with understanding and respecting the Aboriginal perspective of their rights, an essential ingredient in the process if we are to work together for our mutual benefit.

I hear people from all parts of Canada ask: "What is this First Nation compulsion to keep talking about these agreements that are hundreds of years old? Why can't they just forget all this treaty crap and stop insisting on being treated special, with special rights and benefits, and special specific laws just for them? Why don't they just adjust, assimilate and go to work and be just like everybody else?"

Well, I can tell you that the First Nations people are more than ready to forget the treaties, including all the unfulfilled promises. All Canadians have to do is give them all their land back. Of course, Canada can't do that; it's not practical and makes no sense.

Knowing what these rights are, who has them and where these specific rights are applied is a daunting task. Our federal and provincial governments and corporations in Canada are making an effort to learn what these rights are, because infringement of others rights today is just not allowed.

Most Canadians I talk to tell me we are equal under the rule of law in Canada. Our Constitution, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the rule of law are there to protect our rights as Canadian citizens. But that alone does not mean we are equal. When Aboriginal people say they want to be equal to all Canadians they are not saying they are willing to forfeit treaty rights; instead, they want to enjoy the same standard of living as an average Canadian.

Published with permission by Troy Media Corporation

By Robert Laboucane

President, Repple Effects Ltd.
COPYRIGHT 2009 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 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:strictly speaking
Author:Laboucane, Robert
Publication:Windspeaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:596
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