Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould Hopes Introduction of First Nations Self-Government Recognition Legislation will Stimulate Debate and Dialogue on Nation Building and Re-building

Nov 01, 2012, 20:04 ET from BC Assembly of First Nations

COAST SALISH TERRITORY/VANCOUVER, BC, Nov. 1, 2012 /CNW/ - Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould today welcomed the introduction at first reading in the Senate of Private Member's Bill S-212 An Act providing for the recognition of self-governing First Nations of Canada and thanked the sponsor of the Bill, Senator Gerry St. Germain, for his dedication and commitment to First Nations' peoples.  "I am extremely pleased that as one of his final acts in the upper chamber, Senator St. Germain has seen fit to introduce this significant Bill that will generate much needed dialogue and debate around the importance of reconciliation and for First Nations to be recognized as self-governing based on our inherent right of self-government and as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Clearly the way forward must be Nation-to-Nation, and where treaties exist, based on the original treaty relationship."

Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould continued, "Strong and appropriate governance beyond the Indian Act is absolutely necessary if our Nations are to meet their full potential as we implement our Aboriginal title and rights, including treaty rights, during this period of Nation building and re-building. Societies that govern well simply do better economically, socially and politically than those that do not and ours are no exception. Good governance increases societies' chances of meeting the needs of its peoples and developing sustainable long-term economic development."

Bill S-212 provides a mechanism for a First Nation to become recognized as self-governing under its own constitution. Where, at their choice, a First Nation, or group of First Nations, develops its own Constitution as part of a self-government proposal that has been ratified by its citizens, Canada is required legally to recognize that Nation as self-governing. Following recognition, Canada is required to enter into inter-governmental negotiations with respect to that Nation's law-making powers and a new fiscal relationship.

Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould cautioned, however, that "Developing self-government recognition legislation is no small undertaking and is fundamentally about returning to the original nation-to-nation relationship between our peoples and the Crown. As such, Bill S-212 should in no way be considered anywhere near to existing in its final form." She added, "There will be work needed to ensure that Bill S-212 fully satisfies the needs of our Nations. Bill S-212 should now be studied thoroughly by First Nations across Canada, debated, and amended as required. This may take some time but is critical to building this recognition legislation and only after it has occurred should the Bill be enacted into law."

Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould also stressed, "We are under no illusion that the government of Canada will actually support Bill S-212. It is not a government sponsored Bill. No doubt there will also be opposition from some First Nations." Nevertheless, she encouraged, "Bill S-212 is a step in the right direction and regardless of whether or not, as amended, it ultimately becomes law in this, or a future Parliament, it stands out today as an alternative to the federal government's current neo-colonial legislative agenda for our peoples that seeks to tinker around the edges of the Indian Act and design our post-Indian Act governance for us." She continued, "Ultimately, it is my hope that self-government recognition legislation will recognize, in a meaningful way, the extraordinary efforts of First Nations in BC and across the rest of the country to build strong and appropriate governance and support their efforts to move through the post-colonial door."

Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould concluded, "To move the First Nations' self-government agenda forward will take leadership, by both Canada and by our Nations. As I said in my remarks to the Prime Minister and his colleagues during the Crown-First Nations Gathering last January, we cannot simply say it is too difficult or too big a task if we are truly serious about economic and social development and the advancement of our peoples."

SOURCE BC Assembly of First Nations