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Treaty Rights Pose Challenge

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MAY 1972      v03 n05 p04  
The response of the average person to Indian, Rights and Treaty demands is that the taxpayers will have to buy the country back from the Indians.

The government in all its liberal wisdom has decided that all Canadians shall be equal. That is all poor equally or rich equally and that no special concession handed out to any minority groups. In May 1969 in a speech in Vancouver the Prime Minister stated " . . . It's inconceivable I think, that in a given society one section of the society. We must all be equal under the laws and we must not sign treaties amongst ourselves..."

"But I don't think that we should encourage the Indians to feel that their treaties should last forever within Canada so that they may be able to receive their twine or their gun powder. They should become Canadian as all other Canadians. . ."

"If we think of restoring aboriginal rights to the Indians well what about the French who were defeated at the Plains of Abraham? Shouldn't we restore the rights to them? And what about the Acadians who were deported . . shouldn't we compensate for this? And what about the other Canadians, the immigrants? What about the Japanese Canadians who were so badly treated at the end or during the last war?"

So powerful is the challenge posed by the Indian movement at that Trudeau despite himself is led to expose the logic of our struggle for self determination, and the completely reactionary nature of his government attempts to assimilate the Indians.

These statements were made in 1969 shortly after Chretien introduced his infamous white paper. The effects of this paper are still being felt on the reserves.

The government and Indian people were on a direct collision course. The government wanted to eliminate the Indian problem by eliminating Indians. The Indian leadership on the other hand led a movement in cultural pride and awareness.

Out of this cultural movement came the realization that Indian people were citizens plus. That is citizens of Canada with all the rights and privileges of citizenship but with special rights above normal citizenship.

These special rights are Treaty Rights.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century the Indians signed treaties with the crown as the government gobbled up Indian lands for land speculators, the C.P.R. and eastern business interests.

These treaties were signed with the Indians at a distinct disadvantage. The two did not meet as equals. Indian leaders were signing for a defeated people, ravaged by disease and starvation. The government side had the army and public support.

But let's not sell our ancestors short. While they signed treaties at a disadvantage, they thought of the future of their people and future generations.

Provision for medical care, free education and economic development are all written into the treaties.

And what is so unreasonable about free medical care, free education, economic development and in general establishing a better way of life? This is what minority groups all over the world are fighting for and this is what a lot of Canadians already have if one considers the high standard of living.

The primary purpose for the existence of the F.S.I. is for the preservation and maintenance of treaty rights. Without our treaty rights the entire reserve system is in jeopardy.

This is why we must continue to fight for our rights for ourselves, our children and future generations yet to be born.