Bigstone Cree First Nation members looking for treaty transparency from local council & Trudeau government
Despite the Prime Minister’s grand promises of a renewed “nation to nation relationship” between Canada and its Aboriginal peoples, one Alberta First Nation is finding it hard to get some basic answers out of this government.
Back in 2010, the federal government along with the Alberta government, came to an settlement agreement with Bigstone Cree First Nation that paid them, and their new offshoot, Peerless Trout First Nation, a grand total of $259.4 million.
This settlement was made because of a failure by the Canadian government to follow through on the agricultural benefits portion of the original treaty, Treaty 8, signed by First Nations all across B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and The Northwest Territories.
This agricultural benefits clause, colloquially referred to as the “cows and plows” promise, contained a commitment from the federal government to provide the tools and resources needed for each band household to start up a farm.
According to documents obtained by The Post Millennial, some of these items included axes, handsaws, augers, grindstones, whetstones, hoes, spades, scythes, horses, a yoke of oxen, cows, bulls and even a mowing machine.
Eventually, after a 100 years of inaction, the federal government began to negotiate with the Treaty 8 Nations in 1999 to determine what the cash value of the items promised would be today.
Many First Nations were able to secure multi-million dollar settlements from the federal government and were able to pay their members up to $45,000 each, the estimated amount one would need to start a farm today.
This past year, two northern Saskatchewan First Nations were able to settle for a combined $177 million, with individual member dividends of $45,000 being paid out in $5,000 increments every six months.
However, when Bigstone reached their agreement in 2010, individual band members only received $3,500 in total. As more settlements are reached with different Treaty 8 First Nations, band members in Bigstone are left wondering why haven’t they received more?
Travis Gladue-Beauregard, founder the Bigstone Empowerment Society, a group which seeks to increase transparency at Bigstone, started a petition to have the federal government release the negotiation minutes so band members can get a clear idea of what the band leadership agreed to.
Signed by Bigstone Members both on and off reserve, this petition gained strong support from places like Fort Saint John, Edmonton, Calgary, High Prairie, Grande Prairie, Slave Lake, Valley View, & Cadotte Lake.
Conservative MP Arnold Viersen, representing the northern Albertan constituency of Peace River-Westlock, brought the petition forward in the House of Commons this past Fall.
In an email response received by Viersen’s office from a policy advisor to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, the advisor simply pointed out that the agreement had already been made and that the government had paid out its required portion.
This leaves the band members back where they started, looking for answers from their local and federal leaders.
A tension found in many First Nations across Canada, on-reserve members often clash with off-reserve members as to how the money from treaties should be spent or saved.
On-reserve members often favour investing the money into the reserve to improve and expand the existing infrastructure.
Off-reserve band members in particular are upset by the lack of transparency. Off-reserve members prefer to see the money given to each individual member so that they can decide to use it as they please.
Many of the off-reserve Bigstone members feel that continuing to put money into the reserve is a waste of the Treaty benefits and prevents them from further improving their lives off-reserve.
Gladue-Beauregard, an off-reserve band member himself, told The Post Millennial “Off-reserve members are not benefitting from this agreement because we don’t depend upon the band and the government to for handouts. Having our treaty rights being trampled upon is not helping us to empower ourselves to build a better life for the future.”
Due to the lack of transparency surrounding the agreement and its payment structure, Bigstone members are now considering taking legal action against the federal government and the former chief and council.
A former government employee told HuffPost Canada she was punished for giving comment to the news outlet on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of blackface when it became an international story during the 2019 federal election.
39-year-old Manjot Bains told HuffPo she was reprimanded and commanded to not speak about racism publicly after she spoke to a HuffPo reporter in a September story where she wasn’t identified as a federal employee. Bains faced a lot of backlash at work where she was a senior program adviser, which led to her quitting her job at the Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives program that’s part of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
“The prime minister is the one who performed blackface, not me. But somehow I faced repercussions for his actions,” Bains said to HuffPost.
Bains was hired last May and was cleared by her new employer to still continue contributing to her media website, Jugni Style, that covers South Asian culture, so she thought it wouldn’t be a problem to comment on Trudeau’s history of blackface.
Bains told HuffPo she passed along the story to her manager when it was published and was swiftly told she shouldn’t have spoken to the media and had lost her manager’s trust.
Bains then had a meeting with her superiors and was told that public servants aren’t allowed to speak critically of Trudeau publicly, and would have to do “loyalty training” and redo ethics training.
Bains cited her union actually promotes political activity and her contract stated, “the right to engage in political activities while maintaining the principles of political impartiality in the public service.”
Public servants are expected to show a “duty of loyalty” to the Canadian government.
In a much more clear cut case of political activism, a federal public servant was put on leave from his job after releasing an anti-Harper folk song during the 2015 election.
Bains also wrote her own personal account of the ordeal she faced after speaking about her thoughts on Trudeau’s blackface incidents publicly, published by HuffPo as well on Thursday.
Chevron’s plan to offload its 50 percent share of the nascent Kitimat LNG project was another blow to Canada’s energy industry on Wednesday.
The massive British Columbia natural gas facility and export hub was so crucial for the Canadian economy, the Trudeau government gave a tariff break to China last summer so the communist regime’s cheap, fabricated steel could fast-track construction.
But word that the California-based Chevron wanted to sell its Kitimat LNG interest–$125 million of book-value assets in a $10-billion write-down for the U.S. oil giant–sparked a political fight on Twitter.
Enter Conservatives’ natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs:
Less than an hour later Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan corrected Stubbs. But either way Chevron’s big write-down reveal on Wednesday morning was bad news for the domestic energy sector.
Over the past five years, a combination of discounted Canadian bitumen sales–landlocked inside North American markets by lack of new tidewater projects like the proposed TMX–along with federal policies that have chilled investment, have hampered the energy sector.
At the end of October, Canadian petroleum company EnCana uprooted its Calgary headquarters to move to Denver, Colorado, and a rebrand; the latest news is just the latest in notable capital flight from domestic energy markets that’s witnessed 175,000 jobs shed from the Alberta oil patch in less than five years.
After a viral video of world leaders making fun of President Donald Trump surfaced, Trump got in a few digs of his own according to The Daily Beast. With several ambassadors over to the White House, he shot back against Justin Trudeau as well as France’s President Macron.
Trudeau had mocked Trump during a “hot mic” moment, and the video circulated widely on social media. In it, the leaders of allied nations gossiped about Trump liking to do lengthy press conferences. “He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference at the top,” Trudeau said, referring to Trump apparently keeping him waiting. “You just watch his team’s jaws drop to the floor.” Trump responded to the video the next day by calling Trudeau “two-faced”.
Trump said that Trudeau had “no smarts,” “zero toughness”, and that he was “all fluff”, according to a source present who spoke to The Daily Beast. Trump clearly doesn’t like Trudeau, who he sees as phony, and referred to him as “such a child” and a “total baby”.
Many allied leaders purportedly don’t like Trump. When he spoke about Trudeau and Macron, ambassadors to those nations were reportedly “visibly uncomfortable”. Trump was undeterred in his commentary, but senior White House officials reiterated the friendship between allied nations.
The Social took the opportunity last week to get behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he was caught making fun of US President Donald Trump to other world leaders, framing it as Trudeau facing “a bully”, and that we, as Canadians like to “play clean”.
“Sometimes you have to face a bully with a squad,” said Melissa Grelo on the show. She referenced French President Macron’s attempts to push back against Trump’s comments on Isis fighters.
Do Canadians believe that Trudeau’s jokes about Trump were part of a meeting of leaders, coming together to face off against an unfair adversary?
It’s hard to paint talking behind someone’s back as the act of confronting a bully. On the flip side, it isn’t hard to imagine President Trump as a schoolyard bully while watching him troll French President Macron about Isis fighters. Just watching their body language provokes the image of one kid trying to get a rise out of another.
Self-described gossip expert and The Social co-host Lainey Lui commented that “what they were doing was exchanging information… gossiping is a form of communication… I’m so tired of gossip being given this bad name.” While it would be easy to dismiss this as nonsense, gossip does, in fact, create bonding among the people who share in it. Creating an “us” and a “them” brings the “us” closer together. Trudeau’s little schoolyard circle of gossip may very well have strengthened relations between Trudeau and the foreign leaders he shared it with.
Of course–there’s a reason why gossip has a bad name. It’s risky, in that it will damage the relationship with the person being gossiped about, if it is found out–as Trudeau has discovered. As far as strategy goes–it’s probably not a good idea to take any risks with our single largest trading partner.
Then there is the high road–the refusal to take part in gossip. If you’ve ever met someone with this level of character, you’ll know that there isn’t the easy bonding that comes from sharing cheap shots on someone who isn’t there to defend themselves. But, when it’s clear that you both have the same frustrations with that other person, it’s not hard to develop a deep respect for those who abstain from gossiping. After all, with that comes a trust that they won’t be talking behind your back, when you’re not around.
Hence Trump’s comment about Trudeau being “two-faced”.
At the end of the day, all world leaders need to be strategic in their relations with one another. They each need to behave in whatever way best serves the interests of their countries. Whether they choose trolling or gossiping or stately reverence, what matters is managing relationships in a way that enables them to get the job done.
But aside from all that–what was even said? I think Melissa Grelo summed up the whole issue best when she said, “this is not particularly salacious stuff–although when videos like this leak out, it sure becomes salacious.”
Perhaps it was the giddy tone in which Trudeau talked about Trump behind his back that caught the attention of top Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign team so much so that they decided to use it in an attack ad. It also probably didn’t help Canada’s relations with the US that Saturday Night Live–which Trump claims he doesn’t watch, but feels the need to trash on Twitter from time to time for its routine lampooning of him–did a whole opening sketch on Trudeau (Jimmy Fallon), French President Emmanuel Macron (Paul Rudd) and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (James Corden) belittling Trump (Alec Baldwin) in a high school cafeteria.