INDG 295 Indigenous Studies
Using the four reconciliation areas in the Newhouse article provided to you in the course (copy at the end of this question) entitled, “Indigenous Peoples, Canada and the Possibility of Reconciliation” to answer the following:
To achieve reconciliation in your lifetime, what advice would you give the Prime Minister of Canada?
Article- Indigenous Peoples, Canada, and the Possibility of Reconciliation.
Canada has moved into a new era that has the potential to transform its relationship with Indigenous peoples. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking to a special assembly of First Nations chiefs on December 8, 2015, said: “It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations Peoples. One that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation.”1 He laid out five priorities:
Launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Make significant investments in First Nations education.
Lift the 2 percent cap on funding for First Nations programs.
Implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Repeal all legislation unilaterally imposed on Indigenous peoples by the previous government.
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Perry Bellegarde, responding to the first visit of the Prime Minister to an assembly of chiefs in a decade, remarked: “I’m optimistic and hopeful…We are being heard, and I believe understood, like never before. That’s why I’m optimistic the new Government’s plan is aligning with the AFN’s vision.”2 The Prime Minister’s priorities mark a change in tone and signal a willingness, to use a popular term, to reboot the relationship in hopes of getting it right this time.
Reconciliation is now a Canadian political project that is moving from words to action. Its origins are in the 1998 Statement of Reconciliation, delivered by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The statement framed reconciliation as an “ongoing process” and “a process of renewal.”3 It has taken almost two decades — from the 1998 Statement of Reconciliation, to the 2008 Statement of Apology for Indian Residential Schools, to the December 2015 release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — for this project to become an important part of the Canadian public policy landscape.
The framing of the recommendations of the TRC as calls to action was a brilliant move that created a policy frame for Canadians, their governments and their institutions to use to guide concrete efforts toward reconciliation. A large number of governments, agencies and organizations are now taking steps to address particular calls to action within their mandates.
Should we be optimistic? I believe that, more than at any other time in Canadian history, we should. Of course, huge challenges lie ahead. Tackling them means we will have to confront our history, our governance processes and our understandings of Indigenous peoples and their capacity to govern themselves. The challenge rests with public policy-makers and educators, in particular.
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