Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper – Idle No More

Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper: In Bad Faith Justice at Last and Canada’s Failure to Resolve Specific Claims
March 9, 2015

The Right Honorable Stephen Harper 
Office of the Prime Minister 
80 Wellington Street 
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2 

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

As First Nations citizens, specific claims practitioners, lawyers and Canadians committed to the just, fair and timely resolution of specific claims in Canada, we present the enclosed report prepared by the National Claims Research Directors and call on you to act immediately upon the report’s recommendations.

Claims Research Directors manage over 30 claims research associations across Canada and are responsible for advancing hundreds of specific claims for hundreds of First Nations. They are uniquely positioned to witness and participate in all parts of the specific claims process.

The enclosed report, In Bad Faith: Justice At Last and Canada’s Failure to Resolve Specific Claims, details Canada’s failure to fulfill its commitments to fairly resolve specific claims. Specific claims are historic wrongdoings committed by the Crown against First Nations that are rooted in racially discriminatory ideas, legislation and policies which Canada has publicly acknowledged and committed to redress. The legacy of this continues to impact First Nations communities to the present day. Unresolved specific claims impinge upon economic opportunities, housing, and access to resources and are often at the root of conflicts between First Nations, their neighbours and government. AANDC’s recent treatment of specific claims is setting the stage for further conflict.

In Bad Faith challenges recent public assertions made by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) that proclaim the success of Canada’s Specific Claims Action Plan: Justice At Last. The report presents a review and analysis of available reports and data, and input from First Nations, and concludes that your government has effectively abandoned negotiation as the preferred and just means of resolving specific claims. Contrary to the promises articulated in Justice at Last, your government has allowed for longstanding historical grievances to remain unresolved, along with the significant burden of debt and uncertainty that these claims represent for all Canadians.

In 2014, James Anaya, then United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples observed that Canada’s claims processes are “…mired in difficulties. As a result of these difficulties, many First Nations have all but given up on them. Worse yet, in many cases it appears that these processes have contributed to a deterioration rather than a renewal of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Canadian state.” Anaya urges that the Government of Canada “should instead acknowledge that the public interest is not opposed to, but rather includes, aboriginal concerns.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called for a “comprehensive strategy” to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including a national plan of action to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Canada’s endorsement of the UNDRIP underlines is obligation to ensure justice for First Nations in Canada and improve its relations with First Nations. This includes ensuring that specific claims are resolved with finality through collaboration and negotiation with First Nations and creating the conditions for these processes to occur by providing adequate resources. 

Specific claims will not be resolved if Canada continues to engage in the practices detailed in the enclosed report, nor will they disappear without honorable government leadership that respects the principles of justice articulated in its own policy documents. The debt burden on Canadians is mounting and the already fragile relationship between Canada and First Nations is in danger of further deterioration. With an upcoming federal election, we urge you to implement the recommendations outlined in our report and uphold the promises made in Justice At Last to settle specific claims through fair, honorable and timely negotiations with First Nations, and ensure that the human rights of First Nations are fully respected. 


?Aq’am Community Councillor Marty Williams
‘Namgis First Nation Chief Councillor Debra Hanuse
Adams Lake Indian Band Chief Robin Billy
Aitchelitz First Nation Chief Angie Bailey
Alexis Creek First Nation Chief Percy Guichon
Barriere Lake First Nation Chief Casey Ratt
Beausoleil First Nation Chief Monague
Bonaparte Indian Band Chief Ryan Day
Boothroyd Indian Band Chief Rick Campbell
Boston Bar Indian Band Chief Dolores O’Donaghey
Chawathil First Nation Chief Rhoda Perers
Cheam First Nation Chief Sidney Douglas
Chippewas of Rama First Nation Chief Rodney Noganosh
Chippewas of Thames First Nation Chief R. K. Joe Miskokomon 
Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan
Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour
Deh Gah Gotie First Nations Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge
Doig River First Nation Chief Norman Davis
Eagle Village First Nation Chief Madeleine Paul
Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Liz Logan
Gitsegukla First Nation Chief Clifford Sampare
Halfway River First Nation Chief Darlene Hunter
Hesquiaht Chief April Charleson
High Bar First Nation Chief Larry Fletcher
Katzie First Nation Chief Susan Miller and Council
Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation Resource Stewardship Director Douglas Neasloss
K’omoks First Nation Chief Rob Everson
Kwakiutl Band Council Chief Coreen Child
Kwiakah First Nation Chief Steven Dick
Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation Chief Bob Chamberlin
Kwikwetlem First Nation Councillor Ed Hall
Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation Chief Liliane Squinas
Lhtako Dene Nation Chief Terry Boucher
Liidlii Kue First Nation Sub-Chief Steven Jose
Lil’wat First Nation Chief Lucinda Phillips
Lower Kootenay Band Chief Jason Louie
Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sam
Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow
Lytton First Nation Chief Janet Webster
Magnetawan First Nation Chief Diabo
Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Chief Martin Louie
Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson
Nicomen Indian Band Chief Donna Gallinger
Nooaitch Indian Band Chief Marcel Shackelly
Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis
Oregon Jack Creek Indian Band Grand Chief Bob Pasco
Osoyoos Indian Band Councillor Tony Baptiste
Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger
Prophet River First Nation Chief Lynette Tsakoza
Prophet River First Nation Chief Lynette Tsakoza
Saulteau First Nations Chief Nathan Parenteau
Shackan Indian Band Grand Chief Percy Joe
Sheshegwaning First Nation Chief Joe Endanawas
Shuswap Indian Band Head Councillor Barbara Cote
Shxw’ow’hamel First Nation Si:Yam Council Member Irene Smith
Simpcw First Nation Chief Rita Matthew
Siska Indian Band Chief Fred Sampson
Six Nations Elected Council Chief G. Ava Hill
Skawahlook First Nation Chief Maureen Chapman
Skeetchestn Indian Band Chief Ron Ignace
Skowkale First Nation Councillor Jeffrey Point
Skuppuh Indian Band Chief Doug McIntyre
Snuneymuxw First Nation Councillor Sandra Good
Splatsín First Nation Chief Wayne Christian
Spuzzum First Nation Chief James Hobart
Squiala First Nation Chief David Jimmie
Sts’ailes Band Chief Harvey Paul
Sucker Creek First Nation  Chief Jim Badger
Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver
Timiskaming First Nation Chief Terence McBride
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Shane Gottfriedson
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Councillor Terry Dorward
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom
Tsawaout First Nation Chief Harvey Underwood
Tseshaht First Nation Chief Hugh Braker
Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation Chief Francis Alec
Tsleil-Waututh Nation Councillor Jen Thomas
Tsleil-Waututh Nation Councillor Deanna George
Tzeachten First Nation Chief Glenda Campbell
Upper Nicola Band Chief Harvey McLeod
Upper Similkameen Indian Band Chief Charlotte Mitchell
Wahnapitae First Nation Chief Ted Roque
West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson
Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie
Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band Chief Michael LeBourdais
Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve Ogimaa Duke Peltier
Williams Lake Band Chief Anne Louie
Wolf Lake First Nation Chief Harry St Denis
Xaxli’p First Nations Chief Darrell Bob Sr.
Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Councillor Marilyn Baptiste
Yunesit’in Government Chief Russell Myers Ross
Tribal Councils  
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Tribal Chief Terry Teegee
Council of Chiefs of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke Grand Chief Michael Ahríhrhon Delisle Jr
Heiltsuk Tribal Council Councillor Travis Hall
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell
Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Vice-President Ken Watts
Shuswap Nation Tribal Council Tribal Chief Shane Gottfriedson
The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq  Donald Julien, C.M., O.N.S., DCL, DHumL
Provinal Territorial Organisations  
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Vice Chief Edward Dutch Lerat
First Nations Summit Grand Chief  Ed John, Cheryl Casimer & Robert Phillips
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)  
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Members of Parliament  
Leader of the NDP and Leader of the Official Opposition The Honourable Thomas J. Mulcair, MP 
Deputy Critic for Aboriginal Health Carol Hughes, MP 
Official Opposition Critic for Ethics, Privacy, and Access to Information Charlie Angus, MP 
Official Opposition Critic for Finance Nathan Cullen, MP 
Official Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs Niki Ashton, MP 
Official Opposition Critic for Industry Peggy Nash, MP 
Deputy Critic for Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs Romeo Saganash, MP 
Research Directors/Claims Research Units  
Algonquin Nation Secretariat Director, Policy & Research Peter Di Gangi
Alliance of Tribal Nations Research Director Mark Point
Assembly of First Nations Director, Implementing Rights Tonio Sadik
Conseil Tribal Mamuitun Research Director Denis Brassard
Cowichan Tribes Research Director Dianne Hinkley
Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council T.A.R.R. Research Director Peter Havlik
Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. Research Director Tammy MacDonald
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Manager of Aboriginal Rights and Research Office Cactus Cook Sunday
Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke Project Leader Winona Poslon-Lahache
Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Research Director Luke Hunter
Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council Research Director Debbie Abbott
Six Nations Lands Research Office Research Director Lonny Bomberry
Specific Claims Research Centre Research Coordinator Mona Donovan
Stoney Nation Research Director Ian Getty
T.A.R.R. Centre of Manitoba, Inc. Research Director Patricia Myran
T.A.R.R. Centre of NS, Inc. Research Director Jim Micheal
T.A.R.R. Treaty 3 Research Director Andy Sky
The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq Director History & Culture Tim Bernard
Treaty 8 Tribal Association T.A.R.R. Manager Leone Nippard
Tsuu T’ina Nation CRU  Research Director Jim Big Plume 
UBCIC Specific Claims Research Program Research Director Jody Woods
Union of Ontario Indians/Anishinabek Nation Treaty Research Coordinator Alicia McLeod
Like Minded Organisations  
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Alliance of Tribal Nations Grand Chief Clarence Pennier
Amnesty International Canada  
BC Specific Claims Working Group Chief Maureen Chapman, Chair
BCAFN Spokesperson and Director Chief Maureen Chapman
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)  
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives  
Leclair Historical Research, Toronto Laurie Leclair, Principal
Leclair Historical Research, Toronto Dr. Colin McFarquhar, Researcher
Leclair Historical Research, Toronto Yvonne Boothroyd, Associate
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Coola Louis, Women’s Representative
Union of Ontario Indians Dr. Rhonda Telford, Historian
Union of Ontario Indians Dr. David Shanahan, Historian
Arnold Peters Chawathil First Nation 
Katharine Owen Halifax, N.S. 
Marilyn Brennan Maple Ridge, B.C. 
Victor C. Pearson Port Alberni, B.C. 
Kathryn Lennon Vancouver, B.C. 
Christopher Carter Vancouver, B.C. 
Elisabeth Donnelly Vancouver, B.C. 
Tegan Brock Peterborough, Ontario 

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