SPEAKING POINTS FOR SADM JOE WILD
AFN SPECIAL CHIEFS’ ASSEMBLY ON FEDERAL LEGISLATION
“IMPLEMENTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION – DIALOGUE SESSION”

May 1, 2018

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us here today.

I want to acknowledge that we are gathered on Algonquin territory – thank you to the Algonquin people for welcoming us.

As you all know, on February 14, the Prime Minister delivered a land mark statement in the House of Commons on the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights.

The Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada will develop a Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework in full partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

To truly renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people, the Government of Canada will make the recognition and implementation of rights the basis for all relations between Indigenous people and the federal government.

What this means is that Canada has to stop hindering the implementation of inherent and treaty rights.

This is about living up to our constitutional obligations under section 35, but more importantly about honouring the terms of our relationships – relationships that must be founded on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

In the spirit of respectful partnership, Canada committed to determining the substance of the Framework through national engagement activities led by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

But before I get any further into where we’re going, I would like to briefly touch on where we’re coming from.

Whenever we discuss Indigenous rights in Canada, we begin by recognizing that there are inherent rights as well as those established by treaty.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982; along with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provide the constitutional and international frameworks that recognize and affirm these rights.

The introduction of section 35 was a momentous development towards the protection and respect of the inherent and treaty rights that Indigenous people have always held.

It is important to remember that just over 30 years ago, we could not have predicted that this would be the case.

It was thanks to the tireless advocacy of Indigenous peoples that Aboriginal and treaty rights were enshrined in the Constitution. We would not be where we are today without the work of those advocates.

While significant progress was made following the adoption of the Consitution Act, 1982 – through instruments like the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies – our Indigenous partners have been telling us for years that the status quo simply does not go far enough.

Federal approaches over the last 30 years have been defined by the denial of Indigenous rights in Canada:

  • obliging groups to prove the very existence of their rights up to a federal standard of evidence;
  • an insistence on the full and final definition of rights where they are recognized;
  • adversarial, inflexible, costly approaches to negotiations;
  • a lack of appropriate options for advancing pre-1975 treaty rights; and,
  • continual struggles to ensure that recognized rights are actually implemented.

In response to longstanding calls from Indigenous peoples, we started moving in a new direction around two years ago – the federal government began to embrace the idea of section 35 as a full box of rights.

We have also moved away from the position that we have no outstanding obligations under treaties – that we had done our duty on historic and modern treaty implementation.

Our new perspectives and approaches were first reflected in Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussions – we now have about 60 of these discussions underway.

They have given us the opportunity to put aside our existing policy boxes and started the dialogue from a blank page, sitting down with Indigenous groups based on how they want to organize themselves and starting from a place of recognizing their rights.

We work together at the table to explore what the vision of selfdetermination looks like for that particular community, and how we can implement their rights to make that vision a reality.

For many First Nations, priorities at the table have centred on how to forge brand new pathways to self-determination, health and prosperity that make sense in the unique context of the community.

For others, priorities are driven by our existing treaty relationships.

Through these discussions, we are seeking ways forward that

respect the spirit and intent of longstanding treaties and relationships, and that build off that shared history as a foundation for moving forward.

However, our approach must also contemplate what our relationship would look like had we not gone through that long period of colonialism.

This brings me to why I’m here today – to talk about how we’re taking what we’ve learned and using that knowledge to transform Canada’s approach to Indigenous rights, in full partnership with the rights-holders.

DETAILS ON THE FRAMEWORK AND WHAT WE HAVE HEARD THROUGH ENGAGEMENT

Since the Prime Minister’s announcement in February, Minister Bennett has been leading engagement activities with Indigenous groups across the country to inform the substance of a Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Framework.

This Framework will ground Canada’s new approach to Indigenous rights in law and policy, and on February 14, the Prime Minister suggested that it could:

o build new mechanisms to recognize Indigenous governments and ensure the rigorous, full and meaningful

implementation of treaties and agreements;

o create new tools to support the rebuilding of Indigenous nations, communities and governments and advance selfdetermination and the inherent right of self-government;

o establish new methods of dispute resolution;

o enhance federal transparency and accountability;

o align Canadian legislation and policies with the UN Declaration; and,

o replace the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies with new, distinctions-based policies.

Since then, what we have heard through engagement has given us a better picture of what the Framework must achieve. I want to offer a brief summary of key objectives raised through engagement sessions to date.

We have heard that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be the foundation of any new approaches to rights.

We have been called on to ensure an appropriately in-depth engagement process that creates opportunities for meaningful community involvement and true co-development, while respecting external timing pressures.

We know there is a need for a process to reconstitute collectives and nations that is shaped and led by Indigenous peoples, and for mechanisms to ensure meaningful federal recognition and implementation of the inherent right of selfgovernment.

As Grand Chief Ed John knows, we have heard loud and clear about the fundamental link between rights and title. There have been calls for practical approaches to Indigenous title and its recognition as a fundamental element of reconciliation.

We know that Canada must implement existing treaty rights in full, and honour treaty relationships. We also need to enable the acceleration of ongoing negotiations

We understand that the Framework should not attempt to codify or universally define Indigenous rights, but rather enable their implementation and evolution.

Indigenous people have also been clear that they need to have a say in economic development activities impacting traditional territories.

Finally, we continue to hear about the need for new ways to hold the federal government accountable to its commitments, particularly with respect to the implementation of rights and agreements.

Bearing in mind that this is only an overview – is it a good representation of the interests of your communities? Are there key points that we have missed?

Minister Bennett’s national engagement is ongoing, and the Prime Minister’s intention is to have the Framework introduced later this year and implemented by October 2019. As we work towards transformative change together, I am always open and eager to hear your thoughts.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

If we are going to try to map out the future and set the stage for the next 150 years, we need to find a place to start having conversations about what that relationship is going to look like.

How do we work together to shape our relationship going forward, and to attempt to do so in the spirit of making this process about decolonization and building partnership?

Recognizing all of the legacies of how we got to where we are today, what are the next steps we want to take together?

That is what a lot of the work we have been trying to undertake in the last couple of years has been – sitting down with First Nations and having conversations at the community level about what the landscape would look like if there was no Indian Act.

The Framework development process builds on this and the many steps that Canada has already taken towards advancing the rights of First Nations, including: fully endorsing the UN Declaration and supporting MP Saganash’s Bill C-262 to implement it; establishing the Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies; and, establishing approximately 60 Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussions.

Working together with First Nations partners to define how we recognize and implement their rights in federal law and policy is vital to overcoming the legacy of colonialism and achieving better outcomes for all Canadians.

We are looking to hear about what your communities might be thinking of in terms of what we need to do to advance this conversation, and to really get to the objective the Prime Minister has set out: ensuring that the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights is the basis of all our relations.

Thank you.

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