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Judge David Arnot Appointed Treaty Commissioner

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1997      v27 n01 p04  
Chief Blaine Favel with Judge David Arnot
Chief Blaine Favel with Judge David Arnot
at the Winter Assembly in Regina.
The appointment of Saskatchewan's new Treaty Commissioner was made on December 17, 1996. Judge David Arnot was appointed to the position by an Order-in-Council.

At the time, Arnot stated, "It is an honor to have an opportunity to work in a positive way to clear the path for a new and enriching relationship between Canada and the First Nations in Saskatchewan."

The Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) was created in 1989 for a five-year term. It was established as an independent body that would facilitate self-government negotiations between the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and the federal government. Former Treaty Commissioner Cliff Wright worked under this mandate for the five-year term.

In October 1996, the OTC was renewed by the FSIN and the federal government for an additional five-year term. Under the terms of the new agreement, the mandate of the OTC has been expanded. It now includes treaty rights and jurisdiction in seven key areas: child welfare; education; shelter; health; justice; treaty annuities; and hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering.

The appointment of Judge Arnot to Treaty Commissioner is supported by both FSIN Chief Blaine Favel and Ronald Irwin, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. "He has earned the respect and admiration of professional colleagues and community residents through his relentless efforts to create a just society," said Irwin.

Chief Favel stated, "[Arnot] has demonstrated an understanding of First Nations peoples and communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada which will assist him in this important task."

Judge Arnot earned his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1975. He articled in North Battleford and was called to the bar the following year. For two years, beginning in 1976, Arnot worked as a Crown Prosecutor for the Saskatchewan Department of Justice in the Battlefords Judicial Centre.

Arnot served as a judge of the Saskatchewan Provincial Court for 13 years. In 1994, he was seconded to the position of Director General of the Aboriginal Justice Directorate of the Department of Justice. He has served as the Special Advisor to the deputy minister of justice Canada on Aboriginal Justice since May 1996.

In 1991, Arnot led an Aboriginal Outreach Initiative. The initiative resulted in the formation of the Katapamisuak Society in 1992. The Society works to create equal partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in the Battlefords. Six cross-cultural events have been sponsored by the Society.

As Treaty Commissioner, Arnot will continue to work with Aboriginal people. However, he describes the OTC's position as being "neutral, objective, independent and fair." He stresses that he is not responsible to either the FSIN or the federal government, but will assist with exploratory discussions on treaty issues. He says, "The work is absolutely crucial for the future of everyone in Saskatchewan."

Arnot is now determining the process that the OTC will follow in the next five years in comparing government policy against the treaties. The first step in this process will see the FSIN and the federal government tabling documents that outline their respective views on the treaties with the Treaty Commissioner.

[continued on page 27]

Judge David Arnot Appointed Treaty Commissioner

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      APRIL 1997      v27 n01 p27  
Once the documents are tabled, Arnot will examine and compare them. At this time, he will identify for the parties the issues that will require resolution. Based on the priority of these issues, a workplan will be set out for discussion at the common table. "In the final analysis," says Arnot, "much will depend on restoring trust among the parties."

Arnot is committed to the process and will pursue "creative solutions" during the negotiations. The ultimate goal of the negotiations on contentious issues is to reach an agreement in principle between the parties.

The first official meeting is expected to occur in April.