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Meech Lake Accord Is Unacceptable - FSIN

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER 1987      SPECIAL EDITION p02  
The recent Constitutional amendments negotiated at Meech Lake and completed at the Prime Ministers Office are unacceptable to the FSIN.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Roland Crowe outlined two major concerns.

First, Treaty Indians must be participants in the future series of First Minister's Conferences on Constitutional reform; and, second, the Chief expressed his concerns over section 106A, which has the potential to transfer services to the provinces.

We are vitally concerned with federal and provincial arrangements in relation to social and economic programs. The federal government used the implementation of medicare to attempt to transfer jurisdiction over Indian health services to the provincial government." Chief Crowe stated in his letter to the Prime Minister.

"Our concern with Section 106A is a complete loss of a federal role in ensuring delivery of services to Indians when the programs are taken over by the provinces. Any discussion of federal-provincial roles in relation to federally funded programs must be preceded by a resolution of the issues of treaty rights to health, education, social services and economic development."

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Crowe also expressed his concerns over participation in future talks with the First Ministers which will address fisheries and senate reform.

"We must be participants in the future series of First Ministers' Conferences on constitutional reform. As well, the topics identified for the constitutional conference (the senate and fisheries) are issues that directly relate to our roles and rights.

The Chief asked for an early meeting to address these matters.

The First Minister's met in Meech Lake, north of Ottawa on April 30 to work out a deal to bring Canada into the Constitution. The deal was finalized and signed after a marathon bargaining session April 2 and 3 at the Prime Ministers office.

In order to bring Indians into the Accord, the Prime Minister had to offer expanded powers to all the provinces.

As the provinces gain power, there is a real fear that the responsibility for Indians could be transferred to the provinces.

Section 106A, the cost-shared section, reads as follows:

106A (1) The Government of Canada shall provide reasonable compensation to the government of a province that chooses not to participate in a national shared-cost program that is established by the Government of Canada after the coming into force of this section in an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, if the province carries on a program or initiative that is compatible with the national objectives.

This section allows provinces to opt out of federal cost-shared programs if they agree to carry out a similar program. This section opens the door for social and economic programs to be transferred to the province.

Section 16 reads:

Nothing in Section 2 of the Constitution Act, 1867, affects Section 25 or 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, or Class 24 of Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867."

Section 16 is a non-derogation clause designed to safeguard what already exists for Indians in the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Section 35 of the Constitution and Section 91(24) of the BNA Act.

Section 25 and 27 of the Charter of Rights reads as follows:

"25. The guarantee in this Charter of certain Rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including:

"27. This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians."

"35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed."

Section 91(24) of the BNA Act grants the federal government jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians.