Where are the successes and failures in Reconciliation: 2022 Year-in-Review


What does reconciliation look like as we approach the 8th anniversary of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Summary Report in June 2015?

Although not perfect, Indigenous Watchdog has created a picture based on an examination of all 431 positive “Actions and Commitments” and 315 “Current Problems” documented in 2022. That picture, unfortunately, is clouded over by the numerous problems across most Calls to Action that reinforce the following:

  • Lack of political will to tackle the hardest issues, specifically issues around land and self-government
  • Structural, legislative and institutional barriers embedded in colonial governance systems
  • Systemic racism and discrimination entrenched within multiple sectors of society
  • Failure to collect and disseminate quality data that makes accurate reporting difficult

This last point is critical. Indigenous Watchdog can only comment on what it has visibility into so what follows is an examination of exactly that. The 30 Theme sections documented and reported on are broken down by jurisdiction – federal, provincial and territory governments. The focus is on 14 themes PLUS “Church Apologies” which also had multiple actions in 2022.

The numbers provide a glimpse at a high level into what is happening at a national and at a regional level: the good and the bad. And although there is a lot of good that is happening across the country in most of the Calls to Action, there are a still lot of problems. The intent is to highlight both by giving concrete examples of the positive and the negative.

Where are the problems?

Most of the problems are with the federal government. Not surprising since they are directly accountable for 76 of the Calls to Action on their own or in partnership with the provinces and territories (accountable for 35 themselves).

Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Yukon were all <5 “Current Problems” for 2022

The following table indicates where the problem areas are in the 7 largest jurisdictions where 89% of the Indigenous people in Canada live. The numbers in brackets indicate the entries documented within each theme for each stakeholder.

  1. Justice: 47 – Federal (21), Manitoba (9), Ontario (7), Saskatchewan (6), BC (4)
  2. Child Welfare: 31 – Federal (16), Manitoba (7), Québec (6), Alberta (2)
  3. Health: 31 – Ontario (11), Manitoba (9), Québec (7), Saskatchewan (2), Alberta (2)
  4. Treaty and Land Claims: 30 – Ontario (13), BC (7), Alberta (5), Saskatchewan (5)
  5. Government Commitments: 14 (Federal (8), Québec (6)
  6. Environment: 12 – BC (12)
JurisdictionProblem Area # 1Problem Area # 2Problem Area # 3
Federal (84)Justice (21)Child Welfare (16)Government Commitments (8)
Ontario (49)Treaties & Land Claims (13)Health (11)Justice (7)
BC (37)Environment (12)Treaties & Land Claims (7)Justice (4)
Manitoba (35)Justice (9)Health (9)Child Welfare (7)
Quebec (29)Health (7)Child Welfare (6)Government Commitments (6)
Saskatchewan (19)Justice (6)Treaties & Land Claims (5)Health (2)
Alberta (14)Treaties & Land Claims (5)Health (2)Child Welfare (2)

The top 4 problem areas are far more of an issue than anything else. Why?

Why is Justice the # 1 priority

There were a number of key incidents that provoked a lot of activity nationally and regionally:

  • James Smith Cree Nation killings: The mass killings in Saskatchewan on Sept. 2 amplified long-standing issues around the lack of First Nations policing and mental health and addiction services for on-reserve Indigenous populations. This led to a flurry of actions and commitments across multiple jurisdictions for First Nations Policing
  • Serial killing of 4 Indigenous women in Winnipeg: graphic evidence that Indigenous women are still a targeted group and the root causes of MMIWG are still very much alive in this country
  • Systemic Racism within policing and the RCMP: Multiple incidents across Canada: BC, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador

Why is Child Welfare the # 2 priority

  • The two CHRT Final Settlement Agreements: $20B for compensation to the victims and $20B for long-term reform to the Child and Family Service Act was passed and subsequently torpedoed by the CHRT for non-compliance
  • The Québec challenge to the constitutionality of Bill C-92 has the support of Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories
  • The growing number of First Nations who have or are in the process of implementing their own Child Welfare laws and jurisdiction

Why is Health the # 3 priority?

  • Joyce Echaquan: Systemic racism and discrimination within the Canadian health care system is not just an issue within Québec despite their having the most identified issues. Virtually every jurisdiction in Canada has documented cases that validate how pervasive systemic racism and discrimination still is
  • COVID-19: Multiple issues in Ontario with the largest Indigenous population: e.g. Ontario’s commitment “that all schools in Ontario will have access to rapid COVID tests and N95 masks for teachers, as well as upgraded masks for students and HEPA filter in each classroom EXCLUDES all First Nations schools and children in Ontario
  • Ongoing Health Crisis: From the TB epidemic in the north to travel issues for northern residents for health services in the south and issues around access to treatment for mental health and addictions services

What do issues around Treaty and Land Claims really indicate:

  • 4 positive actions in 4 jurisdictions vs 39 problems in 11 jurisdictions. Only Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not have a documented issue. Of the 39 problems, 4 are at the federal level so all the rest fall specifically within provincial/territory jurisdiction.
  • 6 lawsuits identified below filed against provincial governments in BC, Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick for issues related to Treaties and Land Claims
  • Federal government validation of Doctrine of Discovery by its statement that “UNDRIP in ‘Interpretive aid only’ and cannot override Canadian law”. Invalidates Indigenous laws and legal traditions pre-dating Confederation
Another problem with the Federal Government

The federal government’s “Third Annual Statutory Report (2022) Pursuant to Section 10 of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act, Statute of Canada, Chapter 29, 2019” – the official government status report on reconciliation – eliminates the section “Implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action” from the report.

  • The first report for the fiscal year April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019 identified 12 Calls to Action as “fully completed”.
  • The second annual report for the fiscal year April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020 identified 16 Calls to Action as “fully implemented”.

Why did the federal government eliminate this important metric from their statutory “accountability” report?

Although the “Third Annual Statutory Report (2022)” contains lots of valuable, constructive details on federal government actions to advance reconciliation in a number of key areas, eliminating the one metric that most people want to see does not inspire confidence in the government’s commitment to transparency and openness about what they are doing.

Lawsuits active in 2022

One good way to gauge how reconciliation is working is to explore what is happening in the court system. Below is a sampling of 16 court cases in 7 of the federal/provincial jurisdictions.

JurisdictionDateThemeDescription
FederalJune 21
Dec. 5
Child Welfare
Justice
Off-reserve Indigenous class action lawsuit against the federal government
Kiashke Zaaging Anishinabek (Gull Bay First Nation) launched legal action against Public Safety Canada and other departments around inequitable funding of First Nations Police Services
BCMar 8Treaty RightsNuchatlaht Notion Aboriginal Title case advances to BC Supreme Court
AlbertaOct. 3
Dec. 19
Treaty Rights
Treaty Rights
Duncan First Nation sues Alberta for cumulative environmental impacts of industry on their traditional territory
Onion Lake First Nations files lawsuit challenging Alberta’s Sovereignty Act
ManitobaMay 26
Oct. 6
Child Welfare
Child welfare
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs challenges Bill C-92 jurisdiction and provincial amendments to Child and Family Services
AMC sues Manitoba, Canada for $1B over damage caused by child welfare system
OntarioDec 4, 21
June 28
Oct. 4
Treaty Rights
Treaty Rights

Environment
Neskantaga First Nation sues Ontario for failing to consult on Ring of Fire

Robinson-Huron Superior treaties annuity claims case goes to Supreme Court. $4.00 annuity claim has not changed since 1850
Three Treaty No. 9 First Nations have filed for legal action against Ontario over Boreal forests
QuébecDec. 6-7
May 30
Child Welfare

Language
Québec is challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-92, the “Indigenous Child Welfare Act” at the Supreme Court
Québec’s National Assembly passes Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec”. First Nations in Québec call the Bill “cultural genocide”
New BrunswickJuly 27Treaty RightsWolastoqey Title Claim lawsuit against New Brunswick Government
ALLMar. 17Child WelfareClass Action lawsuit launched by The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs over use of Birth Alerts to apprehend First Nations children
ALLMar. 28JusticeSupreme Court to decide if denial of conditional sentences for Indigenous people is systemic racism
ALLOct. 12JusticeSupreme Court to hear case on whether Indigenous governments are subject to Charter scrutiny
Where are the positive “Actions and Commitments?

What follows is a breakdown of the positive actions and commitments made by government stakeholders across all “Calls to Action”, “Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation” and “Other Issues” theme sections of Indigenous Watchdog.

New Brunswick, PEI, Yukon and Nunavut each had >10 Actions and Commitments
Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation
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50209424133121

Highlights

  • April 25: Donation and funding for transfer of HBC flagship store in Winnipeg to Southern Chiefs Organization
  • Sept. 28: Federal ministers honour Joyce Echaquan and reaffirm commitment to addressing anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care system
  • Oct. 27: MPs unanimously back motion calling on government to recognize residential school programs as genocide

Issues

  • April 22: Auditor-General states Manitoba government fails to implement “Path to Reconciliation Act
  • July 12: Senate Committee finds that the federal government is failing First Nations Fishery
  • Oct. 5: Justice Department shuts Native Women’s Association of Canada out of Federal, Provincial, Territory Ministers’ meeting with Indigenous leaders, ignoring their expertise on critical gender-based issues
Child Welfare
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1983221111

Highlights

  • Jan. 4: CHRT Final Settlement Agreements reached on compensation for those harmed by discriminatory underfunding of Indigenous child welfare ($20B) and for long-term reform of First Nations Child and Family Services and Jordan’s Principle
  • April 5: Northwest Territories to amend Child and Family Services Act to align with Bill C-92
  • Nov. 25: BC passes historic legislation to uphold Indigenous jurisdiction over child welfare

Issues

  • Sept. 21: The number of Indigenous children apprehended by Child Welfare has gone up from 52.2% (2016 census) to 53.8% (2021 census); 3.2% of ALL Indigenous children vs 0.2% for non-Indigenous children
  • May 19: Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench rules that the Manitoba government discriminates against First Nations children in the child welfare system where 90%+ of all children-in-care are Indigenous
  • Oct. 25: Ottawa’s $40B First Nations child welfare deal torpedoed by CHRT
  • 5 Child Welfare court cases identified and commented on above
Education
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347222471112212

Highlights

  • July 14: 22 First Nations sign historic $1.1B education agreement with Québec and Canada
  • Sept. 16: First Métis Education Agreement in Canada creates culturally responsive education system for Métis citizens in K-12
  • Multiple actions towards “Mandatory Government K-12 Commitments to Curriculum“: BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Northwest Territories

Issues

  • Jan. 24: Ontario committed “that all schools in Ontario will have access to rapid COVID tests and N95 masks for teachers, as well as upgraded masks for students and HEPA filters in each classroom” EXCLUDING all First Nations schools and children
  • Aug. 25: 46% of Québecers credit Jacques Cartier for the discovery of Canada vs 11% who picked Indigenous peoples
  • Ryerson University name change to Toronto Metropolitan University raises issues around how to address the ongoing legacy of those involved in the design, implementation and operation of residential schools
Language and Culture: Progress in 2022
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17442412

Highlights

  • Jan. 12: Canada represented by First Nation, Métis and Inuit representatives for North America and western Europe on a UNESCO task force marking the beginning of an international decade of Indigenous languages
  • May 26: BC and Manitoba (May 18) have introduced legislation allowing Indigenous names on official documents

Issues:

  • April 25: the Government of Nunavut claimed Inuit children have no rights to be taught in Inuktituk, the majority language spoken by Inuit
  • May 30: Québec’s National Assembly passes Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec”. First Nations in Québec call the Bill “cultural genocide” (May 13)
  • Sept. 17: The number of Indigenous language speakers has declined from 17.2% (2016 census) to 13.8% (2021 census)
Health
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27341255151

Highlights:

  • Multiple investments by governments to recognize and implement healthcare rights of Indigenous people: BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Québec, Nova Scotia
  • Multiple investments by governments in Indigenous Healing Centres: Federal, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia
  • Manitoba establishes a First Nations Health Authority; Saskatchewan establishes a First Nations Ombudsman Office

Issues:

  • July 22: Canadian Medical Association (CMA) condemns forced and coerced sterilization
  • Dec. 5: Systemic racism and discrimination: A clear message sent to the government of Québec
  • Sept. 28: Federal ministers honour Joyce Echaquan and reaffirm commitment to addressing anti-Indigenous racism in Canada’s health care system
Justice
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782675711101121421

Highlights

  • June 3: Native Women’s Association of Canada Annual Report Card on federal government’s MMIWG National Action Plan
  • Multiple actions to reduce overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prisons and/or restorative justice programs in Federal government, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Multiple initiatives across the country in most jurisdictions to reduce violence against Indigenous women

Issues:

  • May 31: The number of Indigenous people in prisons in Canada continues to rise: increased from 24.2% in 2015 to 32% (Office of Correctional Investigator 2022 Annual Report)
  • Sept. 4, 2022: The mass killing at James Smith Cree Nation raised significant issue around the delay in police response and calls for more commitment and funding for First Nations Policing
  • See above under “”Why is Justice the # 1 priority?”
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
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844

Highlights

  • March 30: BC releases “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act Action Plan 2022 – 2027” with 89 Calls to Action
  • June 21: Federal government’s first annual update on UNDRIP National Action Plan
  • Oct. 24: New guidance on BC legislation provides best practices on the development of provincial laws and policies which advance Indigenous rights

Issues:

  • May 3: The Department of Justice states that UNDRIP is “interpretive only” and under the jurisdiction of Canadian law
  • Jan. 27: “Indigenous Sovereignty: Implementing Consent for Mining on Indigenous Land” released by BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council is, in part, “a response to to the provinces lack of progress in implementing UNDRIP since its enactment in 2019”
National Council for Reconciliation:
TotalFedOther Provinces/Territories
44Not directly involved
Highlights
  • June 22: Bill C-29 “National Council for Reconciliation Act” introduced in Parliament
  • Dec. 14: Bill C-29 “National Council for Reconciliation Act” is in Second Reading in the Senate after passing 3rd reading in House of Commons by a vote of 315 to 0

Issues:

  • Oct. 17: Assembly of First Nations concerned about the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs having any input around the selection of Board Members for the National Council
  • Oct. 17: Establishment of an Indigenous Peoples human rights tribunal through UNDRIP to provide meaningful redress for the ongoing impacts of colonization advocated for by the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami was ignored by the government
Church Apologies
TotalFedCatholic ChurchAnglican ChurchUnited ChurchPresbyterian Church
17114
2

Highlights

  • Pope Francis travelled to Canada to issue an apology to residential school survivors in Edmonton (July 25, Québec City (July 27) and Iqaluit (July 29)
  • July 27: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Vatican to update its position on the Doctrine of Discovery
  • July 28: Pope Francis acknowledges sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people for the first time and on July 30 affirmed that Indigenous people suffered genocide at residential schools
  • May 5: The Archbishop of Canterbury apologized to residential school survivors for the role of the Anglican Church

Issues

  • The three apologies delivered in Edmonton, Québec City and Iqaluit were on behalf individuals and not the Catholic Church as an Institution. The apology also neglected to address genocide, sexual abuse, return of Indigenous artifacts or release of residential school records from Catholic entities
  • The Catholic Church says it will take 4 more years to raise $30M for survivors
Missing Children and Burial Information
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3021441

Highlights

  • June 8: Kimberly Murray appointed Special Interlocutor to coordinate government response to unmarked graves
  • July 20: The Government of Canada and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation announce the new “National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Burials
  • Aug. 26: Government officials, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and residential school survivors raise Survivor’s Flag on Parliament Hill where it will fly for two years

Issues

  • Jan. 26: 93 potential unmarked graves discovered at Williams Lake First Nation (St. Joseph’s Mission School)
  • Feb. 15: 54 potential unmarked graves discovered in Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan (St. Philips/Fort Kelly IRS)
  • March 2: 169 potential unmarked graves discovered in Kapawe’no First Nation in Alberta (Grouard Mission/St. Bernard’s IRS)
  • April 21: 14 potential unmarked graves discovered in Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan (Gordon’s IRS)
  • Oct. 14: 71 potential unmarked graves discovered at Minegoziibe Anishinabe in Manitoba (Pine Creek First Nation IRS)
Commemoration
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14711122

Highlights

  • Three members (First Nation, Métis and Inuit) are appointed to Historic Sites and Monument Board
  • Commemoration of Indigenous National Historic Sites continues: ancient village of Mehtawtic, Batoche National Heritage site transferred to Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, 260th anniversary of death of Demasduit, one of the last Beothuk’s
  • May meeting of steering committee for Residential School National Monument in Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities

Issues

  • 8 provinces that represent 93.2% of the Indigenous population in Canada DO NOT support Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday
  • Only Toronto, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg and Whitehorse have installed or have committed to install a provincial Residential Schools Monument
Urban Commitments
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1422115111

Highlights

  • March 23: Toronto released “Reconciliation Action Plan” guiding city’s actions from 2022-2032
  • Oct. 20: Vancouver’s UNDRIP Strategy with First Nations the first of its kind in Canada
  • Nov. 10: Mayor Toronto apologizes to the Métis people for role in Northwest Resistance of 1885
Environment
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231522121

Highlights

  • April 9: The word “Colonization” is used for the first time as a cause of climate crisis in UN report on Climate Change
  • Dec. 9: Indigenous Guardians connected by new national network in Canada: the first of its kind in the world
  • Federal government made multiple commitments towards Indigenous Conservation Areas throughout Canada:
    • Imappivut Marine Planning Initiative (Labrador)
    • Gitdisdzu Lugyeks (Kitasu Bay) (BC)
    • Seal River Watershed (Manitoba)
    • Tang.ɢwan-ḥačxʷiqak-Tsig̱is Marine Protected Area (BC)

Issues:

  • Oct. 23: Coastal GasLink in hot water over continuous pipeline environmental violations
  • Aug. 17: UNESCO investigates whether Wood Buffalo is a threatened World Heritage site
  • Aug. 18: Ontario is resisting Canada’s plans for Indigenous-led conservation areas
  • Multiple threats to the Pacific Coast salmon fishery and the Mi’kmaq Moderate Living Fishery on the East coast
Treaties and Land Claims
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18141111

Highlights

  • Numerous Land Claim settlements by the Federal Government: Additions to Reserve, Specific Claims, Treaty Land Entitlements etc.
    • April 29: Williams Lake First Nations wins $145M settlement 160 years after land theft by settlers
    • June 3: Siksika First Nation settles $1.5B Land Claim
    • June 30: Lheidli T’Enneh declare they are rights and title holders for lands in Chilcotin region
  • Sept. 6:

Issues:

  • Six court cases identified above
  • Multiple issues around RCMP polices, tactics and funding in support of Coastal GasLink, a private enterprise encroaching on unceded Indigenous territory against Wet’suwet’en Land Protectors
  • June 28: “They beat us into submission.” West Moberly’s decade long fight against the Site C Dam is over
  • Dec. 8: The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act” and the “Saskatchewan First Act” introduce on Nov. 1 are a direct attack on Aboriginal Rights and Title as established by Treaties in Saskatchewan and Alberta, enshrined in the Constitution Act 1985 and confirmed by multiple Supreme Court decisions including Calder (1973), Delgamuukw (1997) and Tsilhqot’in (2014)

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