From a Letter by Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy to the Thunder Bay, Ontario Chronicle Journal.
What treaties mean
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I am writing in response to the anonymous letter titled Gov‘t Using Companies As Pawns To Avoid Forcing Treaty Compliance published on Jan. 23. I would like to thank that individual for making the public aware that this is a treaty issue. For First Nations, a treaty is an agreement between two sovereigns. This is recognized as common knowledge at the international level. Knowing so, the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that the Crown has a legal duty to consult. I wholeheartedly agree with the statement that the government is not complying with the treaty and that it is crucial for government to settle outstanding differences. It is truly unfortunate that the exploration and mining industry have to bear the brunt of our treaty partner‘s inability to do so. Until these outstanding differences are resolved between the First Nations and the Crown, blockades such as what is taking place in the Ring of Fire will become a common occurrence. It is plain and simple to First Nations; they are defending their constitutionally protected treaty, aboriginal and inherent rights which they believe come before any rights and interests the exploration and mining industry may have. Carts must not be put before the horse.
With respect to the misperceived notion that First Nations are contravening the treaty, I take great exception to the writer‘s interpretation of the words contained in Treaty 9. As many may not know, the manner in which the treaty making process took place in Canada was unjust. As such, First Nations take the position that in order to achieve true reconciliation, we also have to look at the context in which the treaty was signed and go beyond the words that were put before a nation of people whose mother tongue was inherently different. The discussion and resolution on the spirit and intent of the treaty has been long awaited by First Nations. For many years we have voiced the need to resolve this matter, but we have only been met by deaf and uncompromising ears. If the exploration and mining industry is ever to achieve the stability that they so naively expect to be in place without first resolving the treaty issue, then they should do their part in continuing to urge the Crown to be honourable treaty partners by living up to its spirit and intent. Recognizing that many may not truly understand what this means, NAN will be doing its part to educate.
Grand Chief Stan Beardy Nishnawbe Aski Nation