Self-Government Treaty Recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate Act

An Act to give effect to the self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate and to make consequential amendments to other Acts


Marc Miller  Liberal


This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment gives effect to the treaty entitled “A Self-Government Treaty Recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate” and makes consequential amendments to other Acts.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

June 19th, 2023 / 5:40 p.m.
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Councillor, Whitecap Dakota First Nation

Frank Royal

First of all, I'd like to thank Madam Chair and the committee for hosting us today, and I'd like to thank you for your comments on the language. We are bringing our language back in the community and working on language revitalization. I'm a lifelong learner, I guess, in language—I'm still learning.

I'd also like to thank Mr. Battiste for introducing Bill C-51 last week. Thank you from Whitecap Dakota.

June 19th, 2023 / 4:30 p.m.
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Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair, for the territorial acknowledgement.

I think as they alluded to, and this is not from my prepared notes, the piece of legislation we're considering today really is part of a larger discussion in and around the presence of the Dakota and the Lakota peoples in Canada and the indignities they have suffered by being treated as second-class first nations throughout the history of their presence in Canada, which predates the arrival of my people. Most people my age in Canada are well aware of the Sitting Bull vignette by the National Film Board. That is only a very limited part, but a very important part, of that history. The history obviously predates that and goes back to the War of 1812, when these people and their predecessors stood as allies to us against a common foe as well as the traditional grounds that were theirs well before our people were here.

That resulted in the non-recognition of their section 35 rights. That is an indignity that we are correcting here today as part of that, but also as a greater process of recognizing the eight other communities that exist in Canada as well as their rights. That is something that we will continue to work on as an unfinished project of the country.

I thank them for their patience, and I thank them for their willingness to trust us when we have not accorded them that level of trust in the past, with the effects that has had today on them and their people. This is first and foremost an element of dignity that we are working to restore. I thank them for their co-operation in that.

I will speak specifically here today about Bill C-51, an act to give effect to the self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate. My prepared remarks will focus on the potential impact this self-government treaty has for Whitecap and why it matters to Canada, as well as how it will deliver on our broader commitment under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Madam Chair, as you know, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action call on federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the declaration as the framework for reconciliation.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has come into force. This act provides us with a road map to work with first nations, Inuit and Métis on the implementation of the declaration. That is the objective that guides all of our work.

I'll read briefly from article 4 of the declaration, which states:

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

As members of this committee know, the Indian Act is a colonial and racist piece of legislation that stripped away the rights of self-determination and self-government from first nations. The Indian Act took away Whitecap Dakota's and so many other nations' inherent right to govern themselves, to build on their own economy and to have a say in the programs and services delivered on their lands.

For the past 40 years, the Whitecap Dakota Nation has worked to move out from under the Indian Act. For example, it implemented a custom election code in 1989. In 2003, the community became one of the first signatories to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management. This enabled it to exercise control over its lands and resources without ministerial oversight and approval, replacing 25% of the Indian Act. The Whitecap Dakota Nation developed business laws and policies that enable it to operate efficiently.

Similarly, under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, the Whitecap Dakota Nation levies a real property tax on reserve, which funds community development and social programs and businesses. Underpinning all of these initiatives is a desire to respond nimbly to economic and development opportunities.

When I visited Whitecap Dakota this spring, I had the opportunity to see the impacts of their vision and determination and their efforts through the impressive infrastructure that they've built in their community due to the leadership of Chief Darcy Bear and council. From the golf course to the Dakota Dunes Resort, which was supported by Indigenous Services Canada’s community opportunity readiness program, to their casino, Whitecap has shown their success over and over in the last few decades and is really an excellent example of the importance of self-determination of indigenous communities across Canada.

For over a decade, guided by their membership's vision, Chief Bear and council have been in negotiations with the Government of Canada on a self-government agreement to remove the remaining pieces of the Indian Act that are impeding their full vision of self-government. That is the bill we're talking about today.

The self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate bill enacts a comprehensive self-government treaty that aligns with the UN declaration in response to Whitecap's specific desire to move out from under the Indian Act. When passed, the bill and, thereby, the treaty, will affirm the Whitecap Dakota government as indigenous peoples of Canada with an inherent right of self-government as a constitutionally protected right under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It would recognize Whitecap Dakota as a self-governing entity with jurisdiction and authority over a broad range of authorities related to the community's administration, reserve lands, membership programs and services. It will further establish a new nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada and Whitecap Dakota with practical mechanisms for intergovernmental operations.

In closing, I would encourage the members of this committee to come together to act and swiftly pass this bill in order to meet the September 1 coming into force date of this agreement and to take this step towards implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and support Whitecap Dakota Nation's vision of self-determination and, at the same time, remove a stain on Canada's history.

I look forward to your questions.

Thank you.

June 19th, 2023 / 4:30 p.m.
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Murray Long Director, Self-Government, Whitecap Dakota First Nation

I just want to say very briefly that the history of the Dakota people in Canada is a unique history. I'm sure Minister Miller will speak to some of that as well.

At the end of the day, this treaty gives proper recognition to the Whitecap Dakota people in Canada. It's something that's very important to our members and to our elders. As a result of this treaty, Bill C-51 will affirm that the Whitecap Dakota are aboriginal peoples of Canada. It will also protect our self-governance treaty through section 35 protection.

It also gives us the opportunity, as the agreement says, to work forward from there and build on more work and reconciliation and so forth. There's lots of information. During questions and answers we can get into law-making, jurisdictional powers, fiscal arrangements and whatever.

We are truly grateful, speaking on behalf of the chief, for all the support that all the parties have given us. We've been working with all the parties over the last few weeks. We look forward to having this bill passed so that our self-government agreement can take effect on September 1.


June 19th, 2023 / 4:25 p.m.
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Frank Royal Councillor, Whitecap Dakota First Nation

[Witness spoke in Dakota and provided the following text:]

Aŋpetu wašte. Frank Royal emakiyapi do.

Iyuškiŋyan wačhiyakapi do. Čhaŋte wašteya nape čheyuzapi do.

[Witness provided the following translation:]

Good day. My name is Frank Royal.

It's good to see you all. I shake all your hands with a good heart.


Madam Chair and committee members, thank you for having us here today to present.

I'd like to introduce the Whitecap team here: director of self-government, Murray Long; councillor Dwayne Eagle; and legal counsel, Max, on Zoom.

We're glad to be here.

One of the things I will touch on is our history, the Dakota peoples in Canada.

As part of self-government, we wanted to seek proper recognition of Whitecap Dakota, based on our contribution as allies of the British Crown. The case was made to Minister Miller, and he made the case to cabinet to correct this historical oversight.

We have now negotiated a self-government treaty that affirms the Dakota as aboriginal peoples of Canada. Bill C-51 will affirm our place and protect our agreement as a section 35 treaty within Canada. The self-government treaty also has provisions for future negotiations to address other aboriginal rights, such as a small land base and parity with other numbered treaties.

Thank you for listening. I'll turn it over to Councillor Eagle.

June 19th, 2023 / 4:25 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal Jenica Atwin

Without further ado, I will continue.

Welcome to meeting number 72 of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. Members may participate in person or remotely using the Zoom application. Proceedings will be made available on the House of Commons website. For your information, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.

I would like to acknowledge that our meeting today is taking place on the unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin Anishinabe territory.

For those participating virtually, I'll outline a few rules to follow. You may speak in the official language of your choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting in French, English and Inuktitut. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of floor, English or French. Please select your language now. If interpretation is lost, please inform me immediately, and we will ensure interpretation is properly restored before resuming the proceedings.

For members participating in person, please proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in a committee room.

Please wait until I recognize you to speak.

Although this room is equipped with a powerful audio system, feedback events can occur. These can be extremely harmful to interpreters and cause serious injuries. The most common cause of sound feedback is an earpiece worn too close to a microphone. We therefore ask all participants to exercise a high degree of caution when handling the earpieces, especially when their microphone or their neighbour's microphone is turned on. To prevent incidents and safeguard the hearing health of the interpreters, I invite participants to ensure that they use the microphone to which their headset is plugged in and avoid manipulating the earbuds, by placing them on the table, away from the microphone, when they are not in use.

Please address your comments through the chair.

When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute. Regarding a speaking order, the committee clerk and I will work together to ensure a consolidated order of speaking for all members.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Friday, June 16, 2023, the committee will now commence consideration of Bill C-51, an act to give effect to the self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I will now welcome our panellists.

Chief Darcy Bear is absent due to illness. We're thinking of him, for sure.

We have Murray Long, director, self-government; Dwayne Eagle, councillor; Frank Royal, councillor; and Maxime Faille, legal counsel. We have Minister Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and an official joining us as well.

We're doing things a little bit differently today. We're combining our panellists in the interest of time.