Brisbane Indigenous Media Assn PO Box 6229 FAIRFIELD GARDENS 4103 QLD Australia 6 September 1995 Prime Minister JEAN CHRETIEN Parliament Buildings OTTAWA CANADADear Mr Prime Minister:
...land and the response from the Canadian Authorities has come to the attention of the indigenous population of this country and it has raised serious concerns.
Indigenous Australians are well aware of what occurred in sovereignty clashes at Oka between the Quebec Police and the Mohawk people in 1990. We fear for the safety of the indigenous peoples of Canada when their legitimate attempts to assert their land rights are met with a violent response.
The Shuswap Nation, having never sold nor entered into any treaty over their land, have an international entitlement to exercise their sovereign rights over this land. We're extremely concerned the Government reply to this assertion of their legitimate rights has been to send in a heavily armed 24-member emergency response team, dogs and helicopters to surround the camp. The indigenous people of Australia are asking why such force is necessary. We ask whether the situation can be resolved without resort to this type of intimidatory tactics.
The Shuswap people have repeatedly stated they seek a peaceful resolution to the 139 year crisis, yet they've also publicly expressed their determination to end the colonial domination.
So far, it would appear negotiations with a people frustrated with the bureaucratic channels of a foreign power, are extended to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police labelling the traditional landholders "thugs". Indigenous media groups in this country are wondering why the RCMP are negotiating with indigenous people about land rights when it is surely the role of senior Government officials. They ask if this is the common practice for negotiations in your country.
As an Aboriginal media organisation with over two million Australians living in our listening area, we watch with interest the land aspirations of our indigenous cousins on the international stage. Meeting these aspirations with force is not the act of a compassionate government with a fiduciary duty to all of its citizens. The RCMP in Gustafson Lake must cease its tactical operations in the area and stop the harassment and intimidation of the Shuswap people.
Your Government, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, must ensure the rights of the Shuswap aren't infringed in a discriminatory manner. The cutting of communication lines will be seen as a breach of this convenant. These lines must be reinstalled.
Australia's indigenous population is concerned at the contravention of the Shuswap people's fundamental human rights to legal representation. They are entitled to and must be given access to the legal representation of their choice. Further to this, Canada, having retained legal connection with Westminster, must refer the sovereignty claims of Canada's Aboriginal peoples to the Privy Council for determination. It's unacceptable for a party to a claim to also adjudicate on the matter.
We write on behalf of the Staff, Management and listeners of Brisbane Indigenous Media Association, to let the Canadian people know, Australia's National Indigenous Media Industry is watching the developments in your country in respect to the indigenous aspirations for land. We request the Shuswap concerns be treated in a manner which is civilised, truthful and in good faith.