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Canadian Aboriginal Free Trade Proposal

In a concerted effort to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and the Aboriginal Canadians, the government will be offering an impressive investment of $500 million dollars for the First Nation education infrastructure as well as equitable funding for family and child services and will eliminate the two percent funding cap for the First Nations programs.

Doug George-Kanentiio, an Akwesasne Mohawk journalist, believes that the best way to improving economic conditions in the Aboriginal communities is to look to the conditions stated in the Jay Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation that was originally signed in 1794.

The Treaty reportedly was signed by the British and Americans after the American Revolution.

According to Mr. George-Kanentiio, the 1794 treaty contains specific language that aboriginal people have a right to cross international borders with their goods. This includes their persons and their goods. This language indicates to the aboriginal communities that they have the right to control their economic future.

When questioned how the Jay Treaty differs from the offer that is currently being made by the Canadian Government, Mr. George-Kanentiio brought up the tensions along the border between Canadian customs officials who must enforce the policies passed in Ottawa and aboriginals. He maintains that the customs officials do not recognize the treaty which leads to arguments and physical confrontations and has opened the door for narcotics smuggling.

When queried about a specific economic activity that would be activated if the Jay Treaty were recognized, Mr. George-Kanentiio responded that food delivery would be at the top of the list

He discussed the food delivery service problems and how they affect aboriginal and Inuit people having an adequate source of food. He complained that when these peoples do secure food sources that must be transported over lengthy distances, they are being price-gouged.

Mr. George-Kanentiio referred to a national native free trade zone that was proposed at Akwesasne over a generation ago. This trade zone would have included Native nations in the United States and Canada. It would also create an institution where goods, ideas, and technologies could flow across the border. The agreement would cut costs by allowing goods to be transported from Akwesasne at a reduced cost from their community to people who have the greatest need.

When asked if this type of agreement is comparable to a NAFTA type of agreement, Mr. George-Kanentiio agreed whole-heartedly. He believes that this type of agreement is the key that can open and improve the economic potential across Aboriginal Canada. The Aboriginal communities are located on vital natural resources, but getting those resources to market without having to give up profits to external organizations and companies is the great issue that must be overcome.