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Labour relations and Indian self-determination : a Fort Alexander case study



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This case study examines a labour relations issue which initially involves teacher employees of the Sagkeeng Education Authority of the Fort Alexander Band on one hand and the Sagkeeng Education Authority and the Fort Alexander Chief and Council on the other. The events of the issue transpire between 1981 and 1986.Teacher employees, concerned with working conditions and job security, organized as a local of the Manitoba Teachers' Society which was certified under the Canada Labour Code. The Chief and Council of the Fort Alexander Band rejected the formation of the local and the applicability of the Canada Labour Code to labour relations on the reserve. Teachers were fired for union activities. Hearings were held by the Canada Labour Relations Board. Orders were issued by the Labour Board and a collective agreement was imposed by the Labour Board. The Chief and Council refused to follow the Labour Board's orders, and contempt of court hearings were held by the Federal Court. Fort Alexander officials, including the Chief and Council, were initially fined and subsequently jailed. The Minister of Indian Affairs, David Crombie, promised to initiate Department studies to examine the possibilities and implications of changing the labour relations regime to reflect Indian self-government. The dispute was eventually settled out of court but the issue of Indian government jurisdiction over labour relations remains unresolved.Conceived and sanctioned by the Manitoba Teachers' Society, the Canada Labour Relations Board and the Federal Court as a labour dispute, the researcher argues that the issue is more readily understood within the context of Indian self-determination and self-government. Concepts concerning philosophical, socio-economic, cultural, legal, political and historical aspects of the relationship between Indian peoples and the Canadian state are brought to bear on the issue. Concepts of group rights versus those of individual rights are examined.It is argued that the current labour relations legal regime is inconsistent with Indian self-determination and self-government. The researcher suggests jurisdiction over labour relations should be determined by First Nations' governments as consistent with the goals of self-determination and self-government. Conceptions of Indian labour relations jurisdiction are suggested.



aboriginal, native peoples, indian, labour relations, self-determination



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


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Educational Foundations


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