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FSIN Chief Roland Crowe
The recent set of secret meeting minutes leaked to the public through the Canadian Press has sparked an angry reaction from the FSIN and the Chiefs of Saskatchewan.
At the spring Chiefs Legislative Assembly a resolution was passed calling for immediate action by the FSIN Executive to prepare a response and identify resources to fight the policies outlined in the document
The Indian Government Commission was also called upon to convene an emergency meeting and assist in the response and communications in the defence of damaging government policies.
The document that sparked this angry response comes from a set of meeting minutes that was recently leaked to the public through the Canadian Press. The minutes are dated January 19, and had been held by the Assembly of First Nations for several weeks before the Canadian Press found them and reported on them. This leads Indian leaders to suspect that the leaking of this document is deliberate as a way of flagging the policy issues with the public and Indian people.
The document treats Indian organizations as not being serious participants in the overall process. The FSIN is referred to as having little power, but with troublesome positions on education, lands, and treaties. Going through the minutes, item by item shows the arrogant and uncaring attitude that this government and the Department of Indian Affairs has for Indian people and Indian issues.
On the topic of lands and land entitlement, the government has clearly no intention of moving any more land to reserve Status. They will not allow new bands to form under Bill C-31 and the response to any complaints from the Indian people is that they should "take it to court" if they want to get any decision on lands. They're obviously prepared only to make available lands which satisfy the minimal lawful obligations.
The Department sees no difficulty in breaking all previous contracts and agreements such as the 1976 Saskatchewan Formula for land entitlement. They also plan a publicity campaign made of non-Indians which would paint Indian land interest as a threat to land-owners and not in the national interest
To further unsettle the situation, the Department plans to use individual Indians to persuade the Indian leadership and band members to lower their expectations and to make land claims settlement for short term compensation or money in lieu of land or other short term partial land claim settlements.
The attack on programs and services is far ranging and potentially disastrous to Indian people. The general theme is to transfer the services and programs to provincial governments and if the provinces resist, funding support will be offered. They also recommend that there be absolutely no services to Indian people living off-reserve.
Indian control of Indian education will take a major step backward under this policy because the Department plans to lower the dollars available for schools under the guise of offering better buildings, but fewer of them. To make this unpopular decision, they are turning the decision making over to the Indian people themselves. So the bands will have to sit down and decide among them, who gets a new school and who doesn't. Using people against themselves is a classic colonial technique as it pits one group against another and takes the heat off the government
Funds paid to students who attend university have been considered by Indian people available as a treaty right. Student support funds are now called student grants. When the name has been changed, it becomes something completely different. A grant is much like a scholarship, in that it implies a special favour or something other than a treaty right.
The Department has chosen child welfare as a priority for the coming year largely because of all the negative press it has received. They plan to redirect funds to basic services such as child care and eliminate other initiatives such as day care. The feeling is that when it comes to Indians, day care is not needed since most are unemployed. This year, child welfare will put some funds into consultation at the regional and local level, so as the Departmental officials say, the provinces cannot dictate
The department plans to get Out of the business of delivering programs one way or the other. Either they will transfer programs to the band through the process of devolution or they will turn them over to the provinces.
The Government plans to ignore Indian jurisdiction over programs and services and there will be no reference made to Band or District laws
Program transfer to the bands will be tightly controlled under federal guidelines. Programs such as education, health and welfare will not be a treaty right, but merely a service like all other Canadians enjoy. This is the devolution program and will have a very damaging effect on our treaty rights. In addition, the government plans to ignore Indian jurisdiction over programs and services and there will be no reference made to band or district laws. Programs will be transferred to the Indian bands only under the extended jurisdiction of the federal government and the guidelines as put forward the Department of Indian Affairs.
Here again, there will be no change, but Indian people will become the agency for the delivery of Indian services without any control. In other words, they will have all the responsibility, but no authority.
In order to carry out this strategy, certain other initiatives must fall into place. First they must communicate to the public at large, and second a political strategy must be put in place to demoralize and discredit Indian leaders and organizations.
In relation to the communications strategy, the Department plans to engage a top notch public relations firm to be on stand by to deal with and diffuse any potential action against the government policies. This agency will also deal with and discredit individuals, bands and organizations who are too vocal in their opposition to the government. The Department seems to feel that if you can't improve the situation you can at lease disguise it. Special courses will also be held to teach government officials how to say "no" to Indian initiatives. The theme of the communications program is threefold. First, they want to tell the world that the government honours their commitments, Second, that they're fair, and third, that they're making progress.
They very emphatically stress the fairness theme. They say it is fair that Indians be well educated, fair that Indians take charge of looking after their own children and so on.
They appear to be the good guys in the whole scenario. Here again, classic colonialism comes into play. By turning programs over to the Indian people and stressing fairness on their part, the vast majority of non-Indian people get the impression that things are going well for Indians, and that those who complain are being unrealistic.
They also plan to step up public relations trips by politicians and senior officials to emphasize the various themes. They are also told to avoid any confrontation events and they also recommended it is a good idea to sign AFA agreements.
Linked closely with the communications strategy is a political strategy whereby the government will use funding controls and program cutbacks to depoliticize Indian organizations. The idea is that Indian organizations form a third force or a buffer between the department and the bands and these organizations must be neutralized or depoliticized.
The idea here is to turn Indian organizations into program and project managers who can then be punished if the government policies are not followed. This policy is already being felt by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations with cutbacks from the Departments of Indian and Northern Affairs plus specific rules aimed at curtailing the funding to the FSIN such as elimination of management fees by Indian institutions.
Also, Indian people who are prepared to abandon Treaty and Indian government principles will be used as much as possible by the Department for consultation. In addition to the political strategy, self government will receive lip service but the final form must be one which is delegated and controlled by the federal government. Important items such as first ministers' conference, the follow up to the Penner report, and so on, are just simply put on hold and no
...self government will receive lip service but the final form must be one which is delegated and controlled by the federal government
legislative or constitutional changes are planned before the next election. The idea is the department should not be seen as upsetting the public or the Indians. The federal government will determine who will be recognized or ignored in terms of the elected leadership and band membership. The department will selectively deal with those bands they feel best exemplify their style of self government.
To place the whole plan into action requires funding, and the department will co-ordinate funding from several departments through specific
No legislative or contitutional changes are planned before the next election
agreements with Bands, Institutions, etc. The feeling is that it is more economical for the Federal Government to talk in terms of increased efficiencies and outputs with less expenditure. These agreements will be the kind of agreements which do not reflect the treaties but merely an agreement between the band and the department for the provision of services. Because the agreements will be lumped into larger accounts, they will appear to be
The Department plans to serve notice on bands and organizations of serious cutbacks in funding.
larger added together and will look attractive to some bands and leaders if they are not examined closely.
Also the department plans to serve notice on bands and organizations of serious cutbacks in funding. The idea being that if there is no serious outcry then they can go ahead and implement the cuts. If there is an outcry it will have to be controlled by the communications and political strategy..
Therefore, Indian opposition to government cutbacks has been dealt with by a number of communications, political and bureaucratic strategies.
This process has gone into action. The Indian government commission met recently and the FSIN is currently identifying the resources and strategies that are necessary to respond to the very serious effects of this type of document Also, some executive members of the FSIN have already been to Ottawa meeting with members of the opposition parties.