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Governing Ourselves: The Journey Begins

Bonnie Leask, Murray Long, Dorothy Myo

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER 2003      v34 n01 p24  
The FSIN's Treaty Governance Office is nearing a milestone in its work, with the completion of negotiations on an agreement-in-principle for Treaty-based self-governance.

We, as First Nations people, have always had an inherent right to govern ourselves. Unfortunately, the Indian Act has prevented us from exercising this right and also honouring the spirit and intent of our Treaties.

In 1996, the FSIN, provincial and federal governments took steps to correct this historic wrong by establishing a process - the Treaty Governance Process - in which First Nations people and the government of Canada could begin to recognize this inherent right with the long-term goal of restoring our governance structures and systems. With the guidance of the Exploratory Treaty Table and help of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, we were able to do this in a way that respected and built upon the Treaties.

In the year 2000, the Chiefs of Saskatchewan, through the FSIN Legislative Assembly, directed the Treaty Governance Office and its negotiators, to begin working on an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) and a Tripartite Agreement-in-Principle (TAIP) that would lead to a final agreement for First Nations in Saskatchewan. Negotiators expect to approve and initial both documents in June. Completing the negotiation of these agreements within only three years represents a significant accomplishment for First Nations in Saskatchewan.

Governing Ourselves: The Journey Begins

Bonnie Leask, Murray Long, Dorothy Myo

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER 2003      v34 n01 p25  
The AIP focuses on governance for First Nations people. However, unlike Minister Nault's Governance Act, the AIP bases governance on our inherent right, not on the Indian Act.

Key components of the AIP include law-making powers over education, families/children, membership and financial management. Negotiations will continue in the areas of justice and off-reserve jurisdiction in education and child welfare. In addition, the AIP concentrates on developing a fair fiscal relationship with the government to ensure that the services provided to First Nations people will be comparable to those that non-First Nation people receive from their provincial and federal governments. It is important to note that the AIP or TAIP are not legally binding documents rather they are guides for the negotiators to use when discussing and negotiating the final agreement for governance. It is also a strong public commitment by all parties to the goal of inherent and Treaty based First Nations governance.

The draft AIP and TAIP will soon be ready for review by First Nation communities. Starting off in September, teams from Treaty Governance and the federal government will be going to communities to discuss the AIP and TAIP with First Nations. As well as hosting Community Reviews in First Nation communities, there will be reviews held at the various regions and in the major urban centers to ensure that as many First Nation members as possible are involved in the process. Following the reviews, the Treaty Governance Office will return to the bands, after they have had the opportunity to discuss the AIP and TAIP with their members, and request their support for the AIP and TAIP through a Band Council Resolution.

The AIP is a real and viable alternative to the Indian Act and the First Nations Governance Act (FNGA). First Nations cannot continue to live within the inequities and disparities that presently exist for them. The AIP allows a Treaty relationship to be developed between the government of Canada and First Nations that did not get a chance to develop since the signing of Treaties.

This is about your future. If you want to learn more about the AIP package, watch for notices of Community Review meetings or call the FSIN's Treaty Governance Office at 306-667-1876.

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