Commission has 400 recommendations

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 25/96) - Aboriginal leaders say the government must act on over 400 recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples or the results could be dire.

 But Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Ron Irwin (left) says many of the recommendations contained in the massive, expensive report have already been implemented.

"This is no time to waffle. This is no time to be cute. This is your last chance," said national chief of the Assembly of First Nations Ovide Mercredi Thursday.

Mercredi uttered the warning Thursday just prior to the release of the commission's massive five-volume, 4,000-page report on the state of aboriginal affairs in Canada.

Co-chaired by former Assembly of First Nations Chief George Erasmus and Quebec judge Rene Dussault, the commission was spawned by violence.

It was struck following the highly publicized standoff between Mohawks and the Quebec police and Canadian Army at Oka, Que., in 1991.

And the seven member commission warned that the government could face renewed violence if its recommendations weren't acted on.

"Aboriginal people have made it clear, in words and deeds, that they will no longer sit quietly by, waiting for their grievances to be heard and their rights restored," the commission wrote.

"Despite their long history of peacefulness, some leaders fear that violence is in the wind."

Originally scheduled to be completed two years ago, the report came in at a total cost of $51.2 million.

The price tag, said Mercredi, is insignificant next to the human suffering the report addresses.

"Quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing this is the costliest commission of all.... "On a per-capita basis the cost of this report is less than a twooney -- that's not a lot for each Canadian to pay to find solutions to these problems.

"This report represents the best chance we have had in this century to offer hope to our people," he said.

The report contains 440 recommendations, among them:

Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin said many of the recommendations in the report are already being acted on, including negotiations on self-government.

He was non-committal on what action the government would take on the report. However, he did say that the kind of money the report was asking for would be very difficult to find in a tough economic climate.

And Irwin sounded sceptical about the commission's arguement that the lot of aboriginals will save money down the road on welfare and social envelope costs.

"If you come at it and say 'If you put all these billions in, things will be better, we'll all get to heaven" -- it doesn't work," he said.

Irwin said he needs to take some time to read the report.

(With files from CP)


The following are some highlights from the Commission's 4,000-page report: