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Dene Nation receives letter from Queen's office about devolution
Erasmus wants to meet with Governor General before April 1

Graeme McNaughton
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 24, 2014

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus has received a letter from the Queen in response to one he sent about devolution and the creation of a super board for the territory's land and water boards.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus is calling on Governor General David Johnston to meet with him before devolution comes into effect on April 1. This comes after Erasmus received a response to a letter he wrote to Queen Elizabeth II, which stated she would be unable to intervene. - Graeme McNaughton/NNSL photo

The letter, dated Feb. 4 and written by senior correspondence officer Sonia Bonici, tells Erasmus this is not a matter the Queen can step into.

"This is not a matter in which the Queen would intervene," Bonici states in the letter. "As a constitutional sovereign, Her Majesty acts through her personal representative, the Governor-General."

Erasmus said he also sent a copy of the letter to Governor General David Johnston and wants to have a meeting with him before devolution takes effect on April 1. He has also called on Johnston not to sign Bill C-15 into law, as the land belongs to the Dene, not the Canadian government.

"(The Queen) is a sovereign. We are the other sovereign," Erasmus said. "When it comes to dealing with our people, the prime minister doesn't have the ultimate authority."

The letter, sent by Erasmus on Jan. 27, called on the Queen to instruct the Governor General to intervene on the matter of Bill C-15.

Erasmus said he feels the the signing of Bill C-15 - the devolution of the Northwest Territories and the creation of a super board for the territory's land and water boards - is in violation of Treaties No. 8 and 11, signed in 1899 through 1901 and 1921 respectively.

Treaty No. 8 was an agreement between various First Nations of the Lower Slave Lake area and Queen Victoria, acting in her position as Crown-in-Parliament, as defined by the Constitution Act of 1867.

Treaty No. 11 - the last of the numbered treaties - was an agreement between various First Nations in what now makes up the NWT and King George V, acting in the same role as Queen Victoria 22 years earlier.

In a news release announcing the reception of the letter from Buckingham Palace, the Dene Nation leader stated that Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 "specifically spells out the distinct collective relationship Indians have with the Crown. Treaties 8 and 11 are valid international instruments that must be adhered to because they protect and provide guidance for the Canadian state as part of the foundation of this county."

Erasmus said copies of the letter were also sent to NWT commissioner George Tuccaro, Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

"I didn't expect to hear back from Barack Obama," Erasmus said. "(We sent a letter to) Obama because the Royal Proclamation (of 1763) which guides all of these treaties includes the United States. It goes all the way down to Florida."

However, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 ended in the U.S. following the American Revolution, as Great Britain gave the land in question to the Americans following the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

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