Smagnis Says:

I agree with Liberal MP Robert Falcon Ouellette`s comments that INAC should be abolished. Kudos to him for speaking out and avoiding the sugar coating political approach. But….. he lost me when he said that the government should “really try and build another department,which would aim for 100 per cent new hires who are indigenous, and who understand the issues.” Really…You think that putting brown faces in the chairs within a bureaucracy will change things,  Mr. Ouellette. You obviously inadvertently inhaled some of that whacky tobacco that your PM is to legalize and Phil Fontaine is to peddle on reserves, according to a recent news release about his launching a joint venture with Cronos Group.

Leadership at the community level must be proactive, bold and not wait for solutions from Governments.

My friends, the answer is at our doorstep. Why must we wait for Government answers and interpretations of reconciliation? Remember, those leaders of our various groups like AFN perform an advocacy function only and really do not represent the collect views of those at the community level.  As such, any solutions will be long term. The answer lies within each of our communities. Leadership at the community level must be proactive, bold and not wait for solutions from Governments.

There are examples where First Nations have taken a pro active stance. The Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella in B.C. is an example. They have a solid Governance structure comprising elected officals and the Hemas ( Council of Elders/Hereditary Chiefs). Their elected officals also includes an off reserve representative.The Heiltsuk exerted a show of sovereignty in preventing non Aboriginal boats from entering their territorial waters to fish for herring because of dwindling stocks despite DOF claims to the contrary. They saw a need to protect their annual Spawn on Kelp fishery which is important from a food and cultural perspective. They enacted a Declaration of Title and Rights over their traditional territory and manage resources through  a separate Helisuk Integrated Management of Resources Department which also issues community member licenses to fish and hunt.  The community also has a summer program where the children attend a camp and learn about the culture and the importance of their role as stewards of Mother Earth. It instills pride in the youth and what means to be Heiltsuk.

The strategy for success lies in a few basic steps which will allow a community to get noticed and establish a solid negotiating position. These steps should include a solid organizational structure with good governance which empowers community members and separates politics from business, a clear and concise vision statement which reflects where community members see the future of the community, a strategic plan on how to achieve the vision with input and buy-in by community members, a Declaration of Title and Rights over traditional territory and a Consultation Protocol which is a mandate from community members and hold elected officals accountable to community members.

Leadership is about taking bold steps and goes beyond talking about inherent rights. Rather, it is about exercising those rights!

PS. For those interested, I have prepared a slide presentation encompassing the strategy for success that I speak about above. I will gladly forward to you to use as you see fit. In that regard, feel free to email me at



Liberal MP: For reconciliation to happen, department needs to go

Hill Times

Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Winnipeg Centre, Red Pheasant First Nation, Saskatchewan

The department governing aboriginal affairs was founded on the premise of ‘the destruction of indigenous peoples,’ says Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette says the department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs may have to be rebuilt entirely if reconciliation is to happen.

The MP from Winnipeg Centre, Man. said he thinks the history of the department that was responsible for many years for the marginalization of indigenous people runs too deep, and that for the culture to truly change, an entirely new department, staffed with as many indigenous people as possible, ought to be created.

Mr. Ouellette, who served in the military in his youth, compared changing government culture on indigenous rights to the changing of military culture to recognize human rights.

“In 1996, we had huge issues surrounding harassment and human rights [in the military],” he said. “We had a managerial system that was completely broken. I was told when I joined the military that I did not have human rights.”

Mr. Ouellette’s father was a mix of Cree and Métis. His mother emigrated from Britain as a child.

Military culture is finally changing after two decades, Mr. Ouellette said, referencing the more strict measures put in place to prevent harassment within the armed forces.

The long journey to cultural change is why the Liberal backbencher thinks Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada ought to be done away with as a department.

“Are we able to modify that culture within that department? Frankly, I’m not convinced we are,” he said.

 Mr. Ouellette said the government should “really try and build another department,” which would aim for 100 per cent new hires who are indigenous, and “who understand the issues.”

The reason the department has a problematic culture, he said is “1867.”

“They have been a department [where] their entire goal has been the destruction of indigenous peoples. They were responsible for the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples. It has a terrible history, that department. … The words, the actions, the thoughts of the past, maintain themselves into the present and into the future of that department. Culture is something that is very hard to undo.”

He said changing the culture within government is part of a “holistic” approach to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Holding the government to account on UNDRIP

Mr. Ouellette introduced a private member’s bill on Dec. 14, C-332, demanding the government be held accountable on its commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I think every government needs to be held to account in implementing UNDRIP,” the MP said. “At the end of the day, this is something our government is committed to, but in 10 years, when there’s a new government, I think this should still be going on.”

The current Liberal government has been criticized for its lack of tangible commitment to the UN declaration that it officially adopted this past spring.

Private members’ bills rarely become adopted into law.

Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett (Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ont.) announced to the United Nations in May that the government intended “nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.”

But since then, the implementation portion of the commitment has been questioned. One the biggest critics of the government’s commitment to UNDRIP has been NDP MP Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que.).

Mr. Saganash, who is his party’s critic for intergovernmental aboriginal affairs, has introduced his own private member’s bill, C-262, “to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony” with the UN declaration.

When introducing the bill in the House of Commons, Mr. Saganash said, “a central component of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action is to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.” He said his bill would provide the legislative framework for a “long overdue” national reconciliation.

After Mr. Ouellette introduced his bill, Mr. Saganash criticized it on Twitter. An individual under the username “Leah ProudLakota” tweeted at Mr. Ouellette saying his bill was something that was already covered within Mr. Saganash’s. “R U reducing his Bill to 1 article?” she wrote.

Mr. Saganash responded: “Good . But even then, his PMB is so poorly drafted. What is he up to?”

The Hill Times could not reach Mr. Saganash for comment.

In Mr. Saganash’s bill, he does indeed call upon the minister of Indian and Northern Development to submit a report to each house of Parliament every year including and between 2017 and 2037, on a national action plan for reconciliation, and “all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

When asked for his thoughts on the government’s progress on the implementation of UNDRIP, Mr. Ouellette said “we’re getting there.”

“I think we’re starting to move down the right path,” he said, pointing to an announcement Thursday from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), flanked by leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis Nation.

The prime minister committed to a yearly meeting with First Nations leaders, as well as a $10-million grant to the Truth and Reconciliation Centre at the University of Manitoba, and the creation of a national council for reconciliation.

“There’s a lot of things we could be doing to improve it, but it’s starting,” he said. “Like anyone, I wish we could move faster.”

The office of Minister Bennett said it was reviewing Mr. Ouellette’s bill. It did not respond to questions asking for a response to his proposal to get rid of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Mr. Ouellette’s bill says a report on the declaration should be tabled every year within 15 sitting days of June 2. That day is specifically outlined for a reason, he said.

“June 2 would place us around June 21, or June 22. June 21 is National Aboriginal Day. It’s a wink and a nod that you celebrate, and then a couple days later, here’s our report,” he said.

Heiltsuk Nation signs declaration that sets stage for reconciliation

Coastal First Nations

(Bella Bella – Oct. 28. 2015) The Heiltsuk celebrated the signing of a declaration that sets out a renewed mandate and a unique approach to reconcile our relationship with Canada & BC.

Heiltsuk’s traditional territory is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s central coast.
In the 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a declaration of Aboriginal title could be obtained through a negotiated agreement, or by court declaration. Today,through the signing of the Declaration and community approval of our Title & Rights Strategy, the Heiltsuk have established our own agenda to seek reconciliation with Canada and BC.

Over the years Heiltsuk have been proactive in advancing our title and rights through the courts (R. v. Gladstone), in negotiations (Reconciliation Agreement with Province of BC) and through direct action (occupation of DFO offices in 2015 to protect herring stocks). We have a strong history of seeking legal, political and economic solutions to reconcile our relationship with Canada & BC.

The Heiltsuk have been collaborating with both governments and industry partners related to planning and economic opportunities within our territory, both as a member community of Coastal First Nations and on our own. “This work must continue. Yet for all our proactive work, we still do not have a sustainable economy on the central coast and continually find ourselves at odds with resource management decisions made by other governments,” said Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt.

The Heiltsuk believe strongly that this approach is one that could achieve a shared objective with BC & Canada towards reconciliation. “We remain committed to all existing agreements and processes, but are interested in moving forward to seek appropriate solutions that will advance our government-to-government relationships with Canada and BC,” said Chief Marilyn Slett. “It is our hope that governments will see this approach as a positive opportunity and a springboard for future negotiations,” said Slett.


For Further Information contact:
Chief Marilyn Slett . 250-957-7721
Heiltsuk Tribal Council

A. This declaration is based on Lhaxvai (our inherent jurisdiction that flows from ownership of our lands) and Gvi’ilas (our governing authority over all matters related to our lands and people).

B. Throughout our history, our ancestors, Hemas and leaders have worked to reconcile our differences with Canada and BC. Each generation preserved our history and culture, and protected our territory. We acknowledge Elders who imparted teachings, stories, songs and dances that allowed us to maintain the traditions of our government institutions and our way of life. We honour our children and future generations who will carry on this important work until reconciliation is achieved.

C. Together, we the Hemas (hereditary Chiefs) and Heiltsuk Tribal Council( elected leaders) acting in our capacity as the official governing body mandated to represent citizens of the Heiltsuk Nation, on this day, October 28, 2015 declare that:

1. We are the Heiltsuk people, descendants of ancestors who exercised sovereign authority and ownership over our land and waters for thousands of years. Today, we reaffirm the continued existence of Heiltsuk title, and our right as a Nation to exercise jurisdiction and management authority and to derive economic benefits from lands, waters and resources
within our territory.

2. The source of Heiltsuk title flows from our historic ownership, occupation, stewardship, use and control of our territory. Our title predates and survives the assertion of European sovereignty. Each generation is taught the history of our lineage and how it connects our People to ownership and responsibilities related to our territory.

3. Heiltsuk territory indudes WuyaHtx, ‘Qvuqvayaitxv, Wuilitxv, Yisdaitxv and Xixis encompassing 35,553 sq. kilometers on the central coast of British Columbia. We have never surrendered title to our homeland, eco-systems and resources, as they are essential to our way of Life.

4. We continue to exercise jurisdiction and political authority as owners of our territory and resources when engaging with other governments, industry partners, First Nations and those seeking to carry out activities on Heiltsuk lands and waters.

5. We will uphold stewardship responsibilities passed on by our Hemas and nuyem-giwa (house, crest and family systems) and allow traditional laws to evolve into our contemporary government system.

6. To advance legal recognition of our title, we have undertaken extensive strength of claim anaysis to demonstrate that our assertions are based in fact. We are prepared to launch an Aboriginal title case if this fundamental reality is not recognized or respected.

7. We remain committed to existing agreements and to establish strategic alliances and cooperative relationships with partners who share Heiltsuk interests. These interests include the principles of ecosystem-based management over our land, water and resources, and the establishment of sustainable economic development and a conservation economy within
our territory.

8. We remain committed to seek appropriate solutions to reconcile Heiltsuk title with the Crown and engage on a government-to-government basis with Canada and BC to establish a process of reconciliation through negotiation.

9. lt is our position that reconciliation requires our free, prior, and informed consent to development on Heiltsuk territories and waters as we move forward in a collaborative management regime.

10. The renewed mandate from our People is to obtain a declaration of title to our lands and waters; and for Heiltsuk to exercise maximum control over our territory.


Opening the eyes of First Nations youth

Globe and Mail – Justine Hunter

A culture camp for Heiltsuk youth in Bella Bella, B.C., is part of a transformation that has essentially eliminated youth suicide and boosted graduation rates,

Participants in the Qqs camp near Bella Bella, B.C.

Surrounded by hereditary chiefs wearing full regalia, Rory Housty looked underdressed in his T-shirt and ski jacket when he welcomed B.C. Premier Christy Clark and other dignitaries to his community recently for an important signing ceremony.

But the packed hall fell into a respectful silence when the young man delivered a prayer in the Heiltsuk tongue. The people in the world who can fluently speak the Heiltsuk-Oowekyala language would fill a small bus, and Mr. Housty, at 27, is one of the youngest of them.

Mr. Housty credits a local youth program, the Koeye culture camp, with anchoring him to his culture. It is a remarkable achievement that this exposure – about 20 years ago – could connect him to his remote community on the central coast of B.C., because he would spend most of the next 15 years far from home.

Rory Housty, a former participant in the Qqs Project Society's Koeye culture camp, during a ceremony in Bella Bella in January.

Rory Housty, a former participant in the Qqs Project Society’s Koeye culture camp, during a ceremony in Bella Bella in January.

The camp, along with an array of spinoff programs, is run by the Qqs Projects Society, established by Larry Jorgenson. A white guy, an outsider, Mr. Jorgenson seemed to be on a bureaucratic career path before he visited Bella Bella 35 years ago. He was working in Alberta re-organizing the province’s mental health programs and had done similar work in Ontario. When he arrived on the coast, he found a community in crisis, enduring an average of one youth suicide every month. At the urging of the school principal, Mr. Jorgenson sold everything and moved to the isolated community, accessible only by air or sea.

“It was a negative space,” he recalled. Fishing jobs were disappearing and parents – scarred by their residential school experiences – were distrustful of the education system. Kids had to leave the community to attend high school, and 98 per cent of them failed to graduate.

Today, the Heiltsuk run their own school and the high school graduation rate is 80 per cent – well above the national average for a First Nations reserve. Those who have been through the Qqs programs are more likely to complete a postsecondary education, and they are emerging now as the cultural leaders of the community.

Funded mostly by environmental organizations and guided by the Heiltsuk leadership, Mr. Jorgenson began building an enterprising non-profit empire. What started with some boating trips with troubled youth expanded to a string of camps, a sawmill, a lodge, a cafe and a consulting agency. Scientists and field technicians now train students to conduct mountain goat and grizzly population surveys, which are then used to develop Heilstuk resource management plans. One group is now working on climate-change modelling.

Larry Jorgenson, who set up and runs the Qqs Projects Society in Bella Bella.

Larry Jorgenson, who set up and runs the Qqs Projects Society in Bella Bella.

Qqs – pronounced “kucks” – is the Heiltsuk word for “eyes,” because the program’s objective is to open the eyes of young people to their responsibility as stewards of the Heiltsuk environment and culture.

“It is not an accident that today’s cultural leaders are people who grew up in Qqs,” Mr. Jorgenson said. “Everything we do is culturally based. Our pillars are youth, culture and the environment. What we’ve tried to do is integrate western and traditional science.”

It has been a slow turnaround, but by instilling kids with the strength and resilience of their culture, the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella has experienced a cultural and economic revival. “The changes are huge. We now have a generation of young people who have university degrees, and they have come back to the community and they have kids and they love school – they want their children to succeed and compete in both worlds.”

There is a commitment from our young people to learn.

Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett

There are still youth at risk, but Mr. Jorgenson cannot recall the last youth suicide in this town of 1,400 people. “It’s been many years.” He deflects any credit, saying the change is the result of efforts by many individuals. But he says youth suicide is no longer an issue in Bella Bella.

Instead, members of the community – like Mr. Housty – are returning home with degrees in science, health and archeology – skills they can put to work here. They can sing the Heiltsuk songs of the grizzly bear and also produce the technical data to measure the state of its habitat.

At the camps in the forests on Campbell Island, in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, Mr. Housty was taught what a generation had almost forgotten: How to live off the land and how to maintain protocol in the potlatch. Now he is a co-master of the potlatch ceremonies – an honour for such a young member of the community.

“The program gives you the strength you need to able to be away, and still belong,” Mr. Housty recalled in an interview, weeks after the Premier’s visit in January to mark the completion of an agreement to strictly limit old-growth logging within the vast section of B.C.’s mid-coast that is called the Great Bear Rainforest. “I had a sense of being connected to where our ancestors lived.”

At the Koeye camp, he studied the Heiltsuk culture and language through singing and dancing, and was introduced to his people’s traditional ways of resource management. Then, he moved to the city of Nanaimo when he was still in elementary school. “It was so difficult, living in the south. I was uprooted.”

Participants in the Qqs Projects Society's Koeye culture camp for youth in Bella Bella.

Participants in the Qqs Projects Society’s Koeye culture camp for youth in Bella Bella.

Qqs Projects Society

While he was away, Mr. Housty studied anthropology and linguistics, and returned to live in Bella Bella in 2011, determined to throw himself into studying the language from the few elders who still hold the language. “It is a scary thought; we don’t have many fluent speakers left,” he said. “I’m working as hard as I can, trying to learn our language. We are losing the keepers of our language.”

Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett said the Qqs programs have strengthened a generation of kids by helping them retain their cultural identity. “We have such a strong group of young people in our community now, and having that Qqs camp is one of the drivers.”

The Heiltsuk are determined to play a leading role in the stewardship of their traditional territories and many of the science-based Qqs programs emphasize those resource issues. But preserving their traditional language is also critical. “We hear it all the time from [other] communities, that their language is on the verge of extinction. To hear people like Rory speaking the language, it’s a lot of hope for the future,” she said. The number of Heiltsuk speakers is still very low, she said, but between the Bella Bella Community School and Qqs, it is no longer disappearing.

“It’s not as high as we’d like to see it, but the growth is there. There is a commitment from our young people to learn.”

Mr. Jorgenson’s tiny, chaotic office is attached to the well-stocked community library that overlooks Lama Pass. Despite the spectacular seaside view, he spends as little time as possible at a desk. During an interview in the library, he remained standing, eager to get out the door and do something more than just talk.

It was later, when he was tracked down by telephone, that he explained what has driven him throughout his 35 years of community work. “I love being out there. I’ve climbed every hill, every minute I get, I take off and do things. I love to explore.”

Helping children and youth develop that passion for the outdoors is his reward.

“To be with a child watching a Sandhill crane dance while we hide behind a rock – seeing that look in their eyes – it’s beyond description. It is so amazing to be able provide those opportunities. What greater gift do we have to give than awe and wonder?”


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, announces new reconciliation initiatives on Parliament Hill, Thurs. Dec. 15, 2016. Photo by Alex Tétreault

After excluding them from a critical discussion on indigenous people and climate change earlier this year, both the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) hoped it was a mistake Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not repeat.

But one week after his second annual meeting with First Ministers and indigenous leaders on clean growth and climate change, the two national aboriginal organizations have been disappointed again.

“I don’t think it’s a tough decision for the prime minister to have two more representatives sitting at the table,” NWAC president Francyne Joe told National Observer. “He states he’s a feminist, he states indigenous relations are high priorities for his government, and yet he’s specifically excluding a national indigenous group that has been recognized by the courts. Why?”

A pattern of exclusion

Both NWAC and CAP have been considered among the five major organizations representing aboriginal people in Canada since the days of the Kelowna Accord, along with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Métis National Council (MNC), and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

Only the last three however, were granted an audience with Trudeau and the premiers during climate discussions in Vancouver in March, and again, in Ottawa last Friday. NWAC and CAP were also left out of a meeting on advancing reconciliation with the prime minister on Thursday that was attended by leaders of AFN, ITK, and a Métis representative from Manitoba.

Joe of NWAC was baffled Trudeau could even consider having a conversation about reconciliation without a single indigenous woman at the table, but in a press conference after the meeting, the prime minister confirmed their exclusion was deliberate. He further offered no specific explanation as to why CAP and NWAC weren’t invited.

“My answer is that we always have to make choices about who to include in different venues and at different points,” Trudeau told National Observer. “We continue to engage, listen and talk with and work with a broad range of organizations and stakeholders on important issues. We will always continue to but in any given meeting we have to make choices and we made those choices.”

The exclusion is particularly shocking, given that both CAP and NWAC were flown at the invitation and expense of the federal government to COP22 climate conference in Morocco just last month, and this time last year, Trudeau included them in a ceremony presenting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report on the legacy of residential schools.

The inconsistency is cause for concern, said Joe, as is the pattern of exclusion that appears to have formed since then.

Rights and titleholders at the table

The Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs declined to comment on this story, but after the press conference, AFN National Chief Perry Bellgarde offered some personal perspective on the government’s decision not to invite CAP or NWAC to meetings on climate and reconciliation. The prime minister is obligated to have those discussion with indigenous rights and title holders, he explained, and that’s precisely who AFN, MNC, and ITK represent.

“Any time you start to talk about rights and title, and being representatives of nations and governments — that’s who we are, and rightly so,” he said. “We support that action and that decision going forward. The Assembly of First Nations — the 634 chiefs represent all their people on and off reserve. We always say that’s the first order of government, to represent everybody, youth, women, men and elders on and off the communities… That’s why we’re here.”

Perry Bellegarde, Natan Obed, David Chartrand, reconciliation
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde talks about the role of rights and title holders at the negotiating table after a reconciliation meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thurs. Dec. 15, 2016. Photo by Alex Tétreault

A unique stake in the discussion

Both CAP and NWAC however, fundamentally disagree with the argument that their interests as rights and titleholders can be adequately represented by the other three national aboriginal organizations alone. They each represent a unique population of indigenous people in Canada; non-status Indians and indigenous people living off-reserve in the case of CAP, and 13 native women’s organizations from across Canada in the case of NWAC.

“Roughly 70 per cent of indigenous people live off-reserve,” CAP National Chief Robert Bertrand told National Observer. “We cannot exclude such a large number of indigenous people who live in big cities… and off-reserve, we have very strong convictions about the environment.”

In April, a Supreme Court decision ruled that 600,000 Métis and non-status Indians were indeed “Indians” under the Canadian Constitution, and without including CAP or NWAC, said Bertrand, the concerns of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people across Canada will fall upon “deaf ears.”

According to a recent report by Health Canada, some Canadians are more exposed than others to the health risks associated with climate change, particularly northern residents, children and seniors, and those who are chronically ill, homeless, low income, or living off of the land.

Indigenous people, especially women and girls, fall into many of these categories, and some even fall into all of them. Roughly 17 per cent of aboriginal women live in poverty, face food insecurity, and struggle to access the public services that could help them, according to a 2012 report by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development,

“Indigenous women have been experiencing gender oppression within not just Canadian society, but within our own aboriginal societies,” said Joe of NWAC. “So sometimes I think our views are not going to be as well-represented by these male-dominated indigenous groups.

“If you have an aboriginal woman who has lost her right to status because of the Indian Act’s sex discrimination or her mother married off-reserve, never once did that aboriginal woman give up her indigenousness, interest or rights being represented by these groups, and yet these groups do not consult her on the issues that are going to affect her and her children.”

Native Women's Association of Canada, Francyne Joe
NWAC president Francyne Joe is deeply disappointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision not to include her organization’s voice at the climate and reconciliation table. Photo courtesy of the Native Women’s Association of Canada

Invited to Morocco, but not First Ministers

Both CAP and NWAC were invited to attend the COP23 climate conference in Morocco this year by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and were flown to the conference on the government’s dime. Neither Joe nor Bertrand could understand why their input on climate was considered worthy of a plane ticket to Africa and a week’s worth of accommodations, but not an invite to the First Ministers meeting in Ottawa or Vancouver.

“I’m unaware of any reason that could provide legal justification for us to be excluded,” said Joe. “The exclusion of aboriginal women has far reaching implications for our own prospects of inclusion in the political arena affecting society in our power relations. We need to let the federal government know that we have different perspective.”

Bertrand also confirmed that CAP attended the COP21 climate conference in Paris last year, and the COP13 Biodiversity Conference in Mexico earlier this month, again, paid for by the federal government. When asked why the two organizations have been invited to some critical climate change meetings, but not others, ECCC spokesperson Mark Johnson responded:

“This does not in any way preclude ongoing discussions, as committed to by the Prime Minister in December 2015, with all five NIOs (national indigenous organizations) and their regional affiliate organizations on a range of issues. The Government of Canada is committed to working and meeting regularly with the NIOs, and will continue to engage in robust bilateral discussions with all five NIOs on issues of importance to their members.”

Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Winnipeg Centre, Red Pheasant First Nation, Saskatchewan
Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette hopes more indigenous voices will be included in pan-Canadian climate and reconciliation conversations after NWAC and CAP were left out of both in early December, 2016. Photo by Alex Tétreault

“This is not the end”

Among the many reporters and indigenous representatives attending the reconciliation press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, was Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, who hails from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan. The young Liberal MP has been an outspoken advocate for issues of indigenous consultation in the House of Commons.

When asked whether he supported Trudeau’s decision to repeatedly exclude NWAC and CAP from climate and reconciliation talks, he said indigenous inclusion in federal processes is a work in progress and will likely go through many transformations in the months to come.

“I don’t think it’s been completely decided who should be really at the table,” he told National Observer. “I’m certain as it moves forward, there will be other groups that will be joining. I think this is the beginning of a conversation. This is not the end, it has not all been decided, or at least I hope it hasn’t.”

Ouellette said he and a handful of other MPs have lobbied for inclusion of more indigenous voices in Canadian politics beyond the five major aboriginal organizations, and will continue to do so as reconciliation and climate discussions advance. But he also recognized the importance of gender balance during these conversations, and NWAC’s ability to balance the scales.

“The chiefs in the past were not good defenders of women’s rights,” he explained. “It became a very paternalistic society, so the women’s association was created to counterbalance that. I think we have to find a way to ensure there is this gender balance, because in indigenous society both men and women have a role to play. Women are the water keepers and men are the fire keepers….They offer different perspectives.

“I think we have to find a way to include more people in this process… It’s a very good first step, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Meantime, Joe expressed disappointment that AFN did not stand up for NWAC’s right to be at the meetings, and Bertrand of CAP vowed to work harder to lobby the federal government for a seat at the table in the future. Both said they would consider partnership with one another in achieving this goal.


Trudeau outlines next steps in aboriginal reconciliation efforts


National council for reconciliation will track progress on implementing TRC recommendations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media after meeting with Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, back left to right, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday Dec. 15, 2016.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media after meeting with Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, back left to right, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday the creation of a national council for reconciliation to help implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 final recommendations, which were released one year ago today.

The TRC called for the creation of this council in its report, envisioning it as an independent, national oversight body to monitor Canada’s “post-apology progress on reconciliation,” and to produce annual reports on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Trudeau said his government has already initiated some sort of action on 41 of 45 of the commission’s “calls to action” that fall under federal jurisdiction, which range from improved funding for child welfare and education to protecting language and culture.

The government has also launched the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, one of the commission’s key recommendations.

Trudeau also pledged Friday to host formal, bilateral “Kelowna-like” meetings with Indigenous leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council each year to help draft policies on shared priorities.

Similar meetings with relevant cabinet ministers will also take place twice a year, he said.

“Last year, I committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples, one based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Today, we take further steps on the journey of reconciliation,” Trudeau told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons.

Next steps in reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by former Justice Murray Sinclair, who is now a senator, was launched after then prime minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to the survivors of the residential schools system.

The commission met with people across the country who attended the schools, and gathered information over six years to help craft the calls to action, policies intended to redress the legacy of the schools and “advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”

Trudeau promised $10 million in funding for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, an institution created to document the history of Canada’s residential school system and legacy.

The centre is launching a website to keep track of the progress on each of the calls to action.

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Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, centre, and President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed, right, listen to Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand respond to a question in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who met with Trudeau ahead of the announcement, said the new national council will help ensure the TRC report doesn’t “collect dust,” like so many other reports on First Nations issues have in the past.

Bellegarde said the “permanency” of the bilateral meetings with the prime minister was important, adding it will help Indigenous leaders hold the prime minister’s “feet to the fire.”

Progress in year one

While Bellegarde said progress has been made in the past year, such as the construction of six new schools and the lifting of drinking water advisories in 14 communities, he added he doesn’t expect all problems to be solved overnight.

“You’re not going to close that gap in one year. It’s not realistic.”

He said $8.4 billion Ottawa promised in the last federal budget is an unprecedented commitment.

“The issue is now making sure those resources get out in a timely manner so they have really meaningful impact on the ground.”

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Métis Federation, who represented the Métis National Council at today’s talks, also had praise for the prime minister.

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Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, left, and Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, right, listen to President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed respond to a question in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“Imagine this for a second: locked out of your house for 10 years and you’re finally let in — that’s our feeling that we have,” he said, referencing the decade under former prime minister Stephen Harper. “We do actually have a prime minister who cares, one who has a vision.”

“The prime minister has promised a lot, and he’s trying to do a lot, and he’s trying to catch up for decades of unfinished business. Now we can’t be putting him in a position that we expect him to do it all, immediately, tomorrow morning, all our problems will be solved. It ain’t going to happen and we have to be conscious of that,” Chartrand said.

Trudeau faced questions as to why he has agreed to meet with these three national Aboriginal organizations, but not the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Indigenous Peoples Assembly of Canada, which represents off-reserve status and non-status Indians.

He said choices have to be made and those weren’t invited to Thursday’s meeting.

Bellegarde said he represents 634 chiefs who are the rights and treaty holders and it is appropriate he be present to represent those who have a special relationship with the Crown.

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Reconciliation report card11:34


More talks, instead of action, from the federal government ‘is beyond sickening, it’s neglectful,’ critic says

National Post


Trudeau announces steps to ‘renew’ indigenous… 1:53

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a trio of indigenous leaders Thursday called for patience and more time as they committed themselves to more negotiations and more study to improve the lives of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Trudeau and leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Taparit Kanatami and the Metis National Council met on Parliament Hill Thursday morning where they agreed that Trudeau and his ministers would meet regularly over the coming years with members of each organization.

Trudeau also announced $10 million for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, a research group set up to track the implementation of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But many other indigenous leaders as well as political opponents of the federal Liberals are becoming impatient and frustrated at the continued tweaking of processes and a perceived lack of concrete action that could improve the lives of indigenous Canadians.

“This announcement is not an act of reconciliation,” said Pam Palmater, the chair of the indigenous governance program at Ryerson University in Toronto and one of the leading critics of not only the federal government but also of the Assembly of First Nations. “This is the same old delay tactic used by previous governments to make it look like they are doing something when faced with growing criticism that they are not doing enough.”

Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the AFN, cautioned that “it was not realistic” to think the gap in quality-of-life standards between indigenous Canadians and non-indigenous Canadians was going to close in Trudeau’s first year on the job.

Both he and Trudeau pointed to a handful of projects that have improved conditions in indigenous communities that got started over the last year.

“We know there’s a strategy and plan moving forward. To close this gap is not going to happen in 12 months. Long-term sustainable investments — that’s the trick. That’s the thing,” Bellegarde said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media after meeting with Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, back left to right, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday December 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld ORG XMIT: ajw108

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the media after meeting with Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand, back left to right, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday December 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld ORG XMIT: ajw108

David Chartrand, vice-president of the Metis National Council of Canada, was even more explicit in his message of patience to those indigenous Canadians frustrated with conditions in their communities.

“I send a message back to my own people. The prime minister has promised a lot. And he’s trying to do a lot and he’s trying to catch up for decades of unfinished business. And now we can’t be putting him in a position that we expect him to do it all immediately, (that by) tomorrow morning our problems are resolved. It ain’t going to happen.” said Chartrand. “We’ve got to be conscious of that.”

Palmater, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012 to become AFN national chief, was sharply critical of that kind of counsel.

“While I fully expect the government to continue the same tactics it has used since contact, what isn’t acceptable are the corporate heads of national aboriginal organizations telling us to be patient and telling us to wait,” Palmater said.

At a special meeting of the Assembly of First Nations last week in week in Gatineau, Que., there was some grumbling among some chiefs about the slow pace of change under the Trudeau government.

The Kitigan Zibi First Nation in western Quebec was frustrated enough that last week it filed a lawsuit in Ontario provincial court claiming legal title to Parliament Hill.


Kitigan Zibi Chief Jean Guy Whiteduck 1:39

“At this point it is clear that real change has been replaced with incremental change,” said Hayden King, an assistant professor in the school of public policy and administration at Carleton University. “Even if the shift to an incremental approach was predictable, it is still frustrating, more so, when justified under the pretense of ‘getting it right.’ I think that’s disingenuous.

“It is apparent that we are stuck in reconciliatory inertia. And that breeds cynicism of this government and the national First Nation and Métis organizations that endorse incremental change.”

Conservative and New Democrat MPs have teamed up over the last few months in Parliament to press the Trudeau government to more quickly implement changes they say would immediately help indigenous people.

New Democrat Charlie Angus, for example, has led the charge to get the government to implement Jordan’s Principle, something it was ordered to do last January by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Jordan’s Principle requires health care providers to  provide care to indigenous children even when there may be unresolved disputes over which level of government is responsible for that care.

The Bentwood Box is seen during the second day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Alberta National Event at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday, March 28, 2014. Healing items are placed inside the box during the hearings. Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

The Bentwood Box is seen during the second day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Alberta National Event at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday, March 28, 2014. Healing items are placed inside the box during the hearings. Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

The government says it has implemented Jordan’s Principle and that more than 900 children have benefitted. In response, critics have cited dozens of anecdotes of indigenous children being denied health care by government bureaucrats or for lack of funds.

King said one of his “easy policy shifts: stopping the discrimination of First Nation children in government care.”

For Palmater, an announcement about more talks between the federal government and indigenous organizations “is beyond sickening, it’s neglectful.”

She argued that the federal government should be dealing aboriginal and treaty rights, resource rights and jurisdiction — the big issues at the heart of the dysfunctional relationship between the Crown and indigenous governments while making immediate fixes in other areas.

“There is no economic, administrative or legal impediment to the federal government acting tomorrow to take substantive actions to bring relief for our people,” said Palmater, a Mi’kmaw and member of Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. “They could tomorrow decide to end discriminatory funding and adjust contribution agreements for First Nations. They could decide tomorrow to comply with the Human Rights Tribunal and stop discriminatory funding for kids in care. Doing this would put good faith on the table. It’s a matter of political will.”


Smagnis Says: This is wrong in so many ways. Making money off the misery of our people and using croynism via his relationship with other Indian Act Chiefs to get rich!

Financial Post


Indigenous Roots, a partnership with Cronos Group, which owns two of Canada's first licensed cannabis producers, is led by Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Indigenous Roots, a partnership with Cronos Group, which owns two of Canada’s first licensed cannabis producers, is led by Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

An indigenous company is getting into the medical marijuana business for the first time through a joint venture partnership, with plans to expand into First Nations communities across the country.

Indigenous Roots, a partnership with Cronos Group, which owns two licensed cannabis producers, is led by Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. It’s focused on indigenous ownership and operation as well as providing jobs to First Nations communities, Fontaine said in an interview Tuesday.

It plans to target more indigenous involvement in the space, both through improving access for its customer base and by creating a network of indigenous-run marijuana facilities on reserves across the country.

“It’s about revitalization of First Nations economies, it’s about wealth creation, it’s about providing a service to an underserved client group, it’s about jobs, training and its about capacity building. And I think there are real opportunities here for the indigenous community.”

The group will also lobby the federal government to provide medical marijuana insurance coverage for indigenous people, the way it does for veterans — something Fontaine believes is imminent and inevitable.

The joint venture aims to provide a model for more widespread First Nations involvement in the medical cannabis industry, and Indigenous Roots plans to consult and work with First Nations interested in participating through investment, job opportunities and having a facility on their land.

“This is about compassionate care and providing help and alternatives to some other substances that cause addiction and do more damage than good,” said Mike Gorenstein, CEO of Cronos Group.

“We just agreed that it was time for an indigenous group to have access, whether on a partnership basis or on their land and this is a way to accelerate that. This is about access to the industry for indigenous people, both on the producer and the consumer side.”

The partnership with Cronos, which owns medical marijuana producers In The Zone Produce Ltd. and Peace Naturals Projects Inc., provides First Nations an expedited path for investment, operation and participation in the nascent marijuana economy, as it doesn’t need to spend years working through Health Canada’s intense licensed producer application process.

Instead, the partnership with existing licensed producers will provide a platform for expansion between In The Zone’s operations in B.C. and Peace Naturals in Ontario through expansion permits. The two companies collectively own 145 acres of land and are licenced to produce 2,600 kilograms of cannabis annually.

Cronos will provide land, licence, intellectual property and engineering expertise for the joint venture’s flagship facility. In exchange, it will take 50 per cent of the joint venture’s operating profits.

Indigenous Roots will first hive off a few acres of In the Zone’s 31-acre lot in British Columbia’s Okanagan region. Shovels will hit the ground in the spring, when Indigenous Roots branded products will also be available to patients using Cronos’s existing inventories.

Cronos is building up a portfolio of marijuana brands through its minority stakes in three other licensed producers and two companies in the application process to become licensed marijuana producers.