Spicer Preliminary Report on Aboriginal Rights

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
FAX: 403-629-3939

Mailing address:
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
FAX: 403-437-0719

April 4, 1991

Enclosed for your information are a couple of newspaper articles on the preliminary report of a Commission created by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to try and deflect public attention away from his back room efforts to contain the growing constitutional crisis in Canada. As a slight-of-hand artist Mr. Mulroney has clearly pocketed the pea once too often.

Not surprisingly the primary conclusion of the Commission is that the biggest problem facing the country is Mr. Mulroney and the government he heads. In fact Canadian political leaders in general don't fare much better.

Also noteworthy is what Commission Chairman Keith Spicer describes as the near unanimous view of Canadians that aboriginal people in Canada have been unfairly treated, that the treatment of Canada's aboriginal people has "besmirched" Canada's international human rights reputation, that the treatment of Canada's aboriginal people offends collective Canadian principles of "caring and fairness," and that the Canadian Federal Government must resolve questions of aboriginal land rights, aboriginal self-government, etc.

Attachment #1: re-printed without permission from The Edmonton Journal, Thursday, March 21, 1991


Forum faults leaders

Joan Bryden

Southam News


Canadians are disgusted with politicians, dislike official bilingualism and are prepared to see Quebec separate rather than give the province special status, the Spicer commission has found.

Those are some of the primary themes the commission has discovered since it was created last November by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to find out what kind of country Canadians want.

The Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future, headed by Keith Spicer, is still consulting with Canadians and will not report to Mulroney until July 1.

But the commission released a preliminary report late Wednesday analysing the main concerns expressed so far by more than 75,000 Canadians in discussion groups, written briefs and on the commission's toll-free hotline.

The biggest issue so far has turned out to be politicians -- and Mulroney himself.

"Overwhelmingly, participants have told us that they have lost faith in the political system and its leadership," the report says. "Anger, disillusion and a desire for fundamental change is very often the first issue raised in discussion groups and usually produces unanimous agreement."

Canadians are suggesting a variety of ways -- referenda, direct election of the prime minister, impeachment or recall mechanisms -- to ensure that politicians reflect the wishes of the people.

The report says that Mulroney is frequently the target of complaints. Nevertheless, it concludes that the prime minister's position is a lightening rod for "many frustrations that have little to do with the incumbent personally."

The report says the value most cherished by participants so far "is the notion of individual equality, with no special treatment for any group".

Indeed, the notion of equality is so strong that "the majority accept Quebec's separation if the negotiations to retain it would result in inequality among the provinces or preferential treatment for Quebec or would unduly damage Canada's capacity to address overarching national issues."

Canadians generally support the principle of bilingualism and multi-culturalism but only as "worthy personal and individual goals." They "almost uniformly" reject government imposed bilingualism and federal funding for multicultural groups.

"A majority of participants lean either to delegating jurisdiction over languages to the provinces or having French as the official language in Quebec and English as the official language everywhere else."

Other findings include:

**Canadians are deeply worried about the economy and look to the federal government to resolve economic problems.

**Canadians almost unanimously feel aboriginal people have been treated unfairly and the federal government must resolve land claims, demands for self-government and other issues.

**Canadians are not overly knowledgeable about the division of powers between Ottawa and the provinces. But they appear to favor a relatively strong federal government with power over international affairs, the economy and regional equalization and with power to enforce national standards in health care and education and to maintain national symbols and institutions.

The commission has so far received almost 65,000 phone calls, 3,000 letters and briefs, 5,000 individual reports and almost 1,500 reports from discussion groups.

The report notes that Quebecers don't appear to be interested in the forum. Only 16 per cent of calls to the hotline are from Quebec, only 11.5 per cent from francophones.

"The relative silence from Quebec is deafening," the report says.

Attachment #2: re-printed without permission from The Globe and Mail, Thursday, March 21, 1991


Participants have told us that they have lost faith in the political system and leadership, interim report states

by Michael Valpy

The Globe and Mail


Canadians not only desire but demand radical political change as the means of regaining faith in the legitimacy of their governments, the Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future says in an interim report made public last night.

"They're talking referenda, impeaching. There is almost an 18th- century French flavour to it all," Keith Spicer, chairman of the forum, said in an interview.

The report says: "Overwhelmingly, participants have told us that they have lost faith in the political system and its leadership.

"Anger, disillusion and a desire for fundamental change is very often the first issue raised in discussion groups, and usually produces unanimous agreement.

"Canadians are telling us that their leaders must understand and accept their vision of the country -- that their leaders must be governed by the wishes of the people, and not the other way around."

The report says this anger and disillusionment has "no apparent regional variation."

However, Mr. Spicer said Quebec politicians are somewhat more trusted by their electorate than is the case elsewhere in Canada.

The report appeared without warning on the eve of Mr. Spicer's scheduled appearance before what is expected to be a hostile House of Commons committee investigating the forum's administration and spending. (Mr. Spicer had said earlier that he could not be available to the committee when it wanted him.)

Asked last night if today's committee appearance and the release of the report are connected, Mr. Spicer said: "We're not smart enough to be sinister."

The forum was created by the federal government last year as a vehicle for gathering the views of ordinary Canadians in the wake of the failure to ratify the Meech Lake constitutional accord.

It has sought to harvest opinion by means of thousands of small discussion groups across the country and the use of toll-free telephone lines to its headquarters in Ottawa.

Given a huge mandate and a brief few months to do its work -- the deadline for the final report is July 1 -- the forum has been dogged from birth by controversy, conflict and cynicism.

Mr. Spicer said last night that about 145,000 Canadians have now participated in the forum's work. He acknowledged that few of them have been Quebeckers -- about 5,000 -- but he called it "promising" and a "good start".

"We're going to be going in there," he said. "We're not boycotting Quebec -- although the nationalist elite are attacking us." The rumour is that Mr. Spicer will face a heavy attack from Bloc Quebecois members of the parliamentary committee.

The forum's interim report said Canadians have made many specific and concrete proposals on how the country should be run, including holding referendums on constitutional change, reforming the Senate, directly electing the prime minister and electing cabinet ministers to specific portfolios, limiting the number of terms that elected representatives can hold office and instituting such instruments as recall and impeachment mechanisms.

"These recommendations are revolutionary in Canadian terms in their desire to take control of the national agenda back into the hands of the citizens," the report says.

Mr. Spicer added: "Citizenship has not been a word that Canadians have been gargling with over the years."

He said he was surprised by the report's data on aboriginal issues. The report says national consensus on aboriginal issues is "astonishing, verging on unanimity."

"(Canadians) tell us that aboriginal peoples in Canada have been unfairly treated, that this has besmirched our international reputation and that it offends our collective principles of caring and fairness.

"They are somewhat reluctant to engage in detailed discussion of self-government and land claims, citing lack of understanding of complex issues. They consider that the federal government, in particular, must resolve these issues with the aboriginal leadership."

Bilingualism -- along with multiculturalism -- are endorsed by a majority as "worthy personal and individual goals."