By Terrance Nelson
John Ivison of the National Post has called my possible election as national chief a “nightmare scenario”. I have entered the race because what we heard at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs candidates forum in May was status quo. Chiefs across Canada are angry and frustrated, but will reluctantly vote for the status quo if the candidates cannot present a viable alternative to what is available now.
The idea that the Assembly of First Nations is being asked to lobby change to government policies is ridiculous when the AFN is totally dependent upon government funding and is paid to implement government policies. All the candidates are on the same page when we talk of getting a share of our own resource wealth, but the difference is that I not only know how to get it done, I would actually do it.
Economics is the real power—not governments, not bureaucracy—and while my talk of standing between the white man and his money creates headlines, there are real solutions behind those headlines.
The first thing that we as indigenous people have to realize is what Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X and many others understood: colonization and enforced poverty is predicated upon making people financially dependent. Control of indigenous people requires that their wealth is taken out of their hands and put into the control of the foreign immigrant governments. Ghandi was a radical when he went to the sea and boiled water to obtain tax-free salt because salt (a life-necessary commodity) was controlled by the British. Buying the Maharajahs support for colonization ensured the British controlled all parts of the economy. It ensured Indian against Indian, and British control.
In Canada, resource sales and availability contributes about 60 percent of the per capita GDP. Canadians are led to believe that their taxes are what the country is built upon, when in reality, without the resource base, Canada would not be the ninth richest country in the world.
How do I ensure change to the system?
Put economists in the AFN and give proper economic information to the First Nations. Engage the Americans, Chinese, South Koreans, Japanese, and the Arabs to build a $100-billion foreign investment pool for developing resources in First Nations traditional territory. Either Canadian industry works with us or we work without them with foreign investment at our control. Economists not lawyers should lead the way in the AFN new system.
How do we ensure Ottawa listens and changes its policies?
Ask the Inuit and Dene to meet with Americans about the Arctic. The Inuit and Dene should meet the Americans independently and without their Canadian handlers. If Americans seem to be uninterested, the Inuit should write a letter to Vladimir Putin for a meeting with the Russians.
Advise and work with British Columbia First Nations to file a lawsuit against a specific lumber company in the United States court system. File the lawsuit for the value (including compound interest) of all product sold now and historically by that company. America has the right to property in its Bill of Rights and all Canadian indigenous people are recognized and protected under American law by the Jay Treaty as dual citizens with all the rights of American citizens including protection under clauses of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Many of the British Columbia First Nations have never signed treaties with the British Crown and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 underpins the U.S. constitution. In the U.S. constitution, treaties are the “law of the land” and if Canada has no treaties that allow the immigrants a right to settlement and immigration, the indigenous people have the legal right to file against the “theft” of their property.
I have always said that we do not want the white man’s money; we want a share of our own wealth, the wealth of our land and resources.
In the next few weeks, my Web site will come on-line and more information will be presented to the 633 chiefs in Canada. It is only the chiefs that vote, and it is their decision that will determine who is the next AFN national chief. If the chiefs have had enough of the status quo, I guarantee them one thing if I am elected: change. I also have to be honest with the chiefs: real change requires real sacrifice.
My message to the chiefs is clear. Either we change, or change will be forced upon us. Right now, our youth are paying the price for the status quo. If we don’t give them hope for change, they will force change upon us. Watch for a flashpoint somewhere in Canada; it is coming whether we like it or not. To leave First Nations at the 63rd level of the United Nations living index and expect continued peaceful coexistence flies in the face of human history.
Terrance Nelson is a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and the chief of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba.