Monday, January 14, 2013

Idle No More - The Next Moves

Idle No More - Portage and Main - Global TV
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs declined to meet with Stephen Harper last week because the Governor-General David Johnston would not be present throughout the meeting.

Over the years, I have heard of similar appeals to an authority higher than the prime minister of Canada. The last one was made in 2009 for a meeting with the Queen in London. She received notice and passed it on to her prime minister in Canada as she always does.

What I have not heard from any First Nations leader is why the Governor General needs to be present or what authority he might have to compel policy changes.

For many decades, it has been standard protocol for a letter of grievance to be presented to the Vice-Regal or Queen which is passed onto her government in Canada.

At no time in our modern history has the Queen or Vice-Regal representatives been present for the nuts and bolts talks of government policy.


The Governor General has an important constitutional role but intervention is only permissible under the most narrow of circumstances.

So the question remains, what type of role do they believe the Governor General can play if he cannot discuss policy lest he risk undermining the Crown's executive, legislative and judicial branches?

Idle No More's main concerns have not always been entirely clear. The vagueness comes in part because there are 600 or more First Nations and a lot list of issues. However, there seems to be agreement that a lot of the present protest motivation comes from two bills in Parliament from the Harper government pertaining to First Nation governance and to water.

The First Nations have every right to ask for a meeting with the prime minister and by all accounts, he agreed to it and future meetings. It was also agreed that a The Governor General would be present at the beginning for the ceremonial process as well as to receive grievances.

This was accepted by some First Nations. It was not accepted by Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Division among aboriginal leaders could not be sharper.

Derek Nepinak of AMC has stated:

(Idle No More) has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees.
He has also stated any meeting will be First Nations terms not the prime minister's.

It is pretty strong talk.

So, if the hang up for Derek Nepinak is that the Governor General will not be at the meeting, what exactly does he hope that his presence will do?

It seems some First Nations chiefs will take their meetings with the prime minister and try to get substantive changes or action on their issues.

It remains to be seen how long Manitoba First Nations will be on the outside looking in when it comes to future aboriginal talks. By then maybe the focus of Idle No More might be on the chiefs themselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John Dobbin you are racist!