Much has been made of a recent move by a Cree community in Quebec to “ban” traditional First Nation spiritual practices.
Ouje-Bougoumou is an overwhelmingly Christian First Nation community located over 700 kilometres north of Montreal. The problems began when a local family built a sweat lodge in their backyard. The band council passed a band council resolution banning all forms of First Nation spirituality, calling them shamanism.
The resolution, which was passed at a general assembly, read: “The majority of the Ouje-Bougoumou members are Christian faith-oriented and have strong Christian values.”
First, some points. This is not just a Christian thing as many indigenous activists also do not like Christianity in their communities.
The point is this is what can happen in any community if a majority is hostile to a minority. The identity of the group doing it is irrelevant.
For First Nations, as they design governance, need to ensure that minority rights are respected. Governance is not just about democracy or the ‘will of the people,’ it is also liberal or individual freedoms to stand against the majority will.
First Nation communities need strong constitutions or band laws that protect minorities.
Just as women’s fundamental rights need to respected by all societies, including indigenous ones, so must individual freedoms be respected.
In our Aboriginal Governance Index, we measure human rights, which includes the right of freedom of expression and the right to dissent. It is the hope that all First Nations ensure that all aspects of human rights are front and centre.