Self-government is a right the aboriginal people of Canada never surrendered and that they want to exercise again. I believe it's time for the establishment of an aboriginal parliament. The points below are some of the ways in which I think the parliament would benefit the aboriginal people and how it might function.
An aboriginal parliament would respect this group's inherent right to self-government and self-determination.
An aboriginal parliament would have all the existing powers of a province and would set national standards for the settlement of treaties, claims, and historical wrongs, such as the residential school policy.
An aboriginal parliament would negotiate with the federal government on a nation-to-nation basis as promised in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and would be recognized as a nation in the same way that the French-speaking people of Quebec are recognized.
An aboriginal parliament could elect one male and one female member from each aboriginal electoral district, which would guarantee gender equity in decision-making.
The federal government could provide reserved seats for the aboriginal people in the Senate, Supreme Court, and the House of Commons, in the same way that Quebec is treated.
The federal government could guarantee transfer payments to the aboriginal parliament equivalent to per capita federal expenditures for all Canadians on average.
The aboriginal parliament would have the right to tax its own people and develop national departments to provide services. The relationship of service delivery with non-aboriginal people could be negotiated in partnership agreements with other levels of government.
The aboriginal parliament could scrap the powers and jurisdiction of the Indian Act, which is outdated and has hindered the economic and social well-being of First Nations peoples living on reserves.
Most importantly, any piece of legislation from any level of government that affects aboriginal people as major stakeholders would have to be approved by a majority vote of the aboriginal parliament. Band councils would have the power of cities and be directly accountable to a minister of local government in the aboriginal parliament.
I realize this is more of a western form of governance but it is proven to work. The aboriginal people may need to amend this governance model to suit their cultural, political, and social traditions.
The aboriginal peoples of Canada want to revitalize their cultures and strengthen their communities. But their shared history of colonization and oppressive government policy has left them struggling to deal with basic issues of education, health and poverty.
Aboriginal self-determination is one step toward ensuring that they can enjoy a standard of living comparable to that of other Canadians.
What do you think would be the benefits of an aboriginal parliament? What are some of the obstacles?
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