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Indigenous communities should have power to call in the military: chief[The Canadian Press]September 14, 2016Indigenous communities should have power to call in the military: chiefWINNIPEG — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is considering a request to give First Nations the power to directly call in the military when their treaty, environmental and other rights are threatened.Ron Swain, vice-chief with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, told Sajjan during consultations with indigenous groups Wednesday that aboriginal communities deserve the same rights as provincial governments, which have the authority under the National Defence Act to call in the military to fight civil unrest and during other crises."We believe, in protecting our sovereign territory and our issues around environmental concerns, we should be able to trigger the same response and have our Armed Forces defending our treaties and our territories," Swain said during a break in the closed-door meeting in Winnipeg that included about a dozen aboriginal leaders and academics.(...SNIPPED)
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan threw a reality check on the notion he is considering giving direct power to First Nations to call in the military when they feel their rights or communities are being threatened.Sajjan met with indigenous leadership in Winnipeg Wednesday as part of his national defence policy review. At that meeting Ron Swain, vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents all off-reserve status and non-status First Nations, Métis and Southern Inuit, raised the issue of needing the military to come to the aid of indigenous peoples trying to defend their rights or territories.That could, for example, include protests against pipelines or other development, taking place without First Nations' consent.After the meeting Wednesday, Sajjan's office was non-committal but indicated the request was one of a whole host of things Sajjan would consider as part of the policy review. But Sajjan told the Free Press in an interview Thursday he didn't think the system needs to be changed."We do have a good system in place and they just need to be reassured the system that is there will serve them as a priority," Sajjan said.The Canadian military is deployed at home almost entirely to help during natural disasters such as the Winnipeg flood in 1997, to help fight wildfires such as last spring's disastrous blaze that razed parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., or the much maligned call for help from Toronto during an extended snow storm in 1998.He said most of the assets and infrastructure to help is kept at the municipal or provincial level. "The military is there as a last resort," he said.Sajjan said the military is there to help First Nations affected as well but he said the process in place is for the province to seek help from Public Safety Canada, which has the lead on emergency preparedness. If the public safety minister feels additional resources are needed, he then turns to the defence minister to send in some troops ...