White Paper | Red Paper: Debating Indian Policy, 1969-1970

Document 2: Red Paper, 1970

Source: Indian Chiefs of Alberta. Citizens Plus, June 1970


“Indians should be regarded as ‘Citizens Plus’. In addition to the rights and duties of citizenship, Indians possess certain additional rights as charter members of the Canadian community” – The Hawthorn Report

A Presentation by the Indian Chiefs of Alberta to Right Honourable P. E. Trudeau, Prime Minister and the Government of Canada.
June, 1970


To us who are Treaty Indians there is nothing more important than our Treaties, our lands and the well being of our future generation. We have studied carefully the contents of the Government White Paper on Indians and we have concluded that it offers despair instead of hope. Under the guise of land ownership, the government has devised a scheme whereby within a generation or shortly after the proposed Indian Lands Act expires our people would be left with no land and consequently the future generation would be condemned to the despair and ugly spectre of urban poverty in ghettos.

In Alberta, we have told the Federal Minister of Indian Affairs that we do not wish to discuss his White Paper with him until we reach a position where we can bring forth viable alternatives because we know that his paper is wrong and that it will harm our people. We refused to meet him on his White Paper because we have been stung and hurt by his concept of consultation.

In his White Paper, the Minister said, “This review was a response to things said by Indian people at the consultation meetings which began a year ago and culminated in a meeting in Ottawa in April.” Yet, what Indians asked for land ownership that would result in Provincial taxation of our reserves? What Indians asked that the Canadian Constitution be changed to remove any reference to Indians or Indian lands? What Indians asked that Treaties be brought to an end? What group of Indians asked that aboriginal rights not be recognized? What group of Indians asked for a Commissioner whose purview would exclude half of the Indian population in Canada? The answer is no Treaty Indians asked for any of these things and yet through his concept of “consultation,” the Minister said that his White Paper was in response to things said by Indians.

We felt that with this concept of consultation held by the Minister and his department, that if we met with them to discuss the contents of his White Paper without being fully prepared, that even if we just talked about the weather, he would turn around and tell Parliament and the Canadian public that we accepted his White Paper.

We felt that with this concept of consultation held by the Minister and his department, that if we met with them to discuss the contents of his White Paper without being fully prepared, that even if we just talked about the weather, he would turn around and tell Parliament and the Canadian public that we accepted his White Paper.

We asked for time to prepare a counter proposal. We have received assurances that the implementation process would not take place. However, the Federal rhetoric has not been substantiated by action. In fact, there is every indication that the implementation process is being carried as fast and as fully as possible. For example, the Departmental officials have prepared their budgets so as to make implementation possible. They rationalize this action by saying that if the White Paper on Indians is implemented their programs must be set whereby they can achieve the implementation within five years or if it does not come about that they can have better programs. Where is the moratorium that we have asked for on activities on the implement on the White Paper?

The Minister of Indian Affairs has stated publically that he is not attempting to throw the Indians over to the provinces in spite of what is contained in writing in his White Paper. Yet, while maintaining this contradictory position he writes a letter to the Premier of Alberta dated February 20, 1970 stating that the Federal Government would transfer funds to the Province for the extension of provincial services to reserves; but these funds would be gradually phased out with the assumption that at this point the Provincial Government would bear full financial responsibility for the provision of these services.

Where is the consistency of the Minister’s position when he tells Indians verbally that their reserves will not come under the Provincial tax system but his White Paper and his letter of the Premier say otherwise.

The Indian Chiefs of Alberta meeting in Calgary addressed a letter to the Honorable Pierre E. Trudeau dated January 22, 1970. That letter said:

“This assembly of all the Indian Chiefs of Alberta is deeply concerned with the action taken by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the Honorable Jean Chretien, regarding the implementation of the Indian policy.

Time and time again, on the one hand, the Minister has declared publically to the Canadian people that the Indian Policy contained proposals to be discussed with the Indian people. On the other hand, Indian Affairs officials have been recruited for implementation teams to go ahead with the implementation of the policy paper.

We find this double-headed approach contradictory. A glaring example is the appointment of the Claims Commissioner.

Another example is the concentrated public relations program being conducted to impose the White Paper on the Canadian public. We find this incompatible with the Just Society. Discussions between the Federal department of Indian Affairs and provincial governments have also initiated.

This assembly of all the Indian Chiefs of Alberta reaffirms its position of unity and recognizes the Indian Association of Alberta as the voice of all the Treaty Indian people of this province. As representatives of our people we are pledged to continue our earnest efforts to preserve the hereditary and legal privileges of our people.

At this meeting of Alberta Indian Chiefs, we have reviewed the first draft of our Counter Policy to the Chretien paper. We plan to complete our final draft in the near future, for presentation to the Federal Government.

We request that no further process of implementation takes place and that action already taken be reviewed to minimize suspicions and to make possible a positive and constructive dialogue between your government and our people.”

In his reply, dated February 19, 1970, to telegrams sent by the Chiefs’ Conference of January 22nd, the Minister states that “the policy proposals, which were put forward in quite general terms will require modification and refinement before they can be put into effect.” In a preceding sentence attempting to explain his Consulation and Negotiation Group which we know as the implementation team, he says, “I believe that the policy that has been proposed is a correct one. I expect that my Consulation and Negotiations officers will also try to persuade the Indian people, and Canadians generally, that the direction of the policy proposals is indeed in the best interest of all concerned.”

It this is his belief, where is his so called flexibility, especially when Indian people disagree with his mythical concepts of him leading the Indians to the promised land?



The White Paper Policy said, “that the legislative and constitutional bases of discrimination should be removed.”

We reject this policy. We say that the recognition of Indian status is essential for justice

Retaining the legal status of Indians is necessary if Indians are to be treated justly. Justice requires that the special history, rights and circumstances of Indian People be recognized. The Chretien Policy says, “Canada cannot seek the just society and keep discriminatory legislation on its statute hooks”. That statement covers a faulty understanding of fairness Professor L.C. Green found that in other countries minorities were given special status Professor Green has concluded:

“The 1969 Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy is based on the assumption that any legislation which sets a particular segment of the population apart from the main stream of the citizenry is ipso facto conducive to a denial of equality and therefore discriminatory and to be deplored. Such an attitude indicates a complete lack of understanding of the significance of the concept of equality, particularly in so far as the law concerning the protection of minorities is concerned.

“…It is perhaps not easy to define the distinction between the notions of equality in fact and equality in law; nevertheless, it may be said that the former notion excludes the idea of a merely formal equality…”

Equality in law precludes discrimination of any kind; whereas equality in fact may involve the necessity of different treatment in order to obtain a result, which establishes an equilibrium between different situations…

“To attempt to maintain that the rights of the Indians result in discrimination against them or are evidence of a denial of their equality in the sense that their status is reduced thereby, is to indulge in an excessively narrow view of the meaning of words, of the purpose of equality and of the nature of discrimination.”

The legal definition of registered Indians must remain. If one of our registered brothers chooses, he may renounce his Indian status, become “enfranchised”, receive his share of the funds of the tribe, and seek admission to ordinary Canadian society. But most Indians prefer to remain Indians. We believe that to be a good useful Canadian we must first be a good, happy and productive Indian.



The White Paper Policy said, “that there should be positive recognition by everyone of the unique contribution of Indian culture to Canadian life.

We say that these are nice sounding words, which are intended to mislead everybody. The only way to maintain our culture is for us to remain as Indians. To preserve our culture it is necessary to preserve our status, rights, lands and traditions. Our treaties are the bases of our rights.

There is room in Canada for diversity. Our leaders say that Canada should preserve her “pluralism”, and encourage the culture of all her peoples. The culture of the Indian peoples are old and colorful strands in that Canadian fabric of diversity. We want our children to learn our ways, our history, our customs, and our traditions.

Everyone should recognize that Indians have contributed much to the Canadian community. When we signed the treaties we promised to be good and loyal subjects of the Queen. The record is clear – we kept our promises. We were assured we would not be required to serve in foreign wars; nevertheless many Indians volunteered in greater proportion than non-Indian Canadians for service in two world wars. We live and are agreeable to live within the framework of Canadian civil and criminal law. We pay the same indirect and sales taxes that other Canadians pay. Our treaty rights cost Canada very little in relation to the Gross National Product or to the value of the lands ceded, but they are essential to us.


The White Paper Policy says “that services should come through the same channels and from the same government agencies for all Canadians”.

We say that the Federal Government is bound by the British North America Act, Section 9k, Head 24, to accept legislative responsibility for “Indians and Indian lands”. Moreover in exchange for the lands, which the Indian people surrendered, to the Crown the treaties ensure the following benefits:

(a) To have and to hold certain lands called “reserves” for the sole use and benefit of the Indian people forever and assistance in the social economic, and cultural development of the reserves.

(b) The provision of health services to the Indian people on the reserve or off the reserve at the expense of the Federal government anywhere in Canada.

(c) The provision of education of all types and levels to all Indian people at the expense of the Federal government.

(d) The right of the Indian people to hunt, trap and fish for their livelihood free of governmental interference and regulation and subject only to the proviso that the exercise of this right must not interfere with the use and enjoyment of private property.

These benefits are not “handouts“ because the Indian people paid for them by surrendering their lands The Federal Government is bound to provide the actual services relating to education, welfare, health and economic development.


The White Paper policy says ‘that those who are furthest behind should be helped most’. The policy also promises “enriched services”.

We do not want different treatment for different tribes. These promises of enriched services are bribes to get us to accept the rest of the Policy. The Federal Government is trying to divide us Indian people so it can conquer us by saying that poorer reserves will be helped most.

All reserves and tribes need help in the economic social, recreational and cultural development.


The White Paper Policy says, “that lawful obligations should recognized”. If the Government meant what it said we would be happy. But it is obvious that the Government has never bothered to learn what the treaties are and has a distorted picture of them.

The Government shows that it is willfully ignorant of the bargains that were made between the Indians and the Queen’s Commissioners.

The Government must admit its mistakes and recognize that treaties are historic, moral and legal obligations. The redmen signed them in good faith, and lived up to the treaties. The treaties were solemn agreements. Indian lands were exchanged for the promises of the Indian Commissioners who represented the Queen. Many missionaries of many faiths brought the authority and prestige of whiteman’s religion in encouraging Indians to sign.

In our treaties of 1876, 1877, 1899 certain promises were made to our people; some of these are contained in the text of the treaties, some in the negotiations and some in the memories of our people. Our basic view is that all these promises are part of the treaties and must be honored.

Modernize the Treaties

The intent and spirit of the treaties must be our guide, not the precise letter of a foreign language. Treaties that run forever must have room for the changes in the conditions of life. The undertaking of the Government to provide teachers was a commitment to provide Indian children the educational opportunity equal to their white neighbors. The machinery and livestock symbolized economic development.

The White Paper Policy says “a plain reading of the words used in the treaties reveals the limited and minimal promises which were included in them… and in one treaty only a medicine chest”. But we know from the Commissioners’ Reports that they told the Indians that medicine chests were included in all three.

Indians have the right to receive, without payment, all healthcare services without exception and paid by the Government of Canada.

The medicine chests that we know were mentioned in the negotiations for Treaties Six, Seven and Eight mean that Indians should now receive free medical, hospital and dental care – the same high quality services available to other Canadians.

We agree with the judgment of Policha, J. in Regina vs. Walter Johnston:

“Referring to the ‘Medicine chest‘ clause of Treaty Number Six, it is common knowledge that the provision for caring for the sick and injured in the areas inhabited by the Indians in 1876 were somewhat primitive compared to present day standards. It can be safely assumed that the Indians had limited knowledge of what provisions were available and it is obvious that they were concerned that their people be adequately cared for. With that in view and possibly carrying the opinion Angers, J. a step further, I can only conclude that the ‘medicine chest’ clause and the ‘pestilence’ clause in Treaty No. 6 should be properly interpreted to mean that the Indians are entitled to receive all medical services, including medicines, drugs, medical supplies and hospital care free of charge. Lacking proper statutory provisions to the contrary, this entitlement would embrace all Indians within the meaning of the Indian Act, without exception.”

The principle thus laid down by Policha, J. is that all the provisions of the treaties are to be interpreted in favour of the Indians with full regard given to changing social and economic conditions.

The Indian people see the treaties as the basis of all their rights and status. If the Government expects the co-operation of Indians in any new policy, it must accept the Indian viewpoint on treaties. This would require the Government to start all over on its new policy.


The White Paper Policy says, “that control of Indian lands should be transferred to Indian people”.

We agree with this intent but we find that the Government is ignorant of two basic points. The Government wrongly thinks that Indian Reserve lands are owned by the Crown. The Government is, of course, in error. These lands are held in trust by the Crown but they are Indian lands.

The Indians are the beneficial (actual) owners of the lands. The legal title has been held for us by the Crown to prevent the sale or breaking up of our land. We are opposed to any system of allotment that would give individuals ownership with rights to sell.

According to the Indian Act R.S.C. 1952 the land is safe and secure held in trust for the common use and benefit of the tribe. The land must never be sold, mortgaged or taxed.

The second error that the Government commits is making the assumption that Indians can have control of the land only if they take ownership in the way that ordinary property is owned. The Government should either get some legal advice or get some brighter legal advisers. The advice we have received is that the Indian Act could be changed to give Indians control of lands without changing the fact that the title is now held in trust.

Indian lands must continue to be regarded in a different manner than other lands in Canada. It must be held forever in trust of the Crown because, as we say, “The true owners of the land are not yet born”.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email