Indigenous communities should have power to call in the military: chief

Defence review hears from indigenous leaders wanting ability to call in troops when territory, environment put at risk

WINNIPEG – Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is considering a request to give First Nations the power to directly call in the military when their treaty, environmental and other rights are threatened.

Ron Swain, vice-chief with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, told Sajjan during consultations with indigenous groups Wednesday that aboriginal communities deserve the same rights as provincial governments, which have the authority under the National Defence Act to call in the military to fight civil unrest and during other crises.

“We believe, in protecting our sovereign territory and our issues around environmental concerns, we should be able to trigger the same response and have our Armed Forces defending our treaties and our territories,” Swain said during a break in the closed-door meeting in Winnipeg that included about a dozen aboriginal leaders and academics.

The meeting, which focused on indigenous issues, was one of several discussions Sajjan is holding around the country as part of a broad review of Canada’s defence policies.

Swain, whose group represents First Nations and Metis who do not live on reserve, pointed to the Oka crisis of 1990, when the Quebec government called in the military to try to restore order after repeated clashes between police and Mohawk protesters.

He said indigenous communities should be able to call in the military to come to their defence in such cases, or in the event that development that could pose a risk to the environment is taking place without First Nations consent. Swain cited the current standoff involving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota over construction of an oil pipeline.

“Our people and our communities are very concerned about water and this whole issue about pipelines.”

Even municipalities appear to have an easier time getting military intervention, said Swain, who pointed to the 1999 snowstorm in Toronto that had then-mayor Mel Lastman pleading successfully for army aid.

A spokesman for Sajjan was noncommittal on the idea.

“We thank vice-chief Swain … for bringing this idea to our attention; it is certainly something we will consider as we move forward in the policy review process,” Jordan Owens, Sajjan’s press secretary, wrote in an email.

Earlier in the day, Sajjan said the meeting would look at a wide variety of topics – everything from the Canadian Rangers, a largely indigenous group of army reserves that helps patrol the North, to job opportunities for indigenous youth in the military.

“There are countless stories out there within the military that we do need to share, that we can inspire the younger generation to be able to look at, potentially, the military as a career, but also to look at it as an opportunity for learning and apply it to other careers as well,” Sajjan said.

Canada’s revamped defence policy is expected early next year and is expected to address everything from overseas military missions to cyber terrorism.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Could new LNG tax breaks resurrect a project on the North Coast?

Reactions to Premier Horgan and the B.C. government’s incentives for LNG Canada’s Kitimat project

Prince Rupert officer charged after pedestrian struck at crosswalk

A man suffered a broken leg and head lacerations after being struck by the police vehicle in 2017

Muddy water found in taps at Prince Rupert hospital prompts investigation

Northern Health to hire consultant to examine three facilities for potential contamination

Vandalism not the cause of two power outages in Prince Rupert

BC Hydro reported 2,932 customers briefly out of power on March 22

Tribesmen defeat Haida 77-61 in semi-final matchup at 2018 Junior All Native Basketball Tournament

Prince Rupert Tribesmen advance to finals to face Gitmidiik Storm

This Week Podcast — Episode 77

Members of Complete Streets for Prince Rupert speak on the show on how to improve pedestrian safety

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Are you going to turn off the lights for Earth Hour?

BC Hydro report says fewer people in the province are taking part, but feel it’s still important

Marijuana edibles won’t be regulated in 2018

Health Canada says edible regulation is still more than a year away

Fat joke on B.C. school’s sign not appropriate, woman says

Surrey mother says weight issues are no laughing matter

McMaster out, Bolton in as Trump’s national security adviser

President Donald is replacing National security adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton

Two killed, dozen hurt in French supermarket hostage-taking

French counterterrorism prosecutors are taking charge of the investigation into the shooting of a police officer in southern France

Canadian women move to No. 4 in FIFA world rankings

Canadian women match all-time high, move back to No. 4 in FIFA world rankings

Supreme Court rules former Stephen Harper aide guilty of influence peddling

A one-time senior aide to former prime minister Stephen Harper has been found guilty of influence peddling by Canada’s highest court.

Most Read