Innu Nation calls early election

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Grand chief claims there are tensions within the board

The Innu Nation has called an early election for its members in Natuashish and Sheshatshiu.

Grand Chief Prote Poker said they could have waited another year to finish their term. But he and the board of directors thought it best to clean the slate due to ongoing tensions and conflict.

“There’s problems, we have … in-fighting within the board. And there’s also requests from the communities that they want a general election,” said Poker.

The Innu of Labrador will get a chance to select their leaders on Aug. 15.

The decision to call an election came during an Innu Nation board meeting on July 12 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Poker would not go into detail about the problems surrounding the Innu Nation.

“There’s a lot of personal issues that came up and I don’t think they should be mentioned,” said Poker.

“There’s a lot of allegations and stuff like that. And we don’t want to go through another year with that. So we decided to hold an election and see what happens.”

But one of the controversies, concerning Deputy Grand Chief Jeremy Andrew, has already been aired publicly.

On July 3, Poker sent a memo to Innu Nation board members to inform them that Andrew was still the deputy grand chief, despite the fact that he verbally resigned during a June board meeting.

The memo was later obtained by The Labradorian.

According to Poker in the memo, only written resignations can be accepted.

“Our bylaw requires that a director (which includes the deputy grand chief) can only resign if he or she submits their resignation in writing,” he wrote. “The deputy grand chief has not done so. He is therefore still the deputy grand chief and is still on the payroll and is entitled to be paid accordingly.”

In an interview, Poker said Andrew must have had a change of heart about resigning, since he never did so via letter.

Poker also defended Andrew from allegations that he wasn’t showing up for work at the Innu Nation office. According to Poker, Andrew had no choice but to work from home because there was a threat of protests.

“He was working out of his house because there was people threatening to shut down the office if he comes to work …” said Poker.

“We don’t want to see destruction of the office if he goes there.”

The Labradorian made numerous attempts to contact Andrew, but he did not return calls by deadline.

During the Aug. 15 election, the two Innu communities will select a grand chief, deputy grand chief, and 12 other members to the board of directors — six from each community.

The position of grand chief was held in Natuashish, and the deputy grand chief position was in Sheshatshiu. Now, with the election, the communities will trade the positions.

Since Poker lives in Natuashish, he said he can’t be re-elected as grand chief. He is not yet sure if he will seek the deputy grand chief position.

Despite calling for an early election, Poker believes the Innu Nation board of directors did a good job during their shortened term.

“I think we did what we set out to do and I think it calls for a new administration to take over.”

Québec Court of Appeal upholds Cree, Inuit and Naskapi treaty rights

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English: Campsite on George River, Quebec Fran...

English: Campsite on George River, Quebec Français : Tente près de la rivière George, Québec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MONTREALAug. 11, 2014 /CNW/ – The Cree, Inuit and Naskapi scored an important victory on August 4, 2014, when the Québec Court of Appeal declared the provincial government had violated their treaty rights when it set caribou sport hunting levels and dates in Northern Québec for the 2011-2012 season.

If governments fail to respect the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA) with the Cree and the Inuit or the Northeastern Québec Agreement (NEQA) with the Naskapi – land claims agreements signed in 1975 and 1978 – their decisions will usually be struck down, the province’s highest court ruled.

“Such is the price to be paid for preserving the honour of the Crown in carrying out treaties and in the protected nature of treaty rights,” wrote Justice Pierre Dalphond for a unanimous court.

In March 2011, Québec’s Minister of Natural Resources announced he would change the sports hunting season for the Leaf River caribou herd and set the level for the George River herd in JBNQA territory without waiting for the advice of the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee, an advisory body created under the JBNQA with equal representation by the Native parties and the federal and provincial governments.

Caribou are a very important wildlife resource in the JBNQA territory and the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi all rely on it. Both the Leaf River and the George River herds are in decline and the Native parties wanted Québec to close or reduce the sports hunt.

The Court of Appeal held that the Minister’s decision to flout the process set out in the JBNQA stemmed from administrative priorities and a desire to accommodate the outfitters that serve the non-Native sports hunters.  But the Court held that, under the JBNQA treaty, the traditional way of life of the Aboriginal peoples takes clear precedence over sports hunting.

“Makivik is very pleased that the appeal court strongly reiterated the obligations of the federal and provincial governments in regards to hunting, fishing and trapping provisions,” said Makivik Corporation‘s Vice-President for Renewable Resources, Adamie Delisle Alaku. “Hunting caribou forms an integral part of traditional and current Inuit livelihood and must be protected.”

“The Cree Nation welcomes this clear affirmation by the Court of Appeal of the primacy of the treaty rights of the Cree, Inuit and Naskapis.  It shows that Government must respect its treaty promises.  It recognizes the priority of the Aboriginal peoples’ treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap over non-Native sports hunting and to co-manage the wildlife resources in Northern Québec.  This judgment charts a clear course for the respect of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement in the years to come”, states the Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Dr. Matthew Coon Come.

“The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach welcomes the Court of Appeal’s judgment as the unequivocal recognition of the constitutional nature of the rights of the Naskapi under the Northeastern Québec Agreement. The George and Leaf River caribou herds are of paramount importance to our culture and traditions and we will always strive to ensure their protection”, says Noah Swappie, Chief of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach.

Judgment:

Corporation Makivik c. Québec (Procureure générale), 2014 QCCA 1455, http://canlii.ca/t/g8gdt

BACKGROUNDER: QUÉBEC COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENT IN CORPORATION MAKIVIK C. QUÉBEC (PROCUREURE GÉNÉRALE)

About Makivik Corporation:

Makivik Corporation is a nonprofit corporation created pursuant to the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (1975) and mandated to represent the social, political and economic interests and well-being of Nunavik Inuit. Makivik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty and education of Inuit in Nunavik communities. Makivik is a signatory of the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2008).

About the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee):

The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) represents the approximately 19,000 Crees of eastern James Bayand southern Hudson Bay in Northern Quebec. The Grand Council has twenty members: a Grand Chief and Deputy-Grand Chief elected at large by the Eeyouch, the chiefs elected by each of the nine Cree communities, and one other representative from each community.

About the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach:

The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach’s traditional territory spans across part of Northern Québec and Western Labrador. The Naskapi Nation has a population of approximately 1,056 registered members, most of whom live permanently in the community of Kawawachikmach, located 14 km northeast of the Town of Schefferville on the Québec-Labrador border. The Naskapi Nation is a signatory of the Northeastern Québec Agreement (1978).

On August 4, 2014, the Court of Appeal of Québec issued an important judgement upholding the priority of the treaty rights of the Cree, Inuit and Naskapis of Québec under Section 24 of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA).

The Court of Appeal strongly endorsed the primacy of the treaty rights of the Cree, Inuit and Naskapis under the JBNQA as protected by the Constitution Act, 1982.  Laws or acts of the Crown that violate these treaty rights are generally without effect.  The judgement recognizes the priority of Aboriginal harvesting rights under the JBNQA over sports hunting.  It holds that consultation by the Crown must be meaningful, carried out in good faith and with an open mind.  Failure by the Crown to meet these obligations is a breach of its constitutional obligations and the honour of the Crown and gives rise to reparation for the Aboriginal parties affected.

The Court of Appeal granted the appeal of Makivik Corporation, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)/Cree Nation Government, and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach in the case of Makivik et al v. Québec regarding the violation by Québec of the consultation process set out in Section 24 of the JBNQA in its decisions regarding the 2011-2012 sports hunt of the Leaf River and George River caribou herds.

Given a dramatic decline in the population of the Leaf River and George River caribou herds, the Hunting Fishing Trapping Coordinating Committee, a body comprising representatives of the Cree, Inuit, Naskapi, Québec andCanada established by Section 24 of the JBNQA, recommended certain restrictions on the sport hunt for the 2011-2012 season.

The Québec Minister responsible for wildlife disregarded the recommendations of the Committee.  Without consulting the Committee, as provided for in Section 24, the Minister unilaterally changed the start date for the sports hunt for the Leaf River herd recommended by the Committee and allowed the sports hunt of the George River herd, contrary to the total prohibition recommended by the Committee.  The Native Parties took legal proceedings to challenge these acts by the Minister.

At trial, the Superior Court of Québec found that the Minister had failed to comply with the consultation requirements of Section 24 of the JBNQA.  However, it held that this non‑compliance was merely a procedural irregularity and so declined to declare that the Minister had breached his obligations under the JBNQA.

The Court of Appeal set aside the decision of the Superior Court and found that the Minister had breached his constitutional obligations and the honour of the Crown by violating the rights of the Aboriginal parties to be consulted under Section 24 of the JBNQA.

In reasons for judgement written by Mr. Justice Dalphond, the Court of Appeal held that the JBNQA, as a land claim agreement and treaty, creates rights for the Aboriginal peoples that are protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.  Any law violating these treaty rights will generally be without effect, unless justified by government.

The Crown’s obligation to consult regarding Aboriginal rights is not merely procedural; it demands, as well, the openness of mind necessary to make it meaningful.  This also applies to any consultation prescribed by a treaty in a manner respectful of the honour of the Crown codified by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.  Non-compliance by the Minister with the consultation process set out in Section 24 on the basis that it would not be useful or would not change the final result therefore violated his constitutional obligations.

This was not a purely procedural defect, but a breach of the honour of the Crown by failing to consult with an open mind in implementing a treaty that provides for a mechanism to reconcile the interests of the Aboriginal peoples.  The Minister was bound to consult in good faith before exercising his regulatory power, and to be receptive to the opinions and recommendations of the Coordinating Committee.

Québec did not demonstrate that these violations were justified within the meaning of the Sparrow judgement of the Supreme Court.  Treaty rights may not be violated lightly; the proof of justification must be clear and convincing.

This is particularly true when, as in the case of the George River herd, the way of life of the Aboriginal peoples is in opposition to the financial interests of outfitters offering a recreational activity to non-Natives.  The Court of Appeal stated that these interests do not have to be reconciled, as the way of life of the Aboriginal peoples clearly takes precedence over recreational hunting, as provided for in the Agreement.

The Minister’s position that there was a need for urgent conservation measures was therefore contrary to the priority recognized for the Aboriginal peoples by the JBNQA (and the Aboriginal rights in the absence of such a treaty, as held in Tsilhqot’in Nation).  To try to reconcile the conservation of a herd necessary for the survival of Aboriginal peoples and the interests of outfitters was an operation forbidden by the Agreement and contrary to its spirit.

The Court of Appeal reserved the rights of the Native Parties to claim compensation for any harm suffered by the breaches.

 

Quebec Innu upset with IOC’s deal with Labrador Innu

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Chief Real McKenzie

Chief Real McKenzie

The Telegram reported that First Nations groups have claim to territory where the company is conducting mining operations.

Two Innu First Nations groups in Quebec are claiming rights over lands in Labrador where the Iron Ore Company of Canada has already concluded an agreement with Labrador’s Innu Nation.

The Uashat mak Mani utenam and Matimekush Lac John Innu First Nations in Quebec are objecting to IOC’s claims that the company has settled aboriginal issues regarding IOC’s projects on an area they said is their traditional territory. The groups are calling on the IOC to come to an agreement with them as well.

The request comes shortly after IOC signed an agreement with the Labrador Innu Nation, which the groups consider, a curious development considering the fact their groups have rights to the area.

Mr Real Mckenzie chief of Matimekush Lac John said that “We have never ceded nor otherwise lost our rights to our traditional territory, our Nitassinan, which territory we have possessed, occupied and administered since time immemorial. Governments and the mining industry allow other aboriginal groups with no legitimate claim to our territory to encroach on our lands at our expense. We can no longer tolerate such an attitude which aims to capture our resources and the benefits which derive from them.”

Mr McKenzie said that the Innu’s frustration has never been higher and he was disappointed to hear that after four years of talks with the company, it opted to sign an agreement with groups that it says are not the main parties. It is going to take much more than that agreement if IOC intends to turn the page and move forward. After over 70 years of IOC violating our rights, we cannot take it anymore.”

Aboriginal rights of the Innu in Labrador: the real Aboriginal title rights-holders call on IOC to sign an agreement

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Flag of Matimekosh

Flag of Matimekosh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, Nitassinan, Aug. 1, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - The Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John Innu First Nations call on the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) to come to an agreement with them with respect to all of IOC’s projects on their traditional territory, whether they be located in Québec or in Labrador. The Innu First Nations make this call in reaction to the agreement just concluded between IOC and the « Innu Nation » of Labrador, a curious development given the fact that IOC’s mining projects are located on the traditional territory of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John in an area which they claim Aboriginal rights and title on and to. IOC cannot claim, therefore, to have settled the issue of the Aboriginal rights claimed by the Innu in regard to such area.

“We have never ceded nor otherwise lost our rights to our traditional territory, our Nitassinan, which territory we have possessed, occupied and administered since time immemorial. Governments and the mining industry allow other Aboriginal groups with no legitimate claim to our territory to encroach on our lands at our expense. We can no longer tolerate such an attitude which aims to capture our resources and the benefits which derive from them,” declared the Chief of Matimekush-Lac John Réal Mckenzie.

The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John have invoked their Aboriginal title with respect to IOC’s project sites in their legal proceedings filed against IOC on March 18, 2013 at the Québec Superior Court in Montreal, in the same manner which the Tsilhqot’in First Nation succeeded in doing with respect to forestry operations in their historic victory at the Supreme Court on June 26, 2014. The legal proceedings aim to put a stop to IOC’s projects in Québec and Labrador and seek damages estimated at $900 million for all the harm caused by IOC.

The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John have demonstrated a real openness to finding an honourable solution to their conflict with IOC, which conflict dates back to IOC’s arrival on their territory, without their consent, back in the 1940s.  The frustration of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John has never been higher, however, given that talks with IOC first started almost 4 years ago and that they have now learned that IOC signed an agreement first with groups that are far from the main interested parties.

“It was with deep regret and a large dose of frustration that we received the news of the signing of an agreement in the heart of our territory. It is going to take much more than that agreement if IOC intends to turn the page and move forward. After over 70 years of IOC violating our rights, we cannot take it anymore. With the arrival of IOC’s new president, the company has now one final chance to correct the errors of the past and to finally build a solid and respectful relationship with the Innu,” added the Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam Mike McKenzie.

The two First Nations intend to meet with all interested parties and are not ruling out further legal recourses to protect their rights.

Nearly 900 grams of marijuana seized in Natuashish

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Nearly 900 grams of marijuana seized in Natuashish

The Natuashish RCMP seized 894 grams of Marijuana and $22,000 in cash, on June 21, after a search warrant was executed on a local residence.

In connection with the seizure, a 65-year-old male was arrested for possession of a drug for the purpose of trafficking. The man was released and has promised to appear in Provincial Court in December.

In a news release, the RCMP called the seizure “a significant hit to the illegal drug trade in this small isolated community.”

Former chief’s property robbed, vandalized

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Simeon Tshakapesh of Natuashish claims community needs more order

Former Mushuau Innu Band Council chief Simeon Tshakapesh returned to Natuashish earlier this month and made a shocking discovery when he inspected his property.

Simeon Tshakapesh claims that his shed used to be full of his possessions, including a komatik and a woodstove, but now it’s all been stolen.

Tshakapesh lived in Natuashish much of his life, but moved to Sheshatshiu in November 2013, after he decided not to rerun for chief in the upcoming election.

Even though Tshakapesh moved to Sheshatshiu, he still owns his former Natuashish residence. Upon inspecting it during his trip in July, Tshakapesh found that his property had been vandalized and items stolen from his shed.

“My God, I was shocked … everything was stolen and all my lumber was stolen. My homemade stove, cost over $400, was stolen,” said Tshakapesh.

“You name it, it’s all gone, and I’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff.”

Tshakapesh also claims that his komatik, jerry cans, ropes and hunting supplies were taken as well.

He noticed that his fence had been torn down and damage was done to the doors and windows of his house.

Tshakapesh said his sister was living in the house between December and March, so he figures much of the vandalism and theft happened after she moved out.

When asked why he left his possessions behind when he moved to Sheshatshiu, Tshakapesh said he had secured his house and shed strongly before leaving. He was under the false impression that everything was safe.

“Everything was all secured … somehow they got into my house and somehow they got into my shed,” said Tshakapesh.

Even when he was chief, Tshakapesh was worried about his property. He claims to have moved to Sheshatshiu for his and his family’s safety.

“When I was chief, there was a lot of vandalism happened to my place. Even my truck was shot at. My windshields were damaged (repeatedly) … I couldn’t keep up with the windshields,” said Tshakapesh.

“There were a lot of fires started behind our house.”

Based on his personal experience and stories that he has heard from others in the community, Tshakapesh believes the situation with theft and vandalism is out of control.

“There’s no order there anymore; that’s what people are telling me, …” he said.

Sgt. Cal Barter of the Natuashish RCMP detachment said he couldn’t comment of the alleged theft and vandalism of Tshakapesh’s property because it’s an active file.

When asked about the issue of vandalism and break and enters in Natuashish, Barter said the problem there is no worse then any other community.

“It’s no different than any other place I’ve been in,” said Barter.

“Yes, there is vandalism in this community, there are break-and-enters in this community, but I’ve been a police officer for 21 years and there’s been break and enters and vandalism in every community that I’ve policed.”

Sheshatshiu Innu School closed following Facebook post

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A public posting on the Sheshatshiu flea market Facebook page earlier today (June 9) prompted police and school officials to close the Sheshatshiu Innu School this afternoon as a precaution.

Police say a man believed to be from Natuashish posted the following on the flea market page: “U guys are coming (to) hell with me ,,everyone of youse.”

The Labradorian has decided not to publish the man’s name, but his profile photo shows a man holding a lever action rifle, wearing sunglasses and a stocking cap.

The rifle appears to be a poor condition.

Cpl. Rick Mills said the RCMP do not consider the posting a direct threat towards the school, or anyone in Sheshatshiu, and no charges are expected

Mills described the message as “very generic.”

The decision to close the school was precautionary, and fears were likely heightened by recent gun violence in the country, including a shooting last week in Moncton, N.B., that left three RCMP officers dead.

The Labradorian has ben unable to contact anyone from school, and efforts to contact the person named in the Facebook profile have been unsuccessful.

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