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The Meech Lake Accord is an agreement negotiated between the Premiers and the Federal Government in June of 1987. The Accord was designed to bring Quebec into the constitution of Canada, but in the process the negotiators left out the aboriginal peoples and the provinces picked up more power.
Under the Meech Lake Accord, there must be complete unanimity between the provincial and federal governments before changes can be made to constitutions. This means that the treaties and Indian Government are recognized in the charter of rights but remain unimplemented.
The Accord received all-party approval in the House of Commons but it was not without its individual critics. A number of M.P.'s in the NDP and Liberal parties expressed their dissatisfaction and voted against the accord.
In December, the Quebec government implemented the "not withstanding" clause in, the constitution and opted out of the charter of rights in order to avoid implementing a supreme court hearing on language rights.
The Supreme court ruled that Quebec Bill-101 outlawing bilingual store signs was contrary to the charter of rights causing Quebec premier Robert Bourassa to exercise the opting out clause.
The result has been that the Manitoba Legislature halted debate on the Accord and New Brunswick has yet to ratify it.
Also a number of newly elected M.P.'s have concern about the Accord and don't feel obligated to previous cacus decisions to support it. So now what happens? The Meech Lake Accord is in jeopardy and Indian people have a chance to have their case heard.
Out of confusion comes opportunity.
The FSIN and the other treaty nations have taken the position that the provinces are not party to the treaties and the relationship is between the Indian nations and the Federal Government.
This relationship is based on the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the British North American Act and the treaties. The three instruments are named in the charter of rights.
This bilateral relationship is essential to protect and implement our treaties and Indian Government. Indian leaders now have a window of opportunity and should take advantage of it.
New Brunswick Premier McKennon should be lobbied and our position clarified, also Manitoba Premier Fillmore and the opposition parties should be lobbied. A position paper should be prepared and widely circulated.
Meetings should be held with members of parliament and our position forcefully put forward.
Indian issues have slid to the back burner on the legislative agendas of the Federal and Provincial governments. We now have an opportunity to initiate some action. Defeating the Meech Lake Accord and recognizing treaty rights and Indian Government should be a political priority.