Principles Count in Indigenous Affairs

  • By John Weston
  • 01 Nov, 2017

As published in the Powell River Peak.

I am delighted that Powell River and the Tla’amin Nation have received public recognition of their healthy relationship (“BC Treaty Commission praises Tla’amin Nation relations”, Chris Bolster, Sept 27, 2017; http://www.prpeak.com/news/bc-treaty-commission-praises-tla-amin-nation-relations-1.23025932) . The story rightly reflects the hard work and goodwill of specific individuals, such as Chief Clint Williams, Mayor Dave Formosa, and former Mayor Stewart Alsgard. As former MP for Powell River, I observed firsthand the healthy relationship between Chief, Mayor, and Regional District and worked closely with them. Among other things, we together precipitated unprecedented amounts of Federal government cooperation and investment in Powell River.

However, it’s a pity that in Indigenous Affairs, things tend to be painted in black-and-white tones. Nuances and middle ground become the victim of polarized thinking. Leaders and media find themselves speaking half-truths that undermine good, long-term results.

So it was in Chief Williams’ stating that, as former MP, I “was blocking the First Nation’s attempts at communicating with the Federal Government”. That is just wrong. In fact, Chief Williams initially brought me into the discussion when a fisheries issue was impeding progress on the Treaty negotiation. As a member of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent supporter of treaty-making in general, I sought and got a resolution to that issue that allowed progress on the Tla’amin Treaty.

In its March 31, 2014 issue, the Powell River Peak covered the townhall discussion in Powell River, when residents and I discussed my concern, that the Treaty states Tla’amin Law will in some situations prevail over Canadian law (“Weston speaks against the treaty,” Dean Unger, http://www.prpeak.com/news/weston-speaks-against-treaty-1.2209724) . Throughout my career as a lawyer in Indigenous Affairs and as a politician, I have consistently stood up for equality and human rights. We should never allow the law of any community, religious group, or Aboriginal group to prevail over Canadian law. The unity of our country, its peace, order, and good government, and the equal rights of Canadians depend on our being governed by one law, equal for all, regardless of race, colour, or creed. While our Constitution, the Indian Act, and court decisions have led us in other directions, we as Canadians need vigorously to pursue equality whenever we get the chance.

As MP and as Member of the Minister’s Caucus Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I supported the Treaty, but not the “inequality” provision. I did express these views to the Prime Minister and the Minister. As elaborated in my recent book (On! Achieving Excellence in Leadership; johnweston.ca) Equality is at the centre of real, long-term reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. For the long-term peace, order, and good government of our country, and for the benefit of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, we Canadians ought at every turn to promote Equality in treaties, words, and deeds.

The piece ran as a letter to the editor in the Powell River Peak's Oct 4, 2017 edition.

John Weston Blog

By John Weston 01 Nov, 2017
I am delighted that Powell River and the Tla’amin Nation have received public recognition of their healthy relationship (“BC Treaty Commission praises Tla’amin Nation relations”, Chris Bolster, Sept 27, 2017; http://www.prpeak.com/news/bc-treaty-commission-praises-tla-amin-nation-relations-1.23025932) . The story rightly reflects the hard work and goodwill of specific individuals, such as Chief Clint Williams, Mayor Dave Formosa, and former Mayor Stewart Alsgard. As former MP for Powell River, I observed firsthand the healthy relationship between Chief, Mayor, and Regional District and worked closely with them. Among other things, we together precipitated unprecedented amounts of Federal government cooperation and investment in Powell River.

However, it’s a pity that in Indigenous Affairs, things tend to be painted in black-and-white tones. Nuances and middle ground become the victim of polarized thinking. Leaders and media find themselves speaking half-truths that undermine good, long-term results.

So it was in Chief Williams’ stating that, as former MP, I “was blocking the First Nation’s attempts at communicating with the Federal Government”. That is just wrong. In fact, Chief Williams initially brought me into the discussion when a fisheries issue was impeding progress on the Treaty negotiation. As a member of the Fisheries Committee and a consistent supporter of treaty-making in general, I sought and got a resolution to that issue that allowed progress on the Tla’amin Treaty.

In its March 31, 2014 issue, the Powell River Peak covered the townhall discussion in Powell River, when residents and I discussed my concern, that the Treaty states Tla’amin Law will in some situations prevail over Canadian law (“Weston speaks against the treaty,” Dean Unger, http://www.prpeak.com/news/weston-speaks-against-treaty-1.2209724) . Throughout my career as a lawyer in Indigenous Affairs and as a politician, I have consistently stood up for equality and human rights. We should never allow the law of any community, religious group, or Aboriginal group to prevail over Canadian law. The unity of our country, its peace, order, and good government, and the equal rights of Canadians depend on our being governed by one law, equal for all, regardless of race, colour, or creed. While our Constitution, the Indian Act, and court decisions have led us in other directions, we as Canadians need vigorously to pursue equality whenever we get the chance.

As MP and as Member of the Minister’s Caucus Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I supported the Treaty, but not the “inequality” provision. I did express these views to the Prime Minister and the Minister. As elaborated in my recent book (On! Achieving Excellence in Leadership; johnweston.ca) Equality is at the centre of real, long-term reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. For the long-term peace, order, and good government of our country, and for the benefit of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, we Canadians ought at every turn to promote Equality in treaties, words, and deeds.

The piece ran as a letter to the editor in the Powell River Peak's Oct 4, 2017 edition.
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