TORONTO – Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy says the recently passed controversial anti-terrorism bill violates the rights and freedoms that were upheld by the introduction of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51, passed third reading today in the House of Commons by a margin of 183 to 96. In March, Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Harper expressing deep concern regarding Bill C-51 and the very serious implications on the fundamental civil and political rights of First Nations.
“The capacity of First Nations to assert our rights through political and civil action has the potential to be limited by this legislation,” said Ontario Regional Chief Beardy. “First Nations in Ontario will continue to exercise our fundamental rights and freedoms as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and carry out our responsibilities as Indigenous peoples to the land and waters.”
“Unfortunately, we have learned that in the face of peaceful political action, heightened scrutiny of free speech can violate First Nations rights and lead to a breakdown in the relationship between First Nations citizens and Canada’s government,” added Regional Chief Beardy.
There are many such examples including the circumstances leading to the killing by police of Dudley George in 1995. The subsequent recommendations of Justice Linden in the Ipperwash Inquiry were a watermark in recognizing the need to discuss with First Nations how individual rights and collective rights issues intersect in ways that require a careful approach to law enforcement.
Chiefs of Ontario maintain that there must be ongoing dialogue and collaboration with First Nations leadership to work towards strengthening respectful and transparent relationships.