The Treaty #3 office has re-opened after a four-day closure due to funding problems but it will close for good next month if issues with Indian Affairs minister and local MP Robert Nault aren’t resolved.
“We were just given enough funding to continue until [Oct. 18] unless Nault is willing to sit down at the table and negotiate,” said Treaty #3 facilitator Joanne Bruyere.
At issue is the timing of the funding debate. On Aug. 19, Treaty # 3 held a rally in Kenora, which attracted 2,000 people, protesting Nault’s governance initiative and now they say their funding has been affected.
“Everything is a result of that governance act protest,” she charged. “As a result of that rally that we had, that’s when we started to find out funding is being cut.”
But Nault said a funding review already had been underway.
“As announced last year, the government is engaged in a review of tribal council and PTO funding across the country,” he noted. “The goal of this review is to ensure that services are provided to First Nations in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
“Funding for Treaty #3 self-government negotiations are also under review. Treaty #3 was notified of this fact on Aug. 12,” Nault added.
But Treaty #3 Grand Chief Leon Jourdain is at a loss to explain the funding cut.
“The reality is that we are success story, we are operating as a government,” he remarked. “We are not only building the capacity to govern but actually exercising a working model and for reasons I can’t explain, the minister is becoming directly involved and taking action that I interpret as an effort to extinguish real self-government.
“Frankly, it’s incompatible with his public statements that he supports self-government,” he argued. Grand Council Treaty #3 employs 50 people.
In related news, Stan Beardy, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, fears NAN self-governance will be next.
“Our self-governance funding has been delayed over five months,” he said in a release issued earlier this month. “I fear NAN is next.
“We are being squeezed just like Grand Council Treaty #3,” he added. “We completed all the work last year and handed in our reports and our audit.
“This is retribution for protesting against Bill C-61,” Chief Beardy charged. “NAN and Treaty #3 have been leading the campaign against the [First Nations Governance Act] . . . and I would have to be naive to think that the delay in our funding for self-governance work is a coincidence.
“How can we go to our people now and say that the government is no longer committed to self-governance? The impact will be devastating to our people,” Chief Beardy stressed.
Nault announced last year that Ottawa was going to overhaul the Indian Act, which has remained relatively untouched for 50 years.
The proposed legislation is designed to revamp election regulations for band members on and off reserve, tighten fiscal authority, and improve administration.
Nault has said the legislation would be an interim step toward self-government, but some aboriginal groups complain they weren’t properly consulted.
They also argue the legislation would perpetuate a colonial approach to aboriginals and simply turn reservations into mini-municipalities.