Message of the day
“There is an agreement to a high-level process on treaty implementation.”
Events as they unfolded:
Questions not answered
- Will AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo’s position be in trouble because he attended the meeting?
- Was the question of the duty to consult on the omnibus budget bills actually answered?
Power & Politics started off with CBC’s Terry Milewski, who recapped the awkward press conference with Chief Theresa Spence, the demonstrations, and the arguments of chiefs who went into the meeting despite calls for boycotts. Hannah Thibedeau then spoke with Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Neepinak and Mushkegowak Territory Grand Chief Stan Louttit. Neepinak said that they came together in unity and with a consistent message, and that they are standing behind Chief Spence because she is “living by the natural law.” He said that their people are together in numbers and reinvigorating their songs and ceremonies. Louttit said that he was disappointed that there was unity and one voice before the National Chief and others decided to go ahead with the meeting. He felt there should have been more discussion and unity around the table, that there will be fingers pointed at Atleo in the future, and that Spence would continue her hunger strike as her conditions have not been met.
Power Play first heard from Mercedes Stephenson, who described the scene of the protests before Don Martin spoke with AFN Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy. Beardy said that he felt it was necessary to boycott the meeting because of the respect for Chief Spence’s demands that the Prime Minister and Governor General be at the same meeting, and Spence is an Ontario chief. Beardy said that the Idle No More movement was a catalyst to the meeting, because they are becoming aggressive in demanding changes.
Thibedeau then spoke with Ryerson University professor and Idle No More spokesperson Pam Palmeter, who said that the core message of the day was a positive one because of the grassroots turnout. Palmeter described frustration because Atleo went outside of yesterday’s unity on who would attend the meeting and where it would be held, and that he sided with a minority despite his lack of independent political power. Palmeter said that consensus still exists with regards to dealing with crisis issues and the treaty relationship, and that any escalation of actions and protests would be done peacefully. Palmeter said the movement is trying to send a message to Harper that they have power, and accused him of undermining and picking off individual chiefs.
Martin spoke with Liberal leader Bob Rae, who said that there is a sense of going back to the days of the Charlottetown Accord when there was an opportunity to endorse self-government and a process of transferring resources, and there was another commitment in the Kelowna Accord, which was abandoned. Rae said that Harper sees First Nations issues in a narrower cast and trying to solve what he is able to, but that there isn’t an attitude of respect. Rae said that while Chief Spence is determined, he told her that they need her around to continue to speak in the future because she got results with the meeting.
Rae was later on Power & Politics, where he added that Spence took over Attawapiskat at a time of financial difficulty and that many of the problems with the Deloitte & Touche audit happened before her time. Rae said that his conversation with Chief Spence was candid and that he laid out his concern that governments don’t respond well to threats, even though it did eventually prompt the meeting. Rae said that he couldn’t see why they can’t figure out how to get the GG into the meeting (never mind that it would undermine the principle of Responsible Government because it was a working meeting). With regards to the threatened protests, Rae said that people can’t disrupt endlessly, and that the rule of law must prevail.
Martin spoke with NDP Aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder, who said that her party supported the call for the meeting and that their requests were reasonable. Crowder said that the Idle No More movement has been building for months, and while Chief Spence didn’t start the movement, she has galvanized it. Crowder also decried the racist comments coming out of the reaction to the movement.
Martin turned to expert observers Mark Quinn, a former chief of staff to Indian Affairs minister Robert Nault, and to Carleton University Professor Jane Dickson-Gilmore. Quinn said it was better for chiefs to be in the meeting than outside, and that there is a lack of trust on both sides. Quinn said that while there needs to be a way to de-politicize the process, it can’t be left entirely to the courts. Dickson-Gilmore said that if they could come out of the meeting with a clear process with timelines, it would be a win, but processes can be a way not to do anything. She added that the AFN has always been somewhat controversial, and that the fracturing shown yesterday demonstrates the frustration within Aboriginal communities.
On the Power Play strategists panel, Gerry Nichols said that Chief Spence is both a success and a failure – she brought the issue to the limelight, but her behaviour in the last week has undermined her credibility. Anne McGrath said that she’s not sure that Spence’s audience is the general public or the media, and that she has been successful. McGrath said there is a deep well of misunderstanding around some of the issues, including the role of the Governor General. Marlene Floyd said that the Idle No More movement needed a figurehead, which Spence provided.
Power Play’s journalists panel of Craig Oliver and Stephen Maher weighed in, where Oliver said that we may be witnessing the birth pangs of a new Aboriginal nationhood in Canada, which could be a positive development. Maher said that the movement offers the best prospect of changing the fortunes for the youth of First Nations, but that there is a challenge of leadership for the federal government and the Aboriginal leaders.
On P&P’s Power Panel, Wab Kinew said that the division in the AFN was because the chiefs who boycotted wanted to set the agenda, and that it is unlikely there will be any immediate movement against Atleo because there are calls for a cooling-off period. Kinew called the meeting one between politicians and is separate from the Idle No More movement. Greg Weston said that Harper’s invitation was for an AFN delegation, which meant that Atleo had to be at the table, and that any movement for change needs his involvement. Martin Patriquin said that Idle No More is a leaderless movement, and that when it started, it was about challenging both the federal government and aboriginal governments.
For his Last Word, Martin said that Shawn Atleo has been a superior voice of mediation, who supports realistic reform rather than revolutionary action, but that he now fends off a mutiny in the AFN leadership and that radical elements are now drowning out his agenda.
Once the meeting let out, Thibedeau spoke with Grand Chief of the Northern Quebec and James Bay Cree Matthew Coon Come, who said that he was torn going into the meeting, but he wanted to be there to build a bridge and put certain demands on the table. He said that he was surprised by the reaction of the Prime Minister, who moved a couple of posts forward, that included agreeing to a high-level process on treaty implementation. With regards to resource revenues, Coon Come said that Harper was open to facilitating that dialogue with the provinces, and that he was willing to carry out his duty to consult on the items in the omnibus budget bills. On the issues of violence against Aboriginal women and education, he said there was a commitment to move forward on those issues.
During the John Duncan/Greg Rickford press conference, Duncan touted the “full and frank meeting” with all participants, the constructive dialogue, and that more work to be done about living conditions and economic development. Duncan said that the meeting was focused on treaty implementation and economic development, and that they agreed to meet with Atleo in the coming weeks for a high-level meeting on treaty implementation. Duncan said that the government looked forward to working with chiefs to create jobs and growth in communities. Duncan characterized the duty to consult on the omnibus budget bills as having been fulfilled already, despite Coon Come’s characterization of the conversation.
After the press conference, Thibedeau spoke with MPs Crowder and Carolyn Bennett, where Crowder said that she disagreed with Duncan on the government having fulfilled their duty to consult, and that there was little new in the talking points. Crowder said that the commitment to a high-level meeting on treaties was encouraging, but there needs to be more concrete timelines. Bennett said that working groups need to be struck because the needs are urgent and that gaps need to be closed by the 2013 budget.