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What is the Truth about Reconciliation? 2023 Year-End Review: Indigenous Watchdog

What is the Truth about Reconciliation? 2023 Year-End Review: Indigenous Watchdog

INDIGENOUS WATCHDOG: HAMILTON – February 14, 2023 – This is the fourth year of tracking progress. Unfortunately, reporting of relevant data from the various levels of government continues to be a major problem. Good policy and program development requires good data. How else can you measure if reconciliation is succeeding or not in closing the socio-economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. So why – almost nine years after the TRC asked for it – can’t any level of government provide answers? Where is the data, especially for the following Calls to Action that are either Not Started or Stalled?

  • Child Welfare: C2A # 2: Not Started
  • Education: C2A # 9: Not Started
  • Health: C2A # 19: Stalled
  • Justice: C2A # 30, 39,: Stalled
  • National Council for Reconciliation: C2A # 55: Not Started

The biggest disappointment of 2023 is the failure to implement Bill C-29 “The National Council for Reconciliation Act”, the legislation called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada as “an independent, national oversight body” to track and report on all aspects of reconciliation. The Interim Board of Directors submitted their Final Report on June 12, 2018 – almost 5 years ago! This legislation would enable the National Council to, among other things, collect all the relevant data identified above from all government and other stakeholders across the country.

There are two ways to look at reconciliation: First, at a macro level, are governments actually doing what they have said they will? Second, at a micro level which themes are causing the most problems and where? Answering these will at the very least identify what is wrong and where and even perhaps offer some insight as to why?

What Can We Conclude from the Above?

The most obvious conclusion is that there are far more problems than positive actions and commitments: almost 2.5 x as many (727 positive vs 1,805 negative). In fact, 6 of the top 8 themes with the most positive actions had considerably more negative ones. So what does that say about reconciliation?

The main conclusion seems to be twofold: first, the focus for positive activity for the most part is too narrow and second, the actions are not directly addressing the more serious problems identified in each theme:

  1. Only three of the 8 top themes are Legacy Themes: Health, Justice and Education. Child Welfare and Language and Culture are missing. These five themes are foundational to change structural, legislative and institutional barriers that continue to oppress, marginalize and disenfranchise Indigenous people. And each has significant issues:
    • Health is the # 1 issue in most jurisdictions, primarily due to systemic racism and discrimination that is endemic across healthcare systems in Canada
    • Justice with issues in policing, systemic racism and discrimination, slow progress in implementing MMIWG recommendations, continuing increase in Indigenous incarceration
    • Education with issues in Indigenous identity, Indigenous History and Residential School Denialism
  2. There is a significant gap between positive and negative actions in Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation that indicates governments are not doing what they say they are
  3. The biggest gap is in Treaties and Land Claims where a majority of governments continue to fight against Aboriginal Rights and Title and Duty to Consult/Free, Prior and Informed Consent
  4. The rise of Business and Reconciliation activities is testament to the shifting and rising dialogue around Economic Reconciliation
  5. Environment carries a double wallop with climate change and the destructive impacts on Indigenous territories from the resource extraction industry, especially oil and gas, mining and forestry with little to no compensation for the land expropriated or the damage inflicted

What does the above say about all the positive “Actions and Commitments” that are advancing Reconciliation in every jurisdiction in Canada?

  1. The fact that only Housing and Business and Reconciliation are close to being balanced raises a question of why are the positive actions and commitments for the other six dwarfed by the number of problems in each?
    • Housing is the only category where the positive actions outnumber the problems primarily due to the multiple government housing programs and investments across the country. Not surprising since housing is a major national problem for non-Indigenous Canadians as well
    • Business and Reconciliation represents a noticeable shift in the reconciliation dialogue as more and more businesses and governments invest in economic reconciliation which is much easier than committing to UNDRIP as a reconciliation framework and also is good PR
  2. Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation was # 1 in activity across all jurisdictions indicating that governments are to some degree more focused on the macro level commitments vs the micro level actions that have more of a direct impact on policy and programs
  3. Treaties and Land Claims has the biggest gap between positive (40) vs negative (237). Most of the positive actions relate to Comprehensive Claims and Treaty Land Entitlements which are arguably more defined and easier to implement. Also, a number were court cases where governments lost
  4. Justice is the most problematic Indigenous issue with the largest number of Calls to Action (21) devoted to the legal system. Of the 23 Justice sub-themes across the 21 Calls to Action, 16 only had one commitment from one jurisdiction
  5. Health saw numerous commitments by various governments to improving access to health including for mental health and addictions and continuing the fight to eliminate systemic racism and discrimination in healthcare systems
  6. Environment saw significant investments in Indigenous Conservation Areas that were well identified and mostly not contentious and Green Energy programs that score a lot of political points

Are governments doing what they said they would do?

Few levels of government – federal, provincial and territory – are living up to their public statements about Truth and Reconciliation.

  • Federal government saying for almost nine years that nothing is more important than reconciliation with Indigenous people. Yet they changed the leadership of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada that has slowed down the already glacial progress on a number of Indigenous issues
  • No Indigenous Health leaders were invited to the National Health meetings in Feb. 2023 despite commitments made after the three National Health Dialogues held after the death of Joyce Echaquan to engage with Indigenous leaders on any health issues that would impact them
  • Norther Development Ministers Forum that promises economic reconciliation among other things while at the same time fighting Indigenous groups in the courts in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Yukon
  • The first group that the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador apologized to for the treatment of Inuit was to NunatuKavut who the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami does not recognize as Inuit
  • Governments talk about their commitments to Truth and Reconciliation and improving the lives oif Indigenous people yet continue to use the courts to deny those same rights:
    • Child Welfare: Québec, Alberta, Manitoba, Northwest Territories
    • Justice: Indigenous Policing, Suing Land Protectors, Forced Sterilizations, Injunctions
    • Treaties and Land Claims: Duty to Consult/Free Prior and Informed Consent: BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • etc. etc. etc.

CONCLUSION:

The Indigenous Watchdog 2022 Year-end Review identified four basic issues that were impeding reconciliation:

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

The above analysis indicates that all 4 are very much still active, indicating that we still have a long way to go. Given that we are approaching the ninth anniversary of the release of the TRC Summary Report in June with only 13 Calls to Action completed and 37% either Not Started or Stalled, the question has to be asked of all levels of government: When will you get serious about true reconciliation and do the real work needed to remove the barriers keeping Indigenous people impoverished, and marginalized.

That would mean actually taking action. 150+ years of waiting is long enough. And we are not going anywhere!

To read the full report click on https://www.indigenouswatchdog.org/2024/02/13/what-is-the-truth-about-reconciliation-2023-year-end-review-indigenous-watchdog/

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