Student Solidarity, CFS, and the June 29th Day of Action on Aboriginal Treaties

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Written by Cailey Campbell and Evan Dalzell

On May 27th 2007 the Canadian Federation of Students unanimously voted to encourage all member schools to participate in the National Day of Action on Aboriginal treaties in Canada.

In one of the most powerful moments of the week-long conference,students stood-up in the room as a message of solidarity with the Aboriginal representatives and in support of an emergency motion committing the Canadian Federation of Students to participate and give support in the day of action.

Little more than a week after National Aboriginal Day on June 21st, the June 29th Day of Action has been endorsed by the Assembly of First Nations to bring attention to the devastating effects of the Canadian government's longstanding neglect of disputed lands, monies, and assets of Aboriginal communities. Currently, officially recognized outstanding land claims are at a backlog of more than 800 in Canada, and are creating situations of high tension as aboriginal communities are strung along for decades on waiting lists to even have their claim heard, let alone engage in government negotiations.

With a bill on the table proposing $250 million in new spending over 10 years and plans for a new tribunal to address the tremendous backlog of outstanding land claims, its valuable to raise questions about in what forms this money will be spent and whether this new funding will empower impoverished indigenous communities to have access to the tribunal. Indeed, any aboriginal community undertaking the daunting task of a land claims process is often forced to take on years and sometimes decades of accumulated debt from loans accessed through the federal government to pay for the legal process.

A commitment to a just society in Canada means asking critical questions about the accessibility and effectiveness of both existing and proposed legal mechanisms to deal with land claims.

This new bill is a great opportunity to begin asking these questions as part of the actualization of this commitment against complacency in the face of often devastating poverty, and lack of access to social infrastructure (like education, appropriate health care, and drinkable water) that we so often take for granted.

On Friday, June 29th, 2007, the Canadian Federation of Students will join with Aboriginal organizations across Canada in a National Day of Action. The goal of the campaign is to organize protests and demonstrations in every region and province across Canada.

Students are demanding that the federal government:
* Sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
* Immediately implement the Kelowna Accord.
* Take action to ensure safe drinking water in Aboriginal communities
across Canada.
* Take action to end the violence against indigenous women and ensure
the proper funding for Aboriginal child welfare.
* Immediately take action to resolve land claims and uphold treaty obligations.
* Adopt all of the recommendations of the multi-party report by the
Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Northern Affairs regarding
Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education.

For more information on solidarity events at Guelph and beyond contact
Cailey , or Evan .

| More


Back to Top
  1. Posted by: j on Jun 13, 2007 @ 8:07pm

    I wasn't aware that Aboriginal land claims were an issue that relate directly to the student population at the University of Guelph.


    So why is the CSA involved in this? Aren't there more pressing issues that relate directly to the student population that could be dealt with?

    This is a fantastic start to the new leadership of the CSA, I guess it was to be expected though.

  2. Posted by: on Jun 20, 2007 @ 10:02am

    There are aboriginal students who attend the University of Guelph, and it is the responsibility of the CSA to advocate for all students, especially those whose voices have traditionally been ignored. We have an Aboriginal Resource Centre on campus, as well as the Aboriginal Students' Association (an organization with a seat on the CSA Board of Directors) who can provide more information on the subject.

  3. Posted by: j on Jun 20, 2007 @ 1:15pm

    I understand what you're getting at, but shouldn't matters like this be left with another group, like the aforementioned Aborginal Students' Association to push?

    I can see advocating for a small, marginalized part of the student base, but aren't there issues that affect the whole or majority of the student population that could use some serious attention, especially when matters like this are best dealt with by other organizations?

  4. Posted by: Sean on Jun 20, 2007 @ 3:01pm

    Now I seem to recall that in order for the Aboriginal Students Association to retain it's seat on the CSA Board of directors, it was required to attain status as a special human rights group (as GQE, the Womens Resource Centre, and a few other groups already had). In fact, that was the only reason that the motion to grant those seats passed in the first place. Somehow, the democratic process was overlooked since the ASA has chosen not to attain that status, yet it remains on the board... We haven't heard word one from the ASA, and it tends to be represented by students who aren't even "status" aboriginals, and have never lived within the reserve system. Perhaps the CSA would be more suited to let this group make its own statements, and stick to representing the student population as a whole?

  5. Posted by: Meaghan - CSA Communications Commissioner on Jun 21, 2007 @ 10:43am

    Hi Sean,
    The term you are referring to is "Special Status Group", or SSG. It is true that the appointed seats from historically marginalized groups on our board do need to become SSG's. However, the process can take some time for some groups. That is why the CSA this past year passed a motion granting the ASA one more year to obtain status as an SSG. All of our Board meeting minutes are present on our website, and I encourage you to check them out.

  6. Posted by: on Jun 27, 2007 @ 5:00pm

    (comments in three parts)

    I’m really happy to see that people are beginning to ask questions about the relationship between aboriginal issues and the CSA. Nonetheless, it’s clear from some of the comments posted here that many people truly are only beginning to think about questions like these, which are so central to Canadian politics and identity.

    Successfully promoting the right to accessible education involves recognition of the ways that inaccessibility is patterned in society. Demographically, aboriginal people in Canada are overrepresented in the prison system and underrepresented in Universities, not because aboriginals are somehow racially predisposed to crime, but because of we live in a society where equal opportunity is still our dream and our struggle, but not yet our reality. If as a student union we are truly committed to these human rights, then our advocacy needs to extend to all of those who share the common experience of having been born into a poor family, or an abusive situation, or into a society that, as little as we’d like to believe it, is still colored by racism.

  7. Posted by: on Jun 27, 2007 @ 5:01pm


    I’m really happy to see so many people questioning the meaning of representation, especially those on the CSA board who have had the courage to ask themselves about the scope of their constituency. When I see the executive downtown struggling alongside eloquent street youth who are fighting for a shelter instead of studying for exams; and when I see the Canadian Federation of Students stand up in unanimous support for the rights of aboriginal students in Canada, I feel a tremendous sense of hope and excitement for the dream of a University that truly represents a Canada where all people can achieve their full human potential.

    Let’s keep asking questions; let’s create a campus and community where everyone can flourish; lets fight for human rights!

    Andrew Bresnahan
    CSA Human Rights Office Coordinator

  8. Posted by: Valerey on Jun 29, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    This is to Sean. Being "status" is not a way that an Aboriginal person will identify themselves. That is a system that the government created much like tagged cattle in a herd. There are many non-card carrying Aboriginals who well ARE Aboriginals. AND living on a reserve which was also imposed on us does not make you an Aboriginal.We are from all kinds of communities. Many of us were adopted out and raised in non-Native families. Being Aboriginal is part of who yu are not where you come from or whether you carry a card or not. I suggest you spend some time at th ASA and learn more about the diversity of First Nation's Peoples and their realities.

  9. Posted by: Anita on Jul 3, 2007 @ 5:06pm

    To Sean -> Your comments questioning the legitimacy of those current University of Guelph students who sit on the Aboriginal Student Association is EXTREMELY shocking and disturbing! It is SO VERY obvious you don't have enough historical knowledge, human rights education base, or familiarity with members of the ASA - I suggest you educate yourself on these issues. A good place to start is the Aboriginal Resource Center.

    to clearly

    to respond

  10. Posted by: Jaime on Jul 5, 2007 @ 1:43pm

    The impacts of unresolved land claims affect all Canadians, as we have seen most recently in Caledonia. The current land claims process is inefficient and costly. The burden of those costs is certainly shared by all Canadians. The National Day of Action is calling for a more effective and expeditious process for resolving the over 800 land claims. Do we want another 800 situations like Caledonia? This day of action is an important step in recognizing the national benefit to moving land claims forward.
    I would like to specifically address the comments directed to the ASA. The ASA (card carrying, not that it matters) have worked for several years with other community partners to provide a physical space and an environment where Aboriginal students can feel encouraged and empowered to overcome historical barriers to post secondary education. Questioning their authenticity is inappropriate and a clear indication that the said respondent is ignorant in his/her understanding about Aboriginal history and contemporary context. As university students, we graduate armed with knowledge, skills and a responsibility to move our society forward. Let’s hope that “Sean” does not represent the majority.

  11. Posted by: on Jul 5, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    On another note, the ASA also encourages and supports non-Aboriginal students coming to the Aboriginal Resource Centre (our space). There are alot of resources to check out -- many that will help with your lack of understanding about Aboriginal history.

    Also, on behalf of the ASA I would strongly encourage anyone with questions regarding our club or our clubs activity to please contact us at [email protected]

  12. Posted by: Cara on Jul 6, 2007 @ 9:50am

    (part 1 of 3)

    First off, as I see it, it was the decision of the Canadian Federation of Students to support the First Nations - National Day of Action. The University of Guelph’s CSA, as one of the CFS’ 80 university and college members, was merely furthering that decision by showing their support. As others have mentioned, there is a need for change in the land claims process and the government’s unproductive processes are costing all Canadians money while many First Nations communities battle poverty, limited access to primary and secondary education and limited access to clean drinking water. The goal of the National Day of Action was to have First Nations, Canadian citizens and corporations stand together in solidarity to bring attention to these issues and to discuss ways to address these problems. I agree with Andrew when he suggested we “fight for human rights” and while there are many global battles to face why not start right here at home.

  13. Posted by: Cara on Jul 6, 2007 @ 9:51am

    (part 2 of 3)

    With regards to the ASA and the ‘Status’ and hometowns of its Executive members, Status is a government construct that is very problematic and does not represent the majority of Aboriginal people in Canada. Not that it is significant however a quick survey will find that over the years the ASA has been represented by Status and non-Status First Nations, Métis and yes, even non-Aboriginal people. Some have spent time living on reserves while others have not. With a goal of furthering understanding and deconstructing stereotypes, ASA’s general membership is also populated by people of various ethic and geographical backgrounds. I encourage you to look into Status issues and consider why humans feel the need to continually label and discriminate against one another.

  14. Posted by: Cara on Jul 6, 2007 @ 9:53am

    (part 3 of 3)

    My personal opinion on the ASA’s seat on the CSA Board - please be aware that I am an ASA member however I am not on the ASA Executive. As I understand it, the ASA did not ask for this seat. It was granted to them as a “historically marginalized group”. I’ve come to question the term – historically. Over the past year or so, these marginalized groups have been told that in order to keep the seat they must become a Special Status Group. While this may not seem like a big deal to many of you who have not looked into the distinction, I feel that there are numerous reasons why this is a negative step that overrides the potential benefit of a seat on the CSA Board. It seems to me that this tactic is similar to those historically employed by the Canadian government when dealing with Aboriginal peoples. I hope the ASA Executive considers this issue completely before it signs the ‘treaty’.

Share your thoughts

Bookstore First Year