By Nation to Nation| April 29, 2016
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says she will work “one community at a time” to develop a “reconciliation framework.”
That framework would work with First Nations on a nation to nation basis and get out from under the Indian Act.
Speaking on APTN’s Nation to Nation, Wilson-Raybould briefly outlined her plan after giving an impassioned speech during an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the crisis in the Cree community of Attawapiskat. There she offered the first glimpse of the Liberal plan to abolish the Indian Act and emphasized the importance of “meaningful, substantive change.”
“There are no quick fixes to these issues,” said Wilson-Raybould.
Wilson-Raybould talked about the importance of a long-term reconciliation plan. She also addressed the need to move beyond the Indian Act and towards a nation to nation relationship.
“We need to ensure we breathe life into section 35 and that we complete the unfinished business of Confederation,” said Wilson-Raybould in her speech in the House of Commons.
“If we do so we will have a strong and appropriate governance in First Nation communities wherein they have moved beyond the Indian Act,” she said.
On Nation to Nation, Wilson Raybould said the government will work with First Nations who are ready to take on self-governance.
“Communities are at different places and we need to ensure that we have tools when a community is ready to move beyond the Indian Act in whole or in part that they’re ready to do so,” said Wilson-Raybould.
She said that this could be achieved in a variety of ways, from “sectoral government initiatives” to “bi-lateral self government agreements” to “comprehensively negotiating a treaty under the modern treaty process.”
Wilson-Raybould said it may not be a fast moving process.
“Our efforts and how quickly we move will be determined by individual communities, by the will of the people who live in those communities and when communities are ready to do something substantive, which many have already…they have a partner in Ottawa who is ready to pick up the ball and run with them,” said Wilson Raybould.
A former deputy minister of Indigenous Affairs said the government should be wary of putting the emphasis on action.
Scott Serson said a results-focused approach could hamper the government’s reconciliation efforts.
In a conversation with APTN’s Nation to Nation online, Serson said the department’s insistence on results may have been at the cost of substantive change.
Interview with former INAC deputy minister Scott Serson.
“(We) left all those more difficult, complex issues relating to nation to nation in abeyance and in the end we never really got back to them,” said Serson.
Now he worries the current government will have the same problem.
“This emphasis on delivery of results, while good, leaves some of us concerned that once again we’re going to neglect these fundamental issues that have to be negotiated and debated around nation to nation,” he said.
“I was happy to see that the Minister of Justice was renewing the call for that nation to nation relationship,” said Serson.
That relationship will require the development of new frameworks alongside Indigenous leaders, according to Serson.
“If the federal government can develop some framework policies, then individual nations can proceed at their own pace and their own priority to develop that relationship that they are looking for,” he says.
Still, he worries that despite Wilson-Raybould’s speech, the government is heading in a results-focused direction.
“It’s clear that from news reports and even the reports from the recent government retreat in Kananaskis, that the government wants to put an emphasis on results,” he said.
According to Wilson Raybould, those results are not in the near future.
“The Indian Act will not be gotten rid of in one fell swoop … communities are at different stages in terms of their own deconstruction or decolonizing,” said Wilson Raybould.