Citing the Crown’s refusal “to discuss the broken treaty relationship directly with First Nations representatives,” Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee has turned down a nomination for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal that celebrates the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
“I want to express my respect and gratitude to whomever nominated me,” Madahbee said in a statement on January 22. “But I hope they appreciate that, given the current political challenges being faced by First Nations in Canada, I do not feel it appropriate at this time for me to accept this award.”
The Diamond Jubilee medals are being awarded to “Canadians who have devoted themselves to the well-being of family, community and country,” according to the Jubilee site. Several aboriginal leaders and achievers received the first of the medals in 2012; the yearlong celebration, which began last June, will see a total of 60,000 medals awarded to Canadians by June 2013.
Madahbee was to receive the medal at a ceremony in Toronto on January 24 but declined because of Governor General David Johnston’s refusal to attend a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations leaders on January 11. Although Johnston did host more than 100 chiefs at Rideau Hall for a ceremonial gathering after that meeting, First Nations supporting the continuing fast of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence said that did not meet the requirements of nation-to-nation interaction.
“Trinkets are no substitute for treaty rights,” Madahbee said in the statement. “The treaty relationship promised in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 has been broken by the current federal government. The Covenant Chain we accepted at Niagara in 1764 has been badly tarnished. Canada’s rule of law, as expressed in its Constitution and by its Supreme Court, is being ignored. The prime minister has an obligation to have the Queen’s representative involved in any discussions we have with his government about Canada’s obligations to honor the treaties.”
Madahbee has been outspoken in his support of Spence and was one of several chiefs who urged Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo not to meet with Harper on January 11 because Johnston would not be there. He has also warned that First Nations are not going to continue putting up with current conditions and treatment. The Anishinabek Nation is part of the Union of Ontario Indians, the political umbrella group established in 1949 as the political advocacy arm for 39 member communities across the province.
“The best way First Nations and other Canadians can express their disappointment with federal indifference is to translate their concerns into action,” Madahbee said in a statement on January 15. “Now other citizens understand our frustration. We have pursued all the proper political channels, but this government refuses to respect First Nations rights as referenced by Canada’s Constitution, Supreme Court rulings, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which they are a signatory.”