Letter: AOK is in no position to agree to a governance agreement

There can be no peace and harmony if there is no justice

To the Expositor:

In an article published in the 2019 fall edition of the Anishinabek News, it explained that on August 23, 2019 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Union of Ontario Indians leadership finalized the proposed Anishinabek Nation governance agreement with representatives from the Government of Canada and a proposed vote scheduled for February 1-29, 2020. Why so long for a vote? The intent of the agreement was to deal with certain components outlined in the Indian Act, such as fiscal accountability, government operations and elections of chief and councils as part of the agreement.

The legal requirements to vote on the “governance agreement” requires that each First Nation must have a written “constitution” in place prior to entering or signing the proposed governance agreement and is considered compulsory within the procedures outlined by the Union of Ontario Indians as identified on their website. 

So, what is a constitution? What is governance? Is it something conjured up on a whim? In Canada, a constitution is not just any ordinary document, a constitution is considered to be the supreme law of the land, it sets how its citizens will be governed under an established legal framework in a democratic state. Governance by its very nature is the foundation of those established principles of democracy within that state. 

At the November 4, 2019 Aundeck Omni Kaning band council meeting, a brief presentation was made concerning the proposed vote scheduled for February 1-29, 2020, the selection of ratification officers, etc. Because no constitution exists or was ever in place for the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, citizens on and off the reserve cannot vote and should not have voted in 2016. So, when I questioned the vote, I had suggested that we opt out of the agreement and process altogether. But to no avail.

With Christmas just around the corner and only a month-and-a-half before the scheduled vote, the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation is in no position to agree to such terms on a governance agreement or even consider enacting a constitution without proper consultation and because it is an election year, such actions would be premature, undetermined and could have unintended consequences for future chiefs and councils and its citizens. Such actions would also violate the Band’s ‘Referendum Policy’ on voting requirements and violate its established ‘Election Law.’

Have we become complacent in such undertakings? The leadership must in the best interest of the community hold community meeting(s) to be given a chance to sit down and talk about this endeavour without any outside influence and be given justice to it. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), upon its release of the RCAP report, stated: “There can be no Peace and Harmony if there is no Justice.” So, with that, I’ll wait for something better to come along and hope that chief and council will have heard my plea for the benefit of its citizens. 

Chi-Miigwetch,

Donald J. McGraw

M’K’waa Dodem (Bear Clan)

Aundegomniikaaning First Nation