Justin Trudeau made reconciliation a top priority. Four years later, what’s changed?

Since the Liberals took power in 2015, Ottawa has poured billions into programs and services for Indigenous peoples and vowed to “renew” the relationship. But many Indigenous leaders say there’s much more work to do

justin trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets attendees at the closing ceremony marking the conclusion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec on June 3, 2019. After two and a half years of hearings, a Canadian inquiry released its final report on the disappearance and death of hundreds, if not thousands of indigenous women, victims of endemic violence it controversially said amounted to “genocide.” – ANDREW MEADE , AFP/GETTY IMAGES

OTTAWA—It started with a promise.

Like so many before him, Justin Trudeau spoke to Canada’s Indigenous peoples last February, and vowed to do better. For too long, he said, Canada has failed. It has fallen short of its own Constitution, which enshrines Indigenous rights even as successive governments neglected to recognize them.

From the floor of the House of Commons, the prime minister pledged to change that. At long last, Ottawa would work with Canada’s Indigenous peoples — hundreds of First Nations, Métis nations, and Inuit peoples of the North — on a new relationship, one in which the federal government recognizes their rights in new legislation and dismantles the colonial dynamic that has been so damaging for so long.

In short, it was key to the reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples that Trudeau and his Liberals have championed at every turn since they took power in 2015.

And it fell apart.

Protesters denounced the initiative in rallies across the country. The Assembly of First Nations charged the process was dictated by Ottawa and called for it to stop. It even caused a rift in Trudeau’s cabinet between then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and others, according to Canada’s former top bureaucrat. In the end, the promised legislation was shelved, and the government shifted to tinkering with internal policy and passing bills to support Indigenous languages and child welfare.

It’s just one chapter in the story of reconciliation over the past four years, a deep and complex challenge the Trudeau Liberals hoisted on their own shoulders through their words and actions in government. Billions have poured into infrastructure and social services, yet advocates and leaders say there are serious shortfalls. And while efforts to “renew” the relationship have been welcomed, many also doubt the government’s willingness to truly challenge the colonial foundations that have wreaked so much harm.

With less than three months before the next federal election, Indigenous leaders and policy experts say the prominence of reconciliation under this government has brought some positive changes, but also halting progress and disappointment.

“When we talk about the niceties of establishing and maintaining these respectful relationships, that also has to be married with tangible, substantive change,” said Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

“So long as we have these massive inequalities, we can’t really begin to have that conversation of reconciliation.” SOURCE

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Calls to action: exploring and understanding Indigenous life in Canada

One way to decolonize this Canada Day

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July 1 is here again and I’m still unable to celebrate Canada’s birthday so long as celebrations ignore the reality that the creation of this nation meant the demise of the Indigenous nations that were living and thriving here for generations before first contact and colonization. And because Canada and Canadians continue to journey down a path that fails to acknowledge our history of genocide, systemic racism, broken treaties, and dearth of meaningful remedial action that’s needed before true reconciliation can happen.

This year, I encourage Canadians to spend the next 17 days exploring and understanding Indigenous life in Canada. Lived experience makes someone an expert and only they can tell their true story, but by hearing and seeing glimpses into First Nations, Inuit, and Metis lives, settlers can begin to understand their long journey out of the darkness of colonization and into the light of reclamation.

Urban. Indigenous. Proud is the National Film Board’s (NFB) latest collection of short films focusing on the role Friendship Centres play in the lives of urban First Nation, Inuit, and Metis peoples.

“Friendship Centres show that we are still here! They are places where we can be Indigenous, can be urban, and that is what the films show. The stories shared in these films are about the re-emergence of culture as urban development occurred and demonstrate how Friendship Centres contribute to a positive vision of Indigenous people,” said Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).

Since the 1950s, Friendship Centres have been a little bit of home, community, and sense of belonging for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in urban settings. As of 2016, 85 per cent of First Nations people lived in cities across this country. The history of this migration from the land can be traced directly to the residential school system, which severed ties with traditional communities and ways of life.

Full Circle takes us inside the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, where the urban Indigenous community feels safe to learn and grow. Council Fire uses cultural teachings and creates space to restore Indigenous identity, especially for its youth. At the core of Council Fire’s history and teachings is the drum, which they refer to as “our mother.”

We get to know members of the Toronto Council Fire Youth Program as they embark on new journeys. We meet a drum group that lays down tracks at a professional recording studio and a group of young dancers who showcase their moves at a dance studio.

Places to Gather and Learn shares the lives of Indigenous students at N’Swakamok Alternative School. Run in partnership with the N’Swakamok Indigenous Friendship Centre, and as a satellite of Sudbury Secondary School, N’Swakamok Alternative School offers students a supportive and culturally activated space to learn life skills while pursuing their academic and personal goals.

The school focuses on the needs of students, some of whom are also parents, and creates an accessible learning environment that welcomes their children. Students are also encouraged to take part in the Friendship Centre programs, through which Indigenous culture and values are put into practice and nourished, ensuring the students’ and the school’s continued success.

Some Stories… follows a group of young Indigenous artists in Nipissing (Nbisiing) First Nation territory, North Bay, Ontario, as they share stories about family, community, place, and all things related to life. Young artists explore the challenges and celebrations of rural and urban Indigenous life through written and oral stories, poetry, rap and drawing. Even though these young people come from different home communities and backgrounds, their stories and friendships have built a strong sense of community at the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre.

That Old Game Lacrosse recounts this ancient game being gifted to the First Nations by the birds and four-legged animals from the time of creation. Through lacrosse, children and youth learn responsibility and conflict resolution. Their coaches are teaching far more than simply how to win a game, they’re ensuring the next generations learn humility, respect, and how to become good members of the community. The medicine game, passed down from generation to generation by the Haudenasaunee at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, is helping to revive their cultures, restore their communities, and reinforce the collective nature of the Indigenous view of the world that is inclusive of settlers.

We also learn that the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action make space so Canadians can recognize they are better than their past and can live up to the expectations of who they can be.

Zaagi’idiwin, one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings which refers to the unconditional love between all of creation from yesterday, today and tomorrow, takes viewers through a day at the United Native Friendship Centre in Fort Frances, Ontario.

By engaging in ceremony and celebrating their language, culture and land, the people are creating “Zaagi’idiwin” — “a symbol of their truth, their story and their own reconciliation, which is community-defined, beautiful and inspiring.”

Each ten-minute film is a glimpse into a present and future filled with reclamation, hope and happiness. They make a wonderful segue to the CBC Gem Series Future History. Each 20-minute episode is jam packed with well researched and documented information about the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in Canada. But it also shows what life is like and how much better it could be in the future.

Each episode is co-hosted by Kris Nahrgam and Sarain Fox. Nahrgam is an archeologist and artist whose Anishinaabe grandmother survived residential school and then chose to hide her indigeneity. He is on a personal journey to recover his Indigenous heritage. Fox is Anishinaabe from Batchewana First Nation who is shifting colonial narratives by harnessing Indigenous knowledge.

This amazing series will introduce you to people and ideas that will rock your colonial world. People like Cindy Blackstock of the Gitxsan Nation and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society; Mohawk activist and author Russ Diabo; Metis artist and water warrior Christi Belcourt; Anishinaabe water activist and grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who passed away this February 22 at the age of 77; cultural educator and storyteller Lenore Keeshig of the Shippewa Nation; Sage Paul artist, designer and member of English River First Nation; as well as historians, dancers, chefs, traditional healers, and lawyers.

You’ll gain an understanding of the intergenerational impact of the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop and the current child welfare system; the Indian Act; the importance of water as a human right; and a better understanding of cultural exploitation and appropriation.

You’ll also get to share in the celebrations of today and indelible hope for the future that includes reclaiming, rematriating, and revitalizing the knowledge, languages, and culture that is being cultivated and shared as Indigenous people decolonize.

This July 1, I’d like to say “chi miigwech” in Anishinaabemowin, or big thank you in English, to those settlers who make the time to watch the Urban. Indigenous. Proud collection of short films as well as the first season of Future HistorySOURCE

2019 is the year young people rise for climate justice


Photo Credit: Allan Lissner

In Ottawa, Canada — unsurrendered lands of the Algonquin Anishnabe, water protectors and land defenders from across the country gathered on February 14–18th for the mass youth climate convergence, Powershift: Young and Rising, organized by 20 youth. Young and Rising came at a critical time in Canada, falling months after the worst wildfire season on record in the country and reports that glaciers are melting much faster than expected in the North.

Even with the latest UN report stating we have less than 12 years to radically transition off of fossil fuels to prevent the worst possible climate crisis, the Canadian government continues to invest in the oil industry at the cost of Indigenous rights and a liveable planet, while promoting a public image of reconciliation and climate leadership.

Within the past year, the Canadian government purchased an oil pipeline for $4 billion taxpayer dollars, and forcefully removed the Wet’suwet’en Nation from their unsurrendered lands (which they had already proven title to in the Supreme Court) for the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc Tiny House Warrior, aptly dubbed pipelines in Canada as “transportation corridors that are taking stolen resources off of Indigenous territories,” in her keynote at Young and Rising.

“We are told that we have 12 years to act before irreversible catastrophe yet the urgency of the crisis is flatly denied or met with false solutions. We must build mass power capable of actually reversing this trajectory,” Nayeli Jimenez, Powershift Organizer told me.

Nayeli affirmed that the real solutions are being championed at the grassroots level, “Indigenous communities are standing on the frontlines against resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure across Turtle Island.” MORE

Education in the Reconciliation Era

Reconciliation has become a touchstone in this country. Leaders, elders, politicians, artists, and activists point to it as critical for the future relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. And yet, for many Canadians – including new Canadians – what they should do, or know, or understand, often remains unclear. The Agenda discusses how Canada’s less tolerant track record can be presented to foster understanding.

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What is reconciliation? Indigenous educators have their say

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Is hanging Indigenous art in an office “reconciliation?” In this web series called “First Things First,” Indigenous experts take a look at what it really means to reconcile after generations of systemic racism against Indigenous peoples.
TVO: Aired: Apr 05, 2019

‘He’s toast’: B.C. Indigenous leader slams Trudeau for booting Wilson-Raybould from caucus

https://globalnews.ca/video/embed/5124908/
WATCH: Wilson-Raybould and Philpott booted from Liberal caucus

A prominent B.C. Indigenous leader is not mincing words when it comes to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s expulsion of Vancouver-Granville MP Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus.

“He’s toast, absolutely toast,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“Once again Mr. Trudeau has demonstrated his arrogance and did absolutely the worst thing he could possibly do. There’s going to be an enormous backlash across the country in terms of Indigenous people,” Phillip said.

“I think it’s pretty much the death knell of reconciliation. I think it’s dead in the water.”

On the west coast, where the Liberals currently hold a historic 18 seats, political scientist David Moscrop said Tuesday’s drama could have an impact come election time, though he said things could still shift with months to go before the election.

Moscrop pointed to approximately 70 ridings across Canada that were won by five per cent or less in 2015, nine of which are in B.C.

“The Liberals were bolstered by a growth in youth turnout and Indigenous turnout that went to work for them. Those are going to be hard to recapture this time around.”  MORE

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First Nations leaders condemn Wilson-Raybould’s removal from caucus
‘This situation is only going to deepen’: Wilson-Raybould warned of Indigenous anger if dumped from AG role

British Columbia Court of Appeal Reaffirms Duty to Consult not a Duty to Agree

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In a unanimous decision, William v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2019 BCCA 74, the British Columbia Court of Appeal affirmed that a proposed exploratory drilling program associated with the New Prosperity Mine could proceed after its approval by the Provincial government was found to be reasonable.

In dismissing the appeal, the Court commented that not accepting the position of an Indigenous group who holds an honest belief that a project should not proceed does not mean that the process of consultation is necessarily inadequate or that the Crown did not act honourably in reaching a decision.

Sometimes parties are unable to resolve their differences and work towards reconciliation because of fundamental disagreements. MORE