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• Developed in Australia, a non-treaty territory, in the 1970s
• ‘to provide opportunities for non-Indigenous Australians to support initiatives controlled by the traditional land owners in their struggle for self-determination and economic independence.’ (Pay the Rent Rationale, www.treatyrepublic.net/pay-the-rent-rationale, p. 1)
• Understood as reparation for the collective damage done to the original citizens of the land as a consequence of the occupation and theft of land resulting from European occupation.
• Is a position that rejects the concepts of Terra Nullius and Doctrine of Discovery , and recognizes the inherent rights of the original holders of the land, in Australia those ...nations occupying prior to 1788.
• Churches have been a significant force in implementing Pay the Rent.
• Pay the Rent is done by both individuals and organizations such as churches.
• Has been adopted by some non-Indigenous Australians until such time as the Australian Government fulfils its obligations and begins to pay the rent on behalf of all those and their successors from the date of first European arrival who have benefitted from the occupation.
• Pay the Rent provides an opening for relationship building between those paying and the Nation to which the rent is paid.
• Pay the Rent:
o Acknowledges responsibility, accepts obligations, allows compensation
o Promotes understanding and mutual respect and good will between colonial societies and the Indigenous nations in Australia and throughout the world
o Will bring benefits to Indigenous Peoples especially in the areas of health and wellbeing, land and resources, and customs and heritage. Will empower local Elders to implement traditional law and support a cultural rebirth of communities and languages
o Will help with land care programs and support environmental wellbeing.
o Is a moral and legal obligation in light of no recognition by the Australian government of Indigenous sovereignty
o Opens the door to the Dreaming for non-Indigenous Australians and allows them to become part of the land. (ibid, p. 3-4)
• Quakers in Australia statement in their Faith and Practice, #5.30. Indicates that campaign suggests paying 2% of their property tax to the local Indigenous Nation.
Share the Gifts: Honour the Treaties Development
• Elaine Bishop spoke about the Australian Pay the Rent movement at a Kairos gathering some years ago that had been addressed by Mb Treaty Relations Commissioner Jamie Wilson. Many present expressed interest in the idea being developed in Canada.
• In 2012 a small group of Kairos members, hosted by Commissioner Wilson, met several times to see if it were possible to adapt Pay the Rent to treaty territories. They adapted the name to: Pay the Rent: Honour the Promise.
• They thought that this was a promising idea to offer to Settler peoples a way of confirming their treaty membership on an annual basis.
• Discussions that were unresolved included how to calculate a reasonable annual payment (percentage of total taxes? percentage of property taxes? proportion of Mb Hydro bills?) and to whom payment would be made (Treaty 1 organization? Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs? Manitoba Métis Federation?)
• Initial feelers were sent to possible recipient organizations with no responses received.
• Another option briefly discussed was forming a foundation.
• Since then occasional exploration of the idea with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has resulted in encouragement that the idea be developed.
• Some initial thinking about the potential of a foundation took place when Elaine Bishop and Robert Miller met in the summer of 2016. Their thinking included:
o Creating a foundation with two streams: Indigenous and Settler. An overall Governing Circle (Board) could include both but be Indigenous led.
o Settler part would be responsible for developing the paying the gift, doing education, finding people to share their gifts, spreading the word, consulting effectively with Indigenous colleagues
o The Indigenous part would decide how the funds were spent, consult on education plans to ensure that they were ‘in right ordering’ etc.
o While starting in Manitoba as the movement developes here there could be initiatives to extend it beyond Manitoba to both treaty and non-treaty areas. Kairos already has expressed an interest in such a movement. Canadian Friends Service Committee has just started a reparations fund that is following Manitoba developments with interest.
• Meetings with Elders reflected that ‘rent’ is not a concept within Indigenous traditions. The revised name chosen for this work is ‘Share the Gifts—Honour the Treaties’. This name has been reserved with the Corporations Branch of the Manitoba Government.
• Discussions have included thinking about registering a non-profit organization with this name, and then exploring how a foundation or alternative structure could be developed. A community consultation is planned for April 29 2017 to test these ideas with Elders and others to decide whether and how to move forward.
Elaine Bishop on behalf of the interim working group available at [email protected]