A New Indigenous Partnership
Canadians have come to recognize that our history is both one of peace, diversity, and tolerance as well as colonization, racism, and systemic oppression. In the case of the many Indigenous peoples of Canada, the latter is disgracefully all too familiar and close at mind. For a country with as much wealth and privilege as we have, Indigenous peoples disproportionately suffer the effects of stigma, racism, criminalization, poverty, and inadequate recognition of their sovereign rights and territorial claims. It is time for this era of our history to end.
Canadian governments past and present have acted in bad faith towards Indigenous peoples who seek to assert their own cultural, territorial, and political rights. They have been given a great deal of lip-service by the government, which has failed to act with integrity and authenticity. This is why, as Métis writer and artist David Garneau illuminates, “reconciliation” is not necessarily an adequate framework for us to move beyond the colonial onslaught against Indigenous peoples persistent in our country. Reconciliation emphasises going back to a state of “normalcy“ or “good standing,” which is not the kind of relationship that Canada can argue it has ever had with Indigenous peoples whose land settlers colonized.
This is why the Animal Protection Party of Canada believes that we must look beyond isolating specific tasks set out by colonizing bodies and instead engage in Indigenous-led conciliation. As Garneau explains, “conciliation” is moving towards something new together without a defined path already established by one party. It is not about creating a single process and then completing the task to achieve the outcome. It is about creativity, optimistic engagement, and honest communication that is without a defined boundary or time limit, while still achieving the goal at hand.
With the above shift in mind regarding our relationship with Indigenous communities, we must recognize that the failures of our colonial political system to remedy the rift between our nations has failed due to a lack of political will, not inadequate policy. The Royal Proclamation of October 7th, 1763 and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are examples of legally binding documents in Canada which already recognize Indigenous peoples’ unextinguished rights and claims to self-determination.
We will work on implementing the legally enshrined rights of Indigenous peoples for self-determination that already exist, and that have been ignored or circumvented by government after government in Canada. A fundamental aspect of this would be an Indigenous-led decision as to what to do with the Indian Act and how to re-imagine a Canada without such discriminatory legislation.
This will lead to the assertion of Indigenous peoples’ inherent right of self-governance, as each nation defines it. As privileged partners in this transition, we will provide legislative support and funding necessary to ensure Indigenous communities have the resources necessary to realize self-determination and define their identities on their own terms.
This new partnership will not be easily achieved within the context of a long-standing and traumatic colonial framework. However, at the core of our commitment to compassionate politics, is a commitment to overcoming fear of change with action and persevering through hardship with a creative and optimistic outlook.
By empowering Indigenous led initiatives across Canada to define their own destinies, we are enriching the lives of all Canadians to gain a better understanding of the peoples and histories that run parallel with our own.
Satsan (Herb George) Use the Tools We Have. Policy Options. Feb 1st 2013.