An Elder Speaks: “It’s Like a Province With No Accountability”

Audio, Aboriginal Futures, Frontier Centre

“In the instance of Indian Affairs, the whole system is against changes because it is protecting its own interests, and it needs to keep Indians as their dependants see, because the day that the Indians are independent, there’s really no purpose for a whole number of those programs that are in Indian Affairs. For most of the product of Indian Affairs … The Indian Affairs department is essentially different from all other departments in Ottawa; all other departments understand, deliver a single service as a rule, with Defense, Justice, or whatever, to all Canadians. But Indian Affairs, in the words of its own Minister, is a different department. It’s like a province, it delivers all services, pretty well all services to a limited group of people, on a limited area of land. The problem is that there is no accountability at all; there’s no way for these people to control Indian Affairs. They are Gerry-mandered out of existence because the reserves are spread around all the constituencies in the country, by and large, except for one or two, and so Indians are left powerless in terms of political power. But the system takes over that power for its own use, and the chiefs and councils, and the councillors acting through the AFN are the ones who claim that they represent Indians.  The problem is that the AFN only represents chiefs and their interests. Unfortunately, they’re part of the system, they’re not part of ordinary Indian population.”

– Jean Allard

Jean Allard was an honorary member of MAWG (Modernized Annuity Reference Group), a founding co-chair of the Treaty Annuity Working Group, and author of Big Bear’s Treaty: The road to freedom. A significant excerpt of the original manuscript was published in the policy journal Inroads in 2002. Jean had a fiery, short-lived political career representing the vast northern riding of Rupertsland in the government of NDP premier Ed Schreyer after being elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 1969. He quit the NDP to sit as an Independent after clashing with the party over Indigenous policy. In 1994, Jean hit upon the idea of modernizing annuities while chained to the statue of Louis Riel to protest its removal from the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature. Jean has a long and deep history in Manitoba’s Métis community. He is a direct descendant of Jean Baptiste Lagimodière and Marie-Anne Gaboury (as is Louis Riel). He served 26 years as president of the Union Nationale Métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba, the oldest Métis organization in Canada.

Elders are very important members of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities.  The term Elder refers to someone who has attained a high degree of understanding of First Nation, Métis, or Inuit history, traditional teachings, ceremonies, and healing practices.  Elders have earned the right to pass this knowledge on to others and to give advice and guidance on personal issues, as well as on issues affecting their communities and nations.  First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples value their Elders and all older people, and address them with the utmost respect.