Sep 22, 2020 Letters
Successive governments for a few decades over, have been making valiant efforts to craft an Amerindian Act that could really reflect government’s policy towards Indigenous Peoples, compliant with international standards as far as possible. For some time there were amendments of the Amerindian Act for sure; revisions, some tweaking here, some there, etc., all in an effort to comply with the Universal Standards. In 2006, a bill was passed which saw a new Amerindian Act promulgated and passed into law, piloted by Carolyn Rodrigues, the then Minister of Amerindian Affairs.
We now have an Act that provides to a large extent which allows for self-determination, but it must be studied carefully to understand its implications. Communities therefore can take full advantage of the provisions given.
Take elections for toshaos and councillors, for example, which will be some time soon. Provision is made for a Nomination day and an Election day to be separate days. Yet certain communities allow Regional officials to run off nominations and elections on a single day.
These are modern times, sir, and as for the National and Regional Elections our Indigenous communities need time to study, to scrutinize our candidates, to listen to them answering our questions, etc. What prevails leaves a lot to be desired as it relates to the behaviour of some Regional officials and which seems to have become a tradition. It is totally unacceptable although the Amerindian Act allows for otherwise. This will not take much time and simply necessitates a request from a community for the system to be revisited. Yes, changes should be made – after all it is provided for in the Act.
That in itself typifies and allows for Self-determination to a certain extent.
Albeit nothing has changed since 2006 as far as the Amerindian Act goes, there is hope that one day it will reflect International Standards this generation and the ones to come must continue to lobby for.
Yes, each successive administration has done its utmost to craft a new Amerindian Act with the input from us the Indigenous populace, doing so in an atmosphere of peace and understanding. Many extraneous factors admittedly along the way, would have negatively impacted the process and what serves as the latest document, the Amerindian Act 2006, with all its positives, needs to be revisited.
No Act is at all perfect. As Amerindians continue to grapple with the challenges of governance in our communities the Act would only do us justice should it include compulsory qualifications for the positions of toshao, at the least. Too many instances of insubordination do occur and the reason is obvious.
Next, what of a toshao being given the powers to select his own team of councillors, or vice versa? How will the new Revised Amerindian Act read into correcting many instances of weak governance all because of the quality leadership. Again, what educational standards should be set for those who vie for leadership; who should, or should not, qualify in the future as toshao, or councillor, etc.
Last but not least, it does seem obvious there is an impending leadership crisis in some Indigenous villages: most young people are employed elsewhere; most leave school with little or no leadership skills.
How do we stop such a crisis from occurring? Can the community make provisions to ameliorate such a crisis? Or, how do we begin training programs with help from government for those who are willing, but not yet prepared to take up the mantle of leadership?
So many questions seem to be looming and of course answers are needed, or communities will continue downhill, retrogressing, instead of progressing.
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