Why does reconciliation suck for Indigenous people?

How serious are governments about reconciliation when the majority of jurisdictions are still fighting Indigenous rights in Child Welfare, Education, Language, Health, Justice, UNDRIP, Treaties and Land Claims and the Environment in the courts?

Consider the following:

  • Federal, provincial and territory governments in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut are fighting Indigenous rights in the courts
  • Exclusion of Indigenous leaders from Federal, Provincial and Territory Healthcare talks despite commitments by all levels of government to “engage” Indigenous leaders after the three National Dialogue meetings in 2021 and 2022 held after the death of Joyce Echaquan
  • Systemic racism incidents have been reported federally and in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon
  • Child and Youth Advocates in Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador have raised red flags on the lack of progress in implementing recommendations from previous Child and Youth Advocate reports

Indigenous Watchdog scans multiple sources every day to aggregate content on 30 Indigenous themes – including 22 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. That content creates tangible, concrete evidence of where reconciliation is having problems and what those problems are.

In the first two months of 2023, Indigenous Watchdog has documented 141 “Current Problems” in multiple jurisdictions across 15 different themes of which the top five are the same top five highlighted by Indigenous Watchdog in Where are the successes and Failures in Reconciliation: Indigenous Watchdog 2022 Year-in Review“.

What that content reveals is that almost 8 years after the TRC released their Summary Report in June 2015, reconciliation is struggling. 86% of the “Current Problems” documented in the seven themes identified below took place from Ontario to BC – including the Federal government.

Treaties and Land Claims151361118
Child Welfare33412114
Missing Children5311111
Govt Commitments to TRC2112111110

What does that say?

The federal government who are accountable for 76 of the Calls to Action have 32 documented issues. The provinces with the largest Indigenous populations are recording the greatest number of problems across the widest range of issues as listed above with BC leading the way (18 issues) followed by Manitoba (16 issues), Alberta (12 issues) and Saskatchewan and Ontario with 8 each

If reconciliation is really working, why are there so many problems. Look at the 31 “Current Problems” below and the dominant thread is the profound lack of political will to tackle the hard issues, especially federal, provincial and territory power and jurisdiction and their refusal to cede ground – literally and figuratively – to those most impacted: First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Where are the issues? Here is a snapshot:

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation (10)

  • Exclusion of Indigenous leaders from Federal, Provincial and Territory Healthcare talks
  • Human Rights Watch releases scathing report on Canada’s violations of Indigenous rights after decades of structural and systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples that persist across Canada. 
  • Saskatchewan First Act” is top priority of Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan
  • Premiers of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario use Doctrine of Discovery to ignore Duty to Consult and Free Prior and Informed Consent

Missing Children and Burial Information (11)

  • Appointment of International Commission on Missing Persons present challenges to the Office of the Special Rapporteur on independence from control of the federal government and lack of transparency and consultation
  • Appalling “legacy” of residential schools tops UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People list of early findings
  • Three more sites of unmarked graves in Saskatchewan, Ontario and BC
  • Tainted milk led to deaths of Alberta residential school children, group says

Child Welfare (14)

  • Denial of services and supports for First Nations children varied by region during the pandemic (Jordan’s Principle)
  • Québec, Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories are fighting Bill C-92 “The Indigenous Child Welfare Act” that returns Indigenous child welfare to First Nations
  • Systemic Racism issues in Alberta, Manitoba (multiple), Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Child and Youth Advocates in Alberta and Manitoba reported significant issues regarding Indigenous youth persisting over time
  • Ottawa still working on rewriting the First Nations child welfare compensation deal

Environment (14)

  • Negative Environmental Impacts on Indigenous People in Federal, BC (multiple), Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon
  • Federal fisheries official investigate Coastal GasLink pipeline project and in an odd twist refuse to reveal Coastal GasLink data on impacts to salmon fish habitat
  • BC Hydro’s Site C lawsuits targets Indigenous people and farmers
  • Climate Change impacts on the Inuit way of life

Health (17):

  • Exclusion of Indigenous leaders from Federal, Provincial and Territory Healthcare talks
  • Respiratory issues (RSV) are rampant and endemic in the north especially in Inuit communities in Inuit Nunangat: (Nunavut, Inuvialuit (NWT), Nunavik (Québec) and Nunatsiavut (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Systemic racism in Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Health Care Reform stalled in Federal, Alberta, Saskatchewan jurisdictions
  • Ongoing Heath Crisis persist in BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Treaties and Land Claims (18)

  • Ontario continues to fight the Robinson-Huron Annuity Claims case at the Supreme Court and Indigenous objections to the Ring of Fire mining development
  • New Brunswick’s failure to engage with the six Mi’kmaw First Nations and Wolastoqiyik over Aboriginal Rights dating back to the Peace and Friendship treaties from 1725
  • Saskatchewan passage of “Saskatchewan First Act” directly denies Aboriginal Rights and Title to First Nations and Métis
  • Alberta’s Sovereignty Act directly denies Aboriginal Rights and Title to First Nations and Métis

Justice (28)

  • Multiple instances of systemic racism and discrimination with the RCMP nationally and policing in general (police-involved killings and wrongful convictions)
  • Multiple instances of systemic racism and discrimination in BC, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Québec, Manitoba
  • NDP MP slams Correctional Services Canada over systemic racism
  • Inuit in Quebec are jailed 15 x often more than provincial incarceration average
  • Legislative and institutional barriers federally (Healing Lodges) and BC (Access to mental health and addictions services

If the above represents how federal, provincial and territory governments really feel about reconciliation, the road ahead will not be easy. Fighting against the combined weight of all levels of government will take the combined efforts and will of all Indigenous communities – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – working together to fight back.

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