Grand Council Chief John Beaucage
LEAMINGTON - National Chief candidate John Beaucage says the recognition of Certificates of Indian Status at Canada-U.S. border crossings is an acceptable interim measure, but that governments must ultimately recognize the sovereign right of First Nations citizens to travel freely in Turtle Island -- North America.
Speaking at today's (May 20th) general meetings of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI), the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief called for First Nations to unite in demanding further recognition of their governments, citizenship laws and right to travel throughout traditional territories.
"We shouldn't have to carry a government card or seek permission to move throughout our lands," said Beaucage. "The Creator placed us here as Nations. We do not recognize this artificial border."
The Canada-U.S. border arbitrarily divided the traditional
territories of the Anishinabek and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacies. The Anishinabek Nation encompasses much of the Great Lakes basin, including portions of Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Manitoba. Haudenosaunee territory covers the eastern portion of the Great Lakes basin, including parts of Ontario, Quebec and New York state.
"I am calling for unity among the Anishinabek and Haudenosaunee confederacies to send a clear message that these are our traditional lands and we will continue to practice our inherent rights and right under the Jay Treaty to cross the Canada-U.S. border freely," said Beaucage.
"We are pleased to learn that the new, secure Status Cards will be eligible as an accepted form of identification under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, but these changes do not go far enough in recognizing our Nationhood," said the Grand Council Chief, who was informed last week that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved the use of the new Certificate of Indian Status being produced by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The new cards will not be available to all First Nations citizens in time for a June 1st deadline requiring passports, Nexus cards or enhanced drivers licenses when crossing the Canada-U.S. border, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may have discretion to permit entry to any Indian person using the previous Status Cards, accompanied by a birth certificate and letter of blood quantum.
As part of his campaign for the office of National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Beaucage is calling for the Crown to recognize First Nations as a legitimate order of government in Canada, with the right to develop their own constitutions, their own citizenship laws and identification cards including passports.
The Anishinabek Nation has been advising all First Nations citizens to assert their rights and true citizenship verbally and respectfully with border officials. "However, if you MUST cross the border for business or ceremonies, ensure you are prepared with valid documentation. If you do not have this as a back-up, you may be turned away and refused admittance into the U.S."
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the National organization representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First Nation, and has led the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario since 2004.