Conservative MP optimistic after Harper’s talk with native leaders

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Matt Gardner
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The Conservative MP for Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill expressed hope on Friday that the prime minister’s meeting with Aboriginal leaders will lead to a new partnership between First Nations and the government.

Conservative MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill Rob Clarke is optimistic that the Harper government can work with First Nations leaders to improve living standards and economic opportunities for Aboriginal Canadians.

Having spent the day working with native and non-native constituents in his riding, MP Rob Clarke expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the day’s high-profile meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders in Ottawa.

“I think it was very productive,” Clarke said. “What you’ve seen is the government working with willing First Nations chiefs from across Canada to really look at improving living standards and economic opportunities for First Nations and our commitment to address those needs.”

His reference to “willing” chiefs was not accidental. Clarke used the term to differentiate native leaders who met with Harper from Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who boycotted the meeting due to the absence of Gov.-Gen. David Johnston.

“We’re working with willing First Nations partners, and it’s her choice not to participate,” Clarke said. “We’re concerned and hopefully she takes care and monitors her health, and hopefully she’ll see the need to participate -- not only for herself, but for her community as well.”

Following Friday’s meeting, the government has pledged to hold another summit with First Nations leadership in a few weeks.

Clarke praised Harper for his willingness to reach out to native leaders.

“What you’ve seen is the prime minister’s involvement right from the very onset of the meetings that took place today -- where he made the commitment to meet with them for an hour and he ended up staying for the entire day listening to the concerns from the First Nations leaders -- and addressing our commitment from our government to start a special committee from the cabinet to sit down with the First Nations leaders in two to three weeks’ time to address a further dialogue to look at a direction that we can continue … to address some of the issues,” Clarke said.

One of 11 sitting MPs of First Nations origin, Clarke previously introduced Bill C-428, the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, last June. The private member’s bill is currently headed to committee.

Organizers of the Idle No More movement have since come out against Bill C-428 out of fear that reform of the Indian Act will mean an end to special status for First Nations.

What you’ve seen is the government working with willing First Nations chiefs from across Canada to really look at improving living standards and economic opportunities for First Nations and our commitment to address those needs. MP Rob Clarke

“I’m not going to get consensus on everyone,” Clarke said of the controversy. “What I’m trying to do is start a process to look at the Indian Act and to look at ways of trying to improve economic opportunities for First Nations, but most of all allow First Nations leaders to form their own bylaws on First Nations reserves.

“It’s a very simple bill, but the one thing that I’m trying to do is start a dialogue on a year-by-year basis to address changes to the Indian Act in consultation with First Nations and go from there.”

The current focus of Idle No More supporters, however, is Bill C-45. Clarke argued that there was a great deal of misinformation about the bill floating around in the public discourse.

As an example, he pointed to the bill’s changes to land designation.

“It’s an opportunity for First Nations to lease their land,” Clarke said. “It doesn’t give them permission to sell their land, and I think that has to be addressed and that’s the intent.

“This was brought forward by First Nations leaders … I’ve seen this take place in British Columbia, where communities have benefitted just from leasing First Nations land, and it provides a leverage system in place for First Nations to participate in the economics of … Canadian business.”

Regarding changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that reduced the number of protected lakes and rivers in Canada from 2.5 million to 82 and drew sharp criticism from environmentalists, Clarke said the government’s intention was simply to eliminate bureaucratic red tape where shipping lanes for bridges are concerned.

“Ninety-five per cent of all the permits that are issued or requested don’t need the authority (and) can be approved without the bureaucracy,” Clarke said.

“We’re very cognisant of the environment,” he added.

Organizations: First Nations

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, British Columbia

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  • Edos
    January 13, 2013 - 12:12

    Out of the mouths of babes: "but most of all allow First Nations leaders to form their own bylaws on First Nations reserves." Municipalities pass by-laws, not Nations. You have said exactly what everyone has been screaming about. ASS-IMILATION. Even though it was the pre-PCs that introduced the concept of MP recalls, I doubt Clarke would respect a recall by his constituents native or otherwise. I might even suggest that if this were to be done they could demand that he cross the floor but really no other party would take him considering that he supports the assimilation of First Nations people. He quite simply must go. His riding association should fire him. Lastly, the Elders in Desnethe Missinippi Churchill River should be directing him to shut the hell up and to stop working to destroy the Cree and Dene Nations. Jesh.

  • Teron Roberts
    January 12, 2013 - 18:28

    “I’m not going to get consensus on everyone,” No, you will NOT get consensus when imposed legislation is forced unto people. I recently read "when injustice becomes law, protest becomes duty. Your private members Bill C-428 was not discussed with First Nations leaders and/or people before it was introduced to parliment. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), in a news release dated Feb. 1, 2012, expressed concern about the proposed legislation, saying they were “disheartened that a Saskatchewan Member of Parliament is unilaterally attempting to repeal the Indian Act without consulting First Nations. The FSIN has not received any formal correspondence from Desnethe Missinippi Churchill River MP Rob Clarke regarding his plans to introduce a Private Members Bill to repeal the Indian Act. Many Chiefs have denounced your private members bill and have asked you to repeal it and consult with them. But so far you have a survey asking questions about it as if it can be rewritten but it now goes before a committee. Who makes up this committee? So for you to say you are satisfied with yesterdays meeting is something anyperson would express when you part of the same mind group. A colonial mindset sees the land as if it were a commodity to be sold or leased to make money. My people in the North see it very differently. How can you sell/lease land that was given to us by the Father of all things? I stand firmly with my brothers and sisters in opposition.

    • creemancan
      January 13, 2013 - 13:52

      This MP is a coward, he comes out of hiding or is it Harpers Gag order? Anyway, this MP that was stumped by Grand Chief Ron Michel when he asked Rob Clarke what his plans were in addressing issues around the NRTA of 1930, his reply was "I am not familiar with that legislation I will have to read up on it" something along those lines but clearly his knowledge base is very limited on First Nations issues and history. We the voting, public, know for a fact that Rob Clarke wasn't elected based on his ittellegence but was elected based on the name of the Party he was running for. First Nations people are not properly consulted because federal and Provincial governments (illegal governments) failed to legislate the Duty to consult and accomodate Supreme court ruling. However, that's not the real fight, the real fights is getting our land back and becoming the rulers within our respective lands as Nations, I have yet to see a document that has us giving up our ancestral lands. I don't know why we insist in having our treaties honored when they have turned us into prisoners and slaves on our own lands, I say kill the treaties and allow our sovereignty take its rightful place, everything has to be reverted back to us....hiy, hiy