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BNA Act To Remain In Westminster

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JULY 1979      v09 n07 p03  
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II
"We have travelled this long way because we have not been allowed to sit at the current Constitutional discussions which are now taking place in Canada," said Chief Noel Starblanket, President of the National Indian Brotherhood during a press conference held at the British House of Commons also known as the Palace of Westminster on Monday, July 2, 1979.

"Although my people have lived in Canada for as long as man can remember, we have been forced to sit as observers as people, whose ancestors originally came to North America from other lands, debate and negotiate new Constitutional arrangements in our land."

Chief Starblanket said that since the First Canadians have been shut out of these Constitutional deliberations, they have desperately explored every possible avenue which might alter the Canadian Government's decision to disallow full participation by Indian people in the present Constitutional renewal process.

He added that the British Parliament has a unique opportunity to help Canada's original peoples in their struggle for simple Constitutional justice. "Great Britain is in this unique position because Canada, unlike any other country has its Constitution housed in Westminster. The British North America Act is Canada's Constitution which is an Act of British Parliament passed on July 1, 1867 and whenever the Canadian government wishes to amend the Canadian Constitution, it must ask the Parliament of Great Britain to pass an amendment to the BNA Act."

Constitutional renewal discussions have been stepped up in Canada and there has been much talk about patriating the BNA Act to Canadian soil. To do this, the Canadian Government must ask the British Houses of Parliament to pass a law sending the BNA Act back to Canada.

Chief Starblanket said "it is the considered opinion of the legal authorities that the British Parliament does not have to immediately comply with the Canadian Government's request. Neither does the British Houses of Parliament have to allow Canada's constitutional requests to whistle through the House of Commons and House of Lords without debate."

Further to that Chief Starblanket said "it is our view that British Parliamentarians have a residual responsibility to the original peoples of Canada - the peoples who signed the Treaties with the Crown, fought and died as allies of the British Empire in early wars and gave their lives in defence of Great Britain in World War I and World War II."

He asked for British Parliament's support when the Canadian Government asked the British Houses of Parliament to patriate the Canadian Constitution "that you can ask the Canadian Government to include the original peoples as full participants in the Canadian Parliamentary process and ask the Canadian Government to entrench Indian Treaty and aboriginal rights in Canada's new constitutional arrangements."

He reminded Westminster not to desert the Indian people again and that they now have a chance to fulfil their responsibility to their original Canadian Treaty Partners. "We have travelled at our own expense from Canada to inform British Parliamentarians they have a residual responsibility and an opportunity to help us in our drive for social and Constitutional justice in Canada. We have confidence that the political representatives of the great people of this land will hear our case and heed our plea for assistance. It will be too late when


BNA Act To Remain In Westminster

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JULY 1979      v09 n07 p04  
Canada's Constitution is patriated from Westminster to Canadian soil."

Chief Starblanket said, "in the Treaties that were signed, the Indian people are referred to as the Red Children of our Great White Mother, the Queen. I just say to you in conclusion, 'Your Red Children have finally grown up'."