Hill Times December 16, 2019
I was going to write about the new federal cabinet. Then I heard Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller spout the same doublespeak as his predecessor on why the federal government believes it knows better on how to treat Indigenous kids than the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Then I heard about NDP MP Charlie Angus’ motion to stop the government on fighting the ruling, which was so easily shrugged off. I have to believe that the man Marc Miller would not stand in the way of Indigenous kids’ rights and futures. But somebody in Ottawa clearly believes they know better, and whipped ministers into line. It seems apparent that ministers have no self-determination now. They might as well be First Nations chiefs under the Indian Act.
So let’s share another story. Let’s try for a vision driven story in which we imagine an amazing future, then we start building that future.
It’s difficult to think about a different future for Indigenous communities and families after so many bad policies causing loss and disease and trauma for Indigenous peoples. Now we have to find a balance between talking about the pain in order to respect its power and find healing, and to talk about a future in which Indigenous peoples thrive. Finding that balance is not easy. More and more Indigenous peoples and communities are healing from the harms done to them through colonization, and some are still struggling. Add on to that range of healing is the fact that some harms continue. It’s difficult to heal from losing one’s children and siblings and parents to residential schools, when many are enduring current losses of missing and murdered mothers and sisters (and see above paragraph, “doublespeak”).
On Dec. 4, at the Special Chiefs Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations, there was a panel on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was a special moment to hear Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild share about the history of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). From Maskwacis in Alberta, his international influence and leadership for human rights is beyond compare. Grand Chief Littlechild shared a story to think about the importance of UNDRIP. Imagine one wing of an eagle is the treaties and original rights of Indigenous peoples, he said, and the other wing is UNDRIP. They work together.
The B.C. UNDRIP bill became law on Nov. 28, 2019, after failing at the federal level. To have a positive piece of legislation is nothing short of phenomenal. B.C. AFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee called it a tectonic shift. Minister Scott Fraser, of the B.C. Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, shared his thanks to First Nations mentors on how to do the necessary and fundamental change in the relationship. He then noted the goal is to “do constructive damage to the status quo.”
So much of the relationship in this last decade between Indigenous peoples and Canada has been incremental tweaks, instead of breaking down the status quo. What would be fundamental change?
Implement UNDRIP in full partnership with Inuit, Métis, and First Nations.
No more federal decision-making over Indigenous nations. Instead, the relationship should be modelled on the B.C. standard of relationship with Indigenous peoples in transparency and mutual collaboration. The reality is we have an EU model, many self-determining nations sharing currency, and federal aspects while protecting nation interests.
No more non-Indigenous ministers of Indigenous Affairs, or whatever it happens to be called today. How about no more Indigenous Affairs, by any name.
Imagine a future without colonization. Imagine First Nations, Inuit, and Métis thriving and teaching others. Imagine a Canada that honours its Indigenous roots. Now go do something to contribute to the vision in your network. It’s obviously up to us.