Canada signs self-government agreement with Anishinabek Nation

This is a first of its kind for First Nations within Ontario.

Earlier this week, the Government of Canada announced that they has signed a self-government agreement with the Anishinabek Nation.

The Anishinabek Nation, also known as the Anishinaabe, represents about 65,000 people from 39 First Nations—including Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississaugas, Nipissing, and Algonquin peoples—throughout what is now called Ontario.

A result of over 20 years of negotiations, the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement is the first self-government agreement of its kind in so-called Ontario.

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The agreement recognizes that the Anishinabek control governance and the law-making powers of signatory First Nations in key areas. Once the agreement is in effect, the parts of the Indian Act related to governance will no longer apply to the First Nations who signed the agreement.

These First Nations will decide how to hold their elections, who their citizens are, how their governments will operate, how to enforces their new laws, and how best to protect and promote Anishinaabe language and culture.

For example, signatory First Nations could write citizenship laws that reflect the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with being a member of that First Nation. Or they could integrate ceremonies into community and council meetings or move toward a clan-base governance system.

According to the agreement, any conflict that arises between federal settler law and a First Nation law regarding governance will give preference to the First Nation law. However preference will go to federal law on issues of peace, order and good government, criminal matters, protection of health and safety of Canadians, and the protection of human rights and matters of national importance.

Negotiations for self-government began in 1995. About 12 years later, the parties developed Agreement-in-Principle, and negotiations concluded in 2019.

The now approved self-government agreement had been brought to the affected communities, which has a chance to vote on the agreement.

Before the agreement can take effect, the federal government will need to pass legislation. As well, the federal government will allocate additional funding—up to 7 times as much—to assist the First Nations as they create their own law and develop and run their own governance system. And any money not used for governance can be reallocated by the First Nation for other purpose and wouldn’t need to be returned to the federal government.

In 2018, the federal government had signed a self-government agreement on education with the Anishinabek Nation that affected 23 First Nations.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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