Federal Minister of Justice: “We all need to continue to be strong proponents of change”

The FNTC has long championed the notion that a new fiscal relationship for First Nations should be built on a foundation of clear government powers and authorities that are not financed by transfers, but are instead financed by a core of clear revenue authorities.

On October 13, 2017, as part of regional engagements lead by a member of the AFN Chief’s Committee on Fiscal Relations, Chief David Jimmie of Squiala First Nation, First Nations in BC participated in a second province-wide strategic dialogue session on defining a new fiscal relationship for First Nations and the Crown, building on the work, input and information shared at the initial dialogue session hosted by the First Nations Summit in June 2017. The meeting was also open to delegates from across Canada.

Many First Nations leaders delivered presentations to delegates on working together to create substantive change for Indigenous communities.

Harold Calla of the First Nations Financial Management Board reflected on the problem facing First Nations in Canada, “What happened in colonization is that we were marginalized and frozen in time. We were not allowed to evolve and build the capacities as other modern-day governments have. The majority of our communities are only familiar with transfer payment systems and as service delivery vehicles. What is thought of as self-government is actually self-administration of programs and services.”

FNTC’s Chief Commissioner C.T. (Manny) Jules shared his perspective, “If we’re going to have a level playing field as I said last June, we want the same deal that the federal and provincial governments gave themselves at the time and at the beginning and the birth of this country.”

“They divided up the land, put us on reserves and proceeded to exploit all the bounty of the land. And what do we do? We ask for transfers. Transfers are a nice way to say we’re dependent on somebody else. What we want is ultimately our own jurisdiction that extends beyond the postage stamp reserves that we live in. We have to be able to have our own jurisdiction.”

“We have all the differences like communities where I come from and other communities that are remote. How do we begin to overcome those differences? Tecumseh, one of my cultural heroes, said a single twig breaks but a bundle of twigs is strong. And that’s what we’ve been able to demonstrate here in British Columbia. Without the involvement of the Union, the Summit and the BCAFN, the whole approach to fiscal relations isn’t going to happen. We have to do it together.”

“For the smaller communities, national institutions are critically important because what we can do as a national institution is create standards and models that you would be able to assume at the local level. Not taking away any of your jurisdiction because I firmly believe all of our institutions are designed to facilitate your jurisdiction as opposed to the jurisdiction of the institutions.”

Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould delivered a keynote address, stating, “Everyone in this room shares the same values and we all have the same goal of ultimately improving the lives of our people back home in our communities.”

“We are arguably in the best position that we could be, the best position that we have been in in a long time, perhaps forever, to do something truly transformative about advancements of rights and on a scale that we haven’t previously known.”

“Moving forward, what we do together in partnership over the coming months and years will continue to lay the groundwork for truly changing the way Canada is governed, and the place of Indigenous people and our nations within Canada”

“We are in this place today because of all of you, because of your vision and the work that so many of you have done to get us to this point. It has been through your tenacity, your ingenuity, your leadership that many First Nations have already been able to begin to break through the most insidious of fiscal and government’s constraints that have inhibited Indigenous growth and potential and for you to have taken significant steps on the road to self-determination and self-government. But as we all know, more needs to be done.”

“If I can be so bold, and in my mind, today’s conference is all about planning, about being strategic, being progressive, being the trailblazers I know you all are. As Manny Jules likes to say, being on the bleeding edge of change. I think we can say we are no longer on the edge, rather we are now in the centre of the transition our country is going through to fully implement UNDRIP, to give meaning to s. 35 and to implementing the inherent right of self-government, creating opportunity and supporting positive change in communities.”

“We all need to continue to be strong proponents for change. To continue to be courageous and take bold steps.”

At the end of November, Chief Jimmie completed a report summarizing the input gathered from the regional engagement sessions and presented it to the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly.

In his presentation to the chiefs in assembly, Chief Jimmie said, “As part of the chief’s committee on fiscal relations, we’ve opened the door to dialogue amongst our people. Throughout the process, each of our provinces and territories had a responsibility to go out to the communities and do some regional engagement.”

“In BC, we’re looking at jurisdiction and we’re looking at expanding tax powers, those were common themes we heard. We’re looking at these long-term commitments on funding and transfers. But how do we enshrine those in legislation? That’s the kind of commitment and true nation-to-nation relationship that we’re looking for.”

BC First Nations will continue to advance the fiscal principles they have adopted as the foundation for a new fiscal relationship. First Nations, the fiscal institutions and other First Nations organizations are committed to working together on options and recommendations.

The First Nations Tax Commission will continue to advocate for a fiscal relationship that is based on First Nation revenue jurisdiction.