Russ Diabo: With Bill C-15 (CANDRIP) and an Indigenous GG, Canada spreads the lie that it’s implementing UNDRIP

In advance of a federal election, a First Nations policy analyst exposes what he describes as "Canada’s White Paper 2.0 Indigenous melting plot"

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      By Russ Diabo

      Now that residential-school survivors, their families, communities, Indigenous nations and most of Canada are focused on the findings of mass burial sites at former residential schools (prisons) through the use of ground-penetrating radar at Kamloops, Cowessess, and elsewhere, it’s time to remember the residential schools were created through federal genocidal policy under the Indian Act of 1876. The religious orders were carrying out federal law and policy, basically as agents of Canada, so we should recognize both Canada and the churches are culpable in what happened to the children in those genocidal institutions.

      Although I did not personally attend a residential school, members of my immediate family on my father’s side did go to residential school and I can personally attest to the intergenerational impacts of their horrible experience being forced to attend these genocidal institutions.

      It is my own personal experiences and observations of the impacts of Canada’s colonial policies and laws on my own family and community that led me to activism in my teenage years and the evolution of my career as a First Nations policy analyst and advocate, as I’ve tried to make sense of the results of the colonial chaos that I was born into in the mid-20th century.

      So, on a personal level, I know we must remember that the federal objectives of assimilation and termination have been central to the Indian Act since it became federal law in 1876, and these objectives remain very much alive in Canada today, as Canada’s imposed policies and laws remain designed to disintegrate our families, communities, and nations.

      This is why I believe the story continually needs to be told about how the Trudeau government over the past six years has manipulated the terms “reconciliation” and “nation-to-nation” in policy and law. That includes the passage of Bill C-15 as the culmination of the Trudeau government’s domestication of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007 version), which is now the “framework” to define “Indigenous rights” that are to be federally “recognized”, and any assertions of rights outside of these section 35 federal policy/legislative (self-government & land claims) definitions are now considered non-starters for negotiations, or simply illegal.

      Trudeau’s pan-Indigenous two-track self-termination process

      In January 2016, one of the first things Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did after forming the federal government in October 2015 was to appoint former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s deputy minister of Aboriginal affairs, Michael Wernick, as the top bureaucrat (clerk of the Privy Council), then they put Harper’s key negotiator from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Treaties and Governance (TAG), Joe Wild, in charge of what were initially called “exploratory tables”. As reported in 2016, they were “a series of non-binding discussion groups that are meant to find consensus ahead of tougher negotiations over powers”. Now these “exploratory” tables are called “Recognition & Self-Determination” tables.

      These actions began a five-year plan (2016-2021) from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office (Trudeau and Wernick) to set up a two track, pan-Indigenous process (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) to convert Indian Act Bands into fourth-level “Indigenous governments” by negotiating modern agreements to define section 35 rights on a band-by-band basis, essentially transforming each band’s legal and political status from being “Indigenous Peoples” with the international right of self-determination into ethnic minorities as “Indigenous-Canadians”, similar to, for example, Italian-Canadians or Indo-Canadians. That’s why the term “Indigenous Governing Bodies” is now defined in federal legislation, because it bridges the two tracks (from status quo to fourth-level governance) with a list of signed agreements, using the existing modern treaty and self-government agreements as templates.

      After the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau named Michael Wernick as Canada's top civil servant following his long tenure as deputy minister for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the government led by Stephen Harper.

      Co-opting national Indigenous organizations and First Nation governments

      To accomplish their national pan-Indigenous top-down plan, Trudeau and Wernick needed to get the collaboration of the three national Indigenous organizations (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) and their members.

      I haven’t seen the Métis and Inuit agreements with Canada, but the 2016 and 2017 AFN memorandums of understanding (MOU) are available.

      In 2016, then national chief Perry Bellegarde signed an MOU with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada on fiscal relations, which has led to new federal fiscal policy for Indian Act Bands (10-year grants) and “self-governing” First Nations (Own Source Revenue/Self-Government Fiscal Policy) to support the two-track process of converting Indian Act Bands into fourth-level “Indigenous governments”, lower in status than the federal, provincial, and municipal orders of government.

      In 2017, then national chief Bellegarde signed an MOU on Joint Priorities with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It was shortly after signing the AFN-Canada MOU that then federal minister of justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, unilaterally issued 10 Principles for Indigenous Relationships, which at the time she said were directed at the federal bureaucracy. The “10 Principles” act as a proxy for the UNDRIP, with the principles simply being a restatement of the Canadian common law limitations of section 35 rights.

      The AFN-Canada MOU on Joint Priorities included the following:

      * establishment of a permanent, ongoing cabinet-level process for First Nations leadership and members of the federal cabinet (“AFN-Canada Working Group”) to review progress on jointly set priorities;

      * to establish a steering committee of senior officials to identify and establish requirements to support the AFN-Canada Working Group (work plan development, human resources, fiscal support, process and machinery of government requirements);

      * provide financial support to the AFN and to regional First Nation organizations to support full and meaningful engagement with First Nations, as rights holders, with respect to the objectives of this MOU;

      The Joint Priorities of the MOU includes this: "work in partnership on measures to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including co-development of a national action plan and discussion of proposals for a federal legislative framework on implementation".

      In addition, it states this: "work jointly to decolonize and align federal laws and policies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and First Nations’ inherent and Treaty rights".

      This 2017 MOU basically created a coup d’état (takeover) of the AFN by Trudeau and Wernick through what Canada calls a “Bilateral Mechanism”, a fancy term for an AFN-Canada joint cabinet committee. A similar “mechanism” was created with the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

      Chapter 3 of the 2017 Federal Budget had a section called “A Renewed Nation-to-Nation Relationship” that included “$13.7 million over two years to support the establishment of permanent bilateral mechanisms with Indigenous groups, such as the new Inuit Crown Partnership Committee”.

      As far as I call tell, the AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly never adopted a resolution ratifying the AFN-Canada MOU on Joint Priorities, but more money was flowing from Ottawa to the Indian Act Bands (First Nation Governments) and organizations like the AFN and regional organizations for programs and services. So there has been silence and a lack of critical analysis of the massive federal changes to policy, law and structure to create a “renewed nation-to-nation relationship” from most First Nation chiefs and regional First Nation leaders.

      The Trudeau government’s two-track approach to converting Indian Act bands into “fourth-level” ethnic governments is being accomplished through Bill C-97, a law adopted in 2019 to dissolve the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development while formally establishing the two new federal departments: the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, which is tasked with negotiating and implementing these modern treaties, self-government agreements and alternative federal legislation to the Indian Act; and the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, a provisional department that will dissolve once all Indian Act bands sign modern treaties or self-government agreements and are converted into these new, fourth-level Indigenous governments to deliver programs and services.

      So, in summary, if First Nations want to opt out of the Indian Act, they now have three options. The first option is to sign a legally binding modern treaty—in areas of Canada where there are no historic land treaties—which, as described above, is a fast-track to the termination of sovereignty.

      The second is to sign a self-government agreement, which will also fast-track them to the termination of sovereignty by subjecting them to the federal and provincial powers under the Canadian Constitution. Moreover, under this option, as noted above, the “self-governing” First Nation will be considered a fourth order of government—below not only the federal and provincial governments, but also with less power than municipal governments.

      Or, the final option: assimilation into Canada's property and tax systems through the federal First Nations Land Management Act and the First Nations Fiscal Management Act.

      The two new federal Indigenous departments now use the following legal definitions in the two-track pan-Indigenous approach to transition Indian Act bands into fourth-level ethnic governance:

      Indigenous governing body: "means a [Indian Act band] council, [or an Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit)] government [recognized by modern treaty or self-government agreement] or other entity [such as a Child & Family Agency] that is authorized to act on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".

      Indigenous organization: "means an Indigenous governing body or any other entity that represents the interests of an Indigenous group and its members [such as the Assembly of First Nations, or Provincial-Territorial Organizations]".

      Indigenous peoples: "has the meaning assigned by the definition aboriginal peoples of Canada in subsection 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982".

      These definitions from the Trudeau government’s two-track pan-Indigenous approach is the “framework” for what many of us call CANDRIP (Bill C-15), and this policy and legislative “framework” will be used in the development and implementation of Bill C-15’s as yet defined “action plan”.

      A joint statement by Minister David Lametti and Minister Carolyn Bennett on the Senate Passing Bill C-15 put it this way:

      "The legislation will complement other initiatives underway across Canada with Indigenous partners to close socio-economic gaps, advance reconciliation and renew relationships based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership." [emphasis added]

      What this really means is that the “rights recognition framework”, which was rejected by the AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly in December 2018, will now form the “framework for the Government of Canada’s implementation of [UNDRIP]”, as provided for in section 4 (Purpose) of CANDRIP (Bill C-15).

      Even Trudeau's ally, then national chief Bellegarde, and his legal team had concerns about Bill C-15 as a federal “framework” for interpreting UNDRIP international standards domestically when addressing inherent and treaty rights, which is why he proposed amending Bill C-15 to remove the word “framework” in section 4 (Purpose) of Bill C-15. On April 13, 2021, then national chief Bellegarde told the HoC standing committee on Indigenous affairs: "it's recommended that the word 'framework' be removed. As acknowledged in the preamble of this bill, the UN declaration itself is the framework, and reference to other frameworks simply causes confusion."

      Charmaine White Face is an Oglala Tituwan Oceti Sakowin writer, scientist, and great-grandmother. She wrote an in-depth analysis of UNDRIP based on her experiences at the UN debates called: Indigenous Nations Rights in the Balance, published by Living Justice Press. She has publicly commented on Bill C-15:

      "First of all, if Bill C-15 is based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), it is based on a lie. The Declaration that was approved by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2007 is NOT the Declaration approved by Indigenous Peoples.

      "Having a Bill based on a lie makes the Bill a partner in the lie and therefore, not good law. To say that Bill C-15 will affirm the rights of Indigenous Peoples is not true. The UNDRIP was changed to satisfy colonizing governments’ continued pursuit for control over Indigenous Peoples and resources."

      If Bill C-15’s sponsors really wanted to “affirm” the rights of Indigenous Peoples, they would base their bill on the original text that was approved by all Indigenous Peoples in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1994. That original declaration was also approved by two UN committees: the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), and the Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities.

      After that, the most powerful colonizing governments pushed the Declaration off onto another working group and changed not just the words but the meaning and purpose of the UNDRIP.

      Canada can do that. The Canadian government could base its Bill C-15 on the truth, the original declaration passed in 1994, and support the intent and purpose in that original document. To support Bill C-15 based on the UNDRIP that was approved in 2007 is to base Bill C-15 on a lie. Such an action will only bring dishonor and regret to the Canadian government. [emphasis added]

      The author of this article, Russ Diabo, spoke in 2018 about the shortcomings of the federal government's "Framework for Rights Recognition" when Justin Trudeau was still overseeing a majority government.

      CANDRIP (Bill C-15) White Paper 2.0 Indigenous melting plot

      On June 21, 2021, what the federal government calls National Indigenous Peoples Day”, the Administrator of the Government of Canada—the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner—granted royal assent by written declaration for Bill C-15 (CANDRIP).

      By having the SCC chief justice as the administrator for the Office of Governor-General sign CANDRIP (Bill C-15) into federal law, we saw the three branches of the federal government (judicial, legislative, and executive) converge in passing the federal United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (2007 version of UNDRIP). Apparently, with no care about of the potential conflict should CANDRIP (Bill C-15) be potentially challenged in court.

      Manipulation of AFN’s support for CANDRIP (Bill C-15)

      The Trudeau government led by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Lametti, assisted by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Bennett, took advantage of the global pandemic to bypass First Nation Peoples, who are the real rights holders, and instead manipulated the six-week “engagement process” with mainly federally funded organizations such as the AFN, leading up to Bill C-15’s introduction into the House of Commons on December 3, 2020. This was apparently timed to be just before the AFN assembly held December 8 and 9, 2021 and the parliamentary recess for the holidays.

      Following Bill C-15’s introduction into Parliament, then national chief Bellegarde, apparently in tandem with the federal government, manipulated the agenda of the December 8 and 9, 2020 virtual AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly to engineer AFN support for Bill C-15. On day one, the AFN agenda included an evening session with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several federal ministers, including Bill C-15’s lead ministers, Lametti and Bennett. All of whom chose the occasion to trumpet their government’s perceived accomplishments, including introducing Bill C-15 into the House of Commons just days before, as promised in their 2019 Liberal platform.

      The federal presentations were followed the second day by an AFN legal panel that included Wille Littlechild, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, and Paul Joffe, who strongly urged the chiefs to support Bill C-15, as Bill C-15 built on the previous private member’s Bill C-262 of former NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

      There were no critics of Bill C-15 on the unbalanced, one-sided AFN legal panel, which was a set-up by the AFN.

      While the AFN sales job was underway on-screen of the AFN virtual assembly, behind the scenes was the revision of a Draft AFN Resolution #6, entitled “Conditions to Supporting Federal Bill C-15 Legislation Regarding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

      An original version of the Draft AFN Resolution #6 had been submitted to the AFN Resolutions Committee before the AFN virtual sssembly and the introduction of Bill C-15 into the House of Commons on December 3, 2020.

      The original Draft AFN Resolution #6 had been previously approved by the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council and moved by Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson (B.C. region) on its behalf and was seconded by Algonquin Chief Lance Haymond (Quebec region).

      However, once Bill C-15 was introduced into the House of Commons on December 3, 2020, Chief Haymond became concerned after reviewing the text of Bill C-15 and in consultation with Chiefs from the Quebec region, revised the Draft AFN Resolution #6. This caused Kukpi7 Wilson to withdraw as mover while the AFN assembly was in progress, because the changes in text made to the original Draft AFN Resolution #6 by Chief Haymond went beyond the text of the original Draft AFN Resolution #6, which the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council had previously agreed with.

      When Kukpi7 Wilson informed Chief Haymond that she was withdrawing as the mover of the revised Draft AFN Resolution #6 because the original scope of the resolution had changed, Chief Haymond informed Kukpi7 Wilson that he was prepared to become the mover of the revised Draft AFN Resolution #6 and he would seek a new seconder, so this resolution could be debated by the Chiefs-in-Assembly on the virtual floor of the assembly.

      Kupi7 Judy Wilson withdrew support for Draft AFN Resolution #6 after changes were made to the text.

      However, Chief Haymond was then blocked by the AFN co-chairs—likely in consultation with then national chief Bellegarde, a supporter of Bill C-15—who sent a message to Chief Haymond. Since Kukpi7 Wilson was withdrawing support for the revised version of AFN Resolution #6, the co-chairs (or then national chief Bellegarde) had AFN general counsel Stuart Wuttke invoke the AFN rule that:


      Final Draft Resolutions

      1. …the mover may declare intent to withdraw the proposed resolution. In this event, the Co-Chairs will declare the resolution withdrawn and no further debate or comments will be allowed.

      Despite requests from Kukpi7 Judy Wilson to let Chief Lance Haymond speak to the Bill C-15 issue on the virtual floor of the assembly and a direct request from Chief Haymond himself, the AFN co-chairs would not turn on the microphone of Chief Haymond to allow him to put the question to the Chiefs-in-Assembly to determine if they wanted to discuss the revised Draft AFN Resolution #6 in light of the importance of the federal bill purporting to "align” federal laws with UNDRIP.

      If the AFN Assembly had been conducted in-person as normal, Chief Haymond could have simply gone to the microphone and asked the co-chairs in front of the Chiefs-in-Assembly if Draft AFN Resolution #6 could be introduced and debated. Chief Haymond could have gotten a seconder and made a motion under the AFN charter rules, but because the December 2020 AFN assembly was held virtually, the co-chairs and the AFN executive committee controlled the microphones, the Zoom platform, and the assembly proceedings.

      Consequently, despite the importance of the issue involving UNDRIP federal legislation affecting First Nations, no AFN resolution was discussed or adopted during the AFN virtual assembly on December 8 and 9, 2020.

      Following the AFN December 2020 assembly, word spread among chiefs and First Nation organizations about the AFN not addressing Bill C-15 in a resolution at its December assembly. In response to increasing concerns being raised among First Nation leaders, then national chief Bellegarde announced that a virtual AFN “National Leadership Forum on Bill C-15” would be held February 10 and 11, 2021.

      By holding a “Leadership Forum” instead of an AFN special assembly, then national chief Bellegarde was again manipulating the AFN charter. Rather than holding a formal AFN Special Chiefs’ Assembly on Bill C-15, where a formal AFN resolution on Bill C-15 could be debated and voted on, then national chief Bellegarde instead chose to call a Leadership Forum”. This is only an advisory forum with no binding authority over the AFN national chief or the AFN executive committee under the rules of the AFN charter, which then national chief Bellegarde was well aware of.

      The AFN two-day “Leadership Forum on Bill C-15” was merely another sales job orchestrated by then national chief Bellegarde with predominantly pro-Bill C-15 presenters on the agenda, including federal Minister of Justice David Lametti and, from British Columbia, a video presentation from pro-Bill C-15 Premier John Horgan, along with his minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, Murray Rankin, all supporting Bill C-15 in their comments.

      As expected, because of the ongoing pandemic, there was little attendance by chiefs at the AFN Bill C-15 virtual "forum” and the resulting AFN Summary Report conclusion was weak and muddled, stating: "The AFN National Leadership Forum on Bill C-15 provided First Nations with an opportunity to have a wide-ranging dialogue on Bill C-15. There was broad agreement that C-15 should be strengthened as well as some opposition to the Bill. There were many concerns about the engagement process, and consensus that First Nations must be fully involved as equal partners in the implementation of the UN Declaration."

      In the end, then national chief Bellegarde subsequently relied on an outdated AFN resolution (#86/2019) to say the AFN had a mandate to support Bill C-15, even though he and the AFN assembly co-chairs had blocked the revised version of Draft AFN Resolution #6 from being discussed or debated at the virtual AFN assembly, and the AFN “Forum on Bill C-15” was inconclusive, as well as nonbinding.

      House of Commons support for CANDRIP (Bill C-15)

      As Parliament resumed consideration of Bill C-15 in 2021, Minister Lametti knew he was able to count on the three national Indigenous organizations (AFN, ITK, MNC) to support Bill C-15 as the national pan-Indigenous coalition did with previous federal “Indigenous” legislation, such as Bill C-91, Bill C-92, Bill C-97, and an over 800-page omnibus budget bill that included dissolving the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and legislatively replacing the department with two new “Indigenous” departments and ministers (Indigenous Services and Crown-Indigenous Relations).

      Bill C-15’s second reading and referral to the House of Commons standing committee on Indigenous and northern affairs occurred on April 19, 2021, with a vote of 219 yes and 115 no.

      The Liberals, NDP, Bloc Québécois, Greens, and Independent M.P. Jody Wilson-Raybould all voted yes, while the Conservatives voted no.

      The HoC standing committee on Indigenous and northern affairs heard from numerous witnesses, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Anyone who watched the proceedings of the standing committee saw that it was clear the NDP and to some extent the BQ were supporting the Liberal government’s Bill C-15, while the Conservatives were strongly against the bill, along with six premiers who wrote Minister Lametti also opposing Bill C-15 because of the short six-week “engagement process”.

      There were some witnesses, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who proposed substantive amendments to Bill C-15 and in the end, as the law firm of Milt Akins noted:

      "The House of Commons made several amendments to the text of Bill C-15. Most of the amendments applied to the preamble, although there are two substantive changes to the provisions of Bill C-15 [in section 6]. The amendments include:

      • references to racism and systemic racism in the preamble;
      • expansion of the preamble to identify the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius as“racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust”;
      • recognition in the preamble that Aboriginal and Treaty rights are capable of evolutionand growth and are not frozen;
      • reduction of the time limit for preparing the action plan from three to two years [section6]; and
      • the action plan must include measures to address racism and systemic racism [section6]."

      The HoC standing committee report was tabled in the House of Commons on May 12, 2021, and third reading of Bill C-15 took place on May 25, 2021, with 210 yes and 118 against.

      The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Québécois voted for passage of Bill C-15 at third reading and while the Green MP Jenica Atwin voted against, Green MPs Elizabeth May and Paul Manly voted yes, as did Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould.

      Meanwhile, to accelerate passage of Bill C-15 through Parliament on April 20, 2021, the Senate adopted a motion to authorize the Senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples to begin a “pre-study” of Bill C-15 while the bill was still in the House of Commons.

      As a member of the Green caucus, MP Jenica Atwin voted against Bill C-15. Another Green MP, Paul Manly, supported it, as did former Green leader Elizabeth May and the NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Liberal caucuses.

      Senate support for CANDRIP (Bill C-15)

      The standing senate committee on Aboriginal Peoples submitted its report to the Senate on June 10, 2021 and did not propose any additional amendments to Bill C-15. The Senate held a third-reading debate and vote on Bill C-15 on June 16, 2021, and Bill C-15 passed in the Senate the same day with 61 voting yes and 11 voting no with 9 senators abstaining.

      As noted above, Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner, the acting Administrator of the Office of Governor-General, gave royal assent to CANDRIP (Bill C-15) on June 21, 2021.

      CANDRIP (Bill C-15) action plan and Canada’s White Paper 2.0 Indigenous melting plot

      It was on February 14, 2018, that Prime Minister Trudeau announced in the House of Commons his National “Reconciliation” Plan with proposed “Rights Recognition Framework” legislation. This proposed pan-Indigenous law was rejected at an AFN Policy Forum held September 11 and 12, 2018, in Gatineau, Quebec.

      Following the September 2018 AFN rejection of the proposed “Rights Recognition Framework” legislation, the CBC reported in October 2018 that the federal government was delaying the proposed "Rights Recognition Framework” legislation until after the 2019 election. However, at the same time CBC reported the delay, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Bennett stated:

      "Our Government is committed to advancing the framework, and to continue actively engaging with partners on its contents…We continue to make substantial progress in accelerating the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights through policy changes and the development of the Recognition of Rights and Self-Determination Tables…We look forward to continue working with our partners on developing more of this crucial framework."

      What the AFN Policy Forum rejected was the content of a September, 2018 federal “Overview Document” stating that the federal “Rights Recognition Framework” law would have formed the basis for ALL RELATIONS between the federal Crown (government) and Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) including “pre-1975” and “post-1975” treaties and:

      • would have contained federal “definitions” of “key terms”;
      • federal and provincial/territorial powers and jurisdictions would continue to dominate over First Nations and provincial governments would continue to have a veto over any agreements affecting their jurisdiction;
      • a federally established advisory committee or institution would have been created to decide what Indigenous nations or “Collectives” would be federally recognized and have the authority of a government possessing “the legal capacity of a natural person”, meaning a federal corporation. This would all have been subject to agreements with the federal and provincial governments (where their jurisdiction is affected). The federal legislation would have included a “list of powers” for “ Indigenous Governments”, which could have been unilaterally amended by the federal government.

      Although a September 2018 AFN Policy Forum had rejected the proposed federal “Rights Recognition Framework” legislation, this was not binding on the AFN executive committee or the national chief, so at a December 2018 AFN assembly, chiefs from the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI), introduced AFN Resolution #67/2018, which was adopted by the December 2018 assembly, and rejected the federal proposed “Rights Recognition Framework” legislation because the federal “distinctions based approach” was false and called for AFN to hold a Policy Forum to discuss the federal “Rights Recognition Framework”.

      In response to AFN Resolution #67/2018, then national chief Bellegarde orchestrated an AFN Policy Forum on First Nation Led Processes: The Four Policies and Nation Building, held May 1to 2, 2019, in Edmonton, Alberta, focused on these four federal policies: 

      • Inherent Right Policy.
      • Additions to Reserve Policy.
      • Comprehensive Land Claims Policy.
      • Specific Claims Policy.

      Like the AFN Forum on Bill C-15 held in February 2021, the 2019 AFN Policy Forum on the Four Federal Policies had panels stacked with representatives who accept the federal policies.

      By 2019, the Bellegarde-Trudeau partnership was causing concern among a number of chiefs and communities. This was the case in Edmonton when the AFN Policy Forum was held. Hundreds of mostly First Nation Treaty Peoples marched on the hotel where the AFN Forum was being held on May 1, 2019, to protest the AFN’s collaboration with the Trudeau agenda and the threat of the Trudeau agenda to treaty rights.

      A number of chiefs from the area led a march into the hotel where the AFN meeting was being held and there was a struggle at the door of the meeting between the First Nations people and the security guards hired by the AFN. The people prevailed over the AFN security guards and gained entry to the hotel ballroom where the AFN meeting was being held. Meanwhile, assisted by security guards, then national chief Bellegarde fled before the people gained entry to the meeting.

      After a testy exchange between the treaty people and several chiefs in the meeting room, the chiefs who led the march went up to the front of the room to read out a prepared statement to the AFN Forum. Following the reading of the statement the treaty people left the meeting and the meeting resumed with its pre-cooked agenda.

      On the second day of the AFN Forum, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her associate deputy minister, Joe Wild, attended the “Forum”.

      There were concerns among a number of chiefs and leaders about Minister Bennett continuing to change the federal “Inherent Right” and “Comprehensive Claims” policies privately at various “tables” as part of the “Rights Recognition Framework” previously rejected by the AFN by June 2019.

      During a question and answer session at the AFN Forum, Minister Bennett confirmed that the federal government would be delaying changes to the self-government and land claims policies and that “any new policies will be anchored in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and co-developed with rights holders”.


      While in 2019, prior to the last federal election, Minister Bennett committed to delaying any changes to the national federal self-government and comprehensive land claims policies, the Trudeau government, along with the government of B.C. and the B.C. First Nations Summit, announced in September, 2019 a new B.C. Treaty Negotiation Policy, which renewed the 29 year-old B.C. treaty process and confirmed “Modern Treaties” in B.C. will be based upon surrender to the “assumed sovereignty of the Crown” (section 18) as a fundamental principle of the process.

      The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs was excluded in the development of the new negotiation policy.

      The Crown-Indigenous Relations Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) 2021-2022 departmental plan describes the ongoing federal pan-Indigenous agenda priorities, which will be used as part of the measures in Bill C-15’s “action-plan”, as follows:

      * CIRNAC will continue discussions to co-develop modern treaties, self-government agreements and other constructive arrangements, and explore new ways of working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities;

      * CIRNAC will advance ongoing work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to redesign the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies;

      * Canada, as represented by CIRNAC and other federal departments, will progress in the implementation of the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, in partnership with the other Principals of the British Columbia treaty process (the First Nations Summit and the Province of British Columbia). Where there is interest, Canada is ready to discuss using the approaches found in this policy with negotiation partners elsewhere in the country. [emphasis added]

      The last point about using the B.C. Treaty Negotiations Policy across Canada where requested confirms what CIRNAC senior assistant deputy minister Joe Wild wrote in a letter in October 2020, after the 2019 federal election:

      "The policy embeds [federally defined] recognition as the underlying basis for negotiations and replaces Canada’s Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies in the British Columbia treaty process. Where there is interest, Canada is also ready to use the approaches found in the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia with negotiation partners elsewhere in the country." [emphasis added]

      As the Trudeau government prepares to announce a 2021 federal election, it will go forward knowing the Trudeau-Wernick pan-Indigenous Bill C-15 “Framework” continues to work, crowned by the appointment of Indigenous Governor-General Mary Simon, who is a safe choice, because her career, as well as the Inuit Nation’s governance, is based upon accepting the federal comprehensive claims policy surrendering to Crown sovereignty.