Just the other day, my online friend @deejayNDN tweeted: People who say “I didn’t sign the treaties so I don’t recognize them” need to remember they didn’t sign the Constitution either.
The point of his comment was that just because people alive today weren’t present for the signing of the treaties, that doesn’t negate the obligations or commitments of those signed treaties.
The United Nations defines a treaty as a binding instrument where that the contracting parties intend, or intended, to create legal rights and duties, between two or more political authorities (as states or sovereigns) and normally signed by representatives duly authorized and ratified by the lawmaking authority of the signatory states or sovereigns.
What does all that mean as it pertains to the Canadian situation?
Back in the day, when the treaties between First Nations people and the Government of Canada were being signed, the treaties stated that they would provide annuities (among other things) in exchange for use of Aboriginal land.
And what, exactly, does that mean in this case?
The First Nations people made an investment in Canada with the signing of each treaty that entitled the investor (that would be the First Nations people) to a series of continuing payment annual sums for as long as the investment continues.
Now that the basics have been explained, let’s take a look at what some of those benefits are for First Nations people that are paid for by the continuing payment annual sums due First Nations people.
To provide clarity to readers as to what the function of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is, the AANDC website states:
AANDC is one of the federal government departments responsible for meeting the Government of Canada’s obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis and for fulfilling the federal government’s constitutional responsibilities in the North. Many of these responsibilities are defined by the more than 50 laws and regulations that AANDC administers. The Department’s programs, services, policies and legislative initiatives help fulfill its responsibilities.
The function of the AANDC is clearly defined in that statement. It is supposed to meet the Government of Canada’s obligations and commitments to First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Obligations (courses of action to which the government is morally and legally bound) and commitments (the state and quality of being dedicated to obligations) to First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
So what constitutes First Nations money according to the AANDC? Again, their website provides an explanation in which the following is stated:
Indian Moneys means all moneys collected, received or held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of Indians and/or bands. There are two types of Indian moneys: capital and revenue.
Capital moneys are Indian moneys derived from the sale of surrendered lands (from an interest in land), or from the sale of the non-renewable resources of a band. These moneys include oil and gas royalties, bonus payments and other proceeds from the sale of timber, oil and gas or gravel.
Revenue moneys are all Indian moneys other than capital moneys. Revenue moneys may include, but are not limited to, proceeds from: the sale of renewable resources, rights-of-way, fines and interest earned on capital, and revenue moneys held in the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
Rights-Of-Way? What are those?
A right-of-way is the legal right of someone to pass over another’s land wherein the party whose land is being crossed is compensated for the permission granted. In Canada’s case, First Nations people gave the government of Canada permission for its people to pass over land identified as First Nations land.
Now that everyone’s on the same page with regards to what, in a nutshell, those treaties are all about and what the government of Canada understands them to mean, tomorrow’s blog article is on how some of those continuing payment annual sums are spent for the benefit of First Nations people.
INTERESTING HISTORICAL FACT OF THE DAY: Following the 1876 Indian Act, Aboriginals who lived on reserves were forced to carry an identity card, like a passport, every time they stepped off reserve land.