APTN National News
OTTAWA– An organization representing Ontario First Nations chiefs has written all MPs and Senators asking them to no longer consider Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau as a “legitimate representative” of First Nations.
The Feb. 8 Chiefs of Ontario letter signed by nine chiefs representing tribal councils and band councils stated that identifying Brazeau as a representative of “the Indigenous Peoples in Ontario” violated the human rights of First Nations in Ontario.
“Senator Brazeau was never elected to lead or to represent a First Nation in Canada. He has no authority to speak to our issues. Such authority can only come from our people,” the letter stated.”We are therefore deeply concerned with the misperception that Senator Brazeau has any authority, or right, to speak to our issues.”
The letter also stated that while the Conservatives had appointed Brazeau to the Senate, the government had no ability to grant him the authority to speak for First Nations people.
“We have never given up our right to govern ourselves nor to determine our own citizenship … and while it is the current Conservative government’s prerogative to appoint anyone they wish…we simply ask that these choices do not effectively violate our rights,” the letter stated.
Under international law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently endorsed by Canada, Indigenous peoples have a right to maintain their own “distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions…and our right to choose our own representatives,” the letter stated.
Brazeau dismissed the letter as “petty politics” and said it stemmed from a testy exchange with Ontario First Nations leaders during their appearance before a Senate committee studying a bill on safe drinking water.
Brazeau said it appeared to be another example of First Nations chiefs trying to stamp out their critics.
“If they are trying to do that with certain Parliamentarians, just imagine what they are trying to do to grassroots people across the country,” said Brazeau, who is Algonquin. “As a First Nations person, I am ashamed of these types of letters.”
Brazeau has questioned the necessity of government funded First Nations organization and has fashioned himself as a defender of “grassroots” people against the First Nations political class.
The letter was signed by Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Angus Toulouse, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians Grand Chief Randall Phillips, Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaakwe Diane Kelly, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy, Independent First Nations Chief Joseph Gilbert, Mushkegowuk Tribal Council Grand Chief Stan Louttit and Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee.