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

22nd year of smoke and noise

Bulkley Valley Drag Racing Assoc categories: Super Pro, Pro, Bike Sled, Diesel, and Junior Dragster.

BV medals at BCs

Two Smithers Secondary School 2018 graduates medaled at the B.C. Athletis Championship in Coquitlam.

One wheeled skateboard ready for camps

Next Smithers skateboard camp is Aug. 7-9.

Lake Babine Nation councillor resigns before being sworn in

Paul Joseph steps down before being sworn in

Kevin Kriese becomes chair of the Forest Practices Board

Smithers’ Kriese’s three-year appointment beings August 7.

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

Most Read