Transcript: Contemporary Issues in Canadian Federalism Series: Federalism Structures and Relationships with Indigenous Peoples
[The CSPS logo appears onscreen alongside text that reads "Webcast".]
Danielle White: Kwe kwe. Good afternoon. Hello. Welcome. Pjila'si to the Federalism Structures and Relationships with Indigenous Peoples discussion.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
My name is Danielle White. I come from Mi'kma'ki Territory on the west coast of Newfoundland. I'm a member of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation and I will be your moderator for today. I'm the Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy and Partnerships at Indigenous Services Canada, and I'm joining you today from beautiful unceded Algonquin territory where I now live and work.
We have a very exciting event planned for you this afternoon, and just before we proceed, I wanted to mention a couple of housekeeping items. To optimize your viewing experience we recommend disconnecting from your VPN, or use a personal device to watch the session.
We also have simultaneous translation in French. This service is available through the webcast.
So, we have simultaneous translation in French and you can access that service through the webcast. You can refer to the reminder e-mail for the details on how to access this option.
So, now, before we begin, I would like to welcome Algonquin Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper Monique Manatch to start us off in a good way and open today's event with a prayer.
[Monique Manatch appears in a separate video chat panel.]
Monique, [Speaks in Indigenous language].
Monique Manatch: Miigwech and pjila'si. Welcome. Welcome to unceded unsurrendered Algonquin territory.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
My name is Monique Manatch and I'm a member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, and so I'd like to open this space in a good way to help bring our minds together, to help to create a safe space where we can speak from our hearts, where we can speak our truth and our honesty, a space where we can share and learn from each other, and I'll do that with a few words to the creator.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
Thank you. Thank you for the water, for the plants, for the trees, for the ones who fly, for the ones who swim, for the ones who crow, for the furred, for the feathered, for the four-legged and for the two-legged, and thank you for bringing everyone together here today with open hearts, with open minds. Help us to see truth. Help us to hear beauty. Help us to speak with kindness and with compassion, and help us to work together for the benefit of all of our communities.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
Thank you very much. I know you're going to have a great meeting today. Thanks.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
Miigwech Monique for that reflection.
I'd now like to welcome Ji Yoon Han to get us started and to provide an overview of the topic for discussion today.
[Monique Manatch appears in a separate video chat panel.]
Ji Yoon Han: Thank you, Danielle. Thank you for joining us, everyone.
My name is Ji Yoon Han and I am a research associate at the Institute for Research and Public Policy Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation. This event is the fourth in a series created through a partnership between the School and the Centre on contemporary issues in Canadian federalism. I'll just say a few words to introduce today's discussion, connecting it to the themes presented in the first three events, and then we'll pass it back over to Danielle.
Let me start by acknowledging that the land from which I'm talking to you is the unceded traditional territory of the Kanien'gehaga. I recognize that we all work in different places and therefore you work on a different traditional Indigenous territory. Please take a moment to consider the original peoples of the land you are on.
So far, in the series, we have held three events. We've covered several foundational issues in federalism, including why federalism matters, fiscal federalism, and the role of federalism in economic development and infrastructure. If you haven't tuned in to our previous events, I encourage you to do so.
Throughout the series, one question that has persisted from the audience is, how do Indigenous people fit into the conversations we've had so far about federalism? This question touches upon a theme we've been exploring in the background of several of our events so far, a new vision of federalism that is not limited to just the federal and provincial governments as the main actors in our governance structure but one that includes a wider network of actors that better reflects governance in Canada, including, and amongst the most important, Indigenous people.
Today, we will hear from our speakers on their observation on how Indigenous people interact with the current landscape of federalism structures. Now, for the main event, I'll pass it back over to our moderator, Danielle.
Danielle White: Thank you, Ji Yoon.
So, today, we have three outstanding speakers, each with their own unique experiences and expertise on the topic for discussion. I'd like to introduce Darcy Gray, who's a former Chief of Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation.
[Darcy Gray appears in a separate video chat panel.]
And if you're not familiar with Mi'kma'ki territory, Darcy comes from the other end. I'm from Newfoundland. It stretches all the way to the eastern part of Quebec.
Catherine MacQuarrie is another long-time friend and colleague.
[Catherine MacQuarrie appears in a separate video chat panel.]
She's a fellow at Carleton's School of Public Policy and Administration, and is currently holding a leadership role in the Rebuilding First Nations Governance Project with the First Nations Governance Centre, but Catherine is also a long-time federal and territorial public servant.
And then, finally, we have Martin Papillon who's Assistant Professor at the University of Montreal and Director of the Centre de recherche sur les politiques et le développement social [policy and social development research centre].
[Martin Papillon appears in a separate video chat panel.]
So, we'll ask Martin to start us off by providing a bit of an overview on the division of powers and take us through some of the contemporary issues in federalism and Indigenous relations. Catherine will then talk about the role of the public servant when it comes to policymaking and implementation in areas that affect Indigenous peoples, and then Darcy will speak to his own personal experience as both the Chief and Councillor at Listuguj First Nation and the impact of federalism on his community. Then, we'll move into a discussion of the issues raised during the presentations and we'll take some questions for our panelists.
And for the Q&A portion, please go to the top right corner of your screen and click on the chat button, and you can enter your question. Don't worry if you don't see it appear in the chat, the moderator will be able to see it... or the tech team will be able to see it and then will provide the questions to me as moderator, and we will try to get through as many as we can.
So, without further ado, it's my pleasure to introduce Martin Papillon who will walk us through a brief presentation.
So, Martin, over to you.
Martin Papillon: Thank you, Danielle. Thank you, everyone, for being here. It's a pleasure to be here. I guess I'm the academic in the room, so I have a more academic presentation or role. So, yes, I'll talk in very fairly broad terms about the topic that is of interest today, Indigenous people and Canadian federalism. I have a PowerPoint presentation so I will share my screen if you bear with me for a second. Here we go.
[A slide is shown with the title "Indigenous Peoples and Canadian federalism" and an image of a site at Mushuau Nipi.]
Can everyone see the slides? I'm assuming yes. Alright.
So, just to get us started, the picture you're seeing there was taken at Mushuau Nipi. Mushuau Nipi is along the George River in Northern Quebec along the Labrador boundaries and it's traditional territory of the Inuit people, and I'm grateful to the new people who invited me to this sacred site last summer and I have certainly learned a lot from that moment. So, I wanted to put that picture there to acknowledge that.
So, my goal today is to really do a general overview but I want to start with a bit of a question on optics because I think it's important. When we talk about federalism, we generally talk about a system of government where authority is shared and divided between two or more orders of government. This is the way our system of government operates and it's generally important that these orders of government are considered equal in status.
There's many other aspects to federalism, a constitutionally written division of powers, an autonomous judiciary adjudicating on disputes. Each orders of governments have their own legislatives, of course, and executives, and so on and so forth. So, this is the traditional understanding of federalism.
But federalism as a principle can take multiple forms, and a number of Indigenous academics are arguing that alliances and treaties between Indigenous people and the Crown that pre-existed the creation of our federation were, in fact, a form of federalism that was there, and even before that, Indigenous people themselves had their own federal-type arrangement between each others. So, federalism is a principle pre-existing Canadian confederation in Canada and that principle is still very much driving.
And I don't want to speak on behalf of all Indigenous people, of course, but when I started my research, when I talked to Indigenous leaders and Indigenous intellectuals and ordinary citizens, especially in the context of treaties, that notion of a nation-to-nation relationship or a partnership between equals is extremely important still today. In fact, it's a driving force of the way these relations ought to be organized, according to them.
So, I wanted to say that because we tend to ask ourselves how... we see the challenge as a challenge of fitting Indigenous governments and just people into the Canadian Federation but I think this is wrong. I think the right way to approach this is really to see or to sort of re-conceive our relationship as a co-existence between two types of federalism, our federation, federal, provincial, territorial, and so on and so forth, but also the federal tradition that is not a federal system but is a federal kind of relationship between Indigenous people and the Canadian federation itself as a whole.
And looking at it this way helps us, I think, put into perspective both the division of powers in the Canadian Confederation, territorial, federal, provincial governments, the difficulties in creating the space for recognizing Indigenous governments, but also the sort of potential path forward.
So, let me jump right into it because I don't have a lot of time. I want to talk a bit about the sort of colonial foundations, if you want, of our federal system very briefly. As we all know, I think, now, Indigenous people were not invited when it was time to negotiate the terms of the 1867 Confederation, right? The division of powers between federal and provincial governments that was negotiated at the time did not include Indigenous people or Indigenous governments. They were not consulted either.
But of course, they are part of the federal system in the sense that they have become a head of jurisdiction under Section 91(24), a head of jurisdiction of the federal government. That unilateral decision under which Indigenous people were never really consulted does nonetheless create a unique relationship between the federal authority and Indigenous people. It creates a relationship quite unique in the sense that there are no other population group in Canada that have this unique relationship with the federal government. Some rights are protected in our Constitution, language rights, so on and so forth, but there's not an exclusive jurisdiction on a group of people elsewhere in our Constitution.
But this is very consistent... and I don't want to go into the details because I don't have time but it's very consistent with the history of colonialism in Canada, including the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that did create that kind of exclusive relationship between the Crown and Indigenous people which is the foundation of historic treaties, for example.
So, the idea, really, behind this exclusive protection or jurisdiction was really to create a protection for Indigenous people against the interests of provinces and local interests. Why? Because it is in provincial governments', which were the old colonial governments, the local governments, vested interest on the land and resource and the expansion of the settler society. So, the idea of having the federal government responsible was to create a sort of protection, but it's also a highly paternalistic protection in the sense that Indigenous people are considered under Section 91(24) more or less as wards of states, and this became more concrete with the Indian Act, of course, later on.
But Section 91(24) did not create a watertight, jurisdictional white wall in the sense that it is not because it's a head of jurisdiction exclusive to the federal government that Indigenous people are not interacting with the provinces or that provinces don't have a role to play in relations with Indigenous people, and this is often something that is misunderstood in Canada, I think. We tend to think, because of Section 91(24), it's just the federal government that deals with Indigenous people. Well, that's not true. It's not true for a number of reasons but I just point two here that are, I think, pretty important.
First, many heads of powers of provincial governments are key to the well-being, the survival, and the relationship to the land that Indigenous people have, and I only mention a few here, land and resources, of course, administration of justice, public safety, but also all the social programs that are important.
And provinces have historically been very proactive at seeking to expand their jurisdiction on Indigenous land for obvious economic reasons but have also paradoxically been very reluctant to expand their role, notably on social policies, for cost reasons, for financial reasons, obviously. So, there's this tension that is inherent in the role of provinces.
The federal government, on the other hand, have interpreted their role, successive federal governments, in fairly restrictive ways and this is also important to understand. The federal government, early on, could have taken a much more proactive, systematic role in engaging in relationship with Indigenous people, in sheltering Indigenous people from provincial interests. They have chosen not to and the reason, obviously, is that Section 91(24) was seen at the time as something temporary until Indigenous people assimilated into the broader polity.
So, they chose to focus solely on status Indians with the Indian Act. They've had, over time, a very selective approach to social policy, being active on education, fairly active, but in other social policies, much less so. There's different reasons for this but it's important to see that there is variation. There's a lot of inconsistency as to what the federal government does and does not do, and in terms of status, who is under federal policy authority or not, also very selective funding. Some programs are funded, others less so. So, it's a very complicated jurisdictional landscape that have come out of this history of reluctant engagement of the federal government.
So, very quickly, some of the consequences of this, even today, what I call the responsibility gap. It's not always clear who should do what and how in relation with Indigenous people and I'm sure that our other guests will have concrete examples of this from their own experience.
And I just mentioned a number of areas, but who is establishing the rules and boundaries? Depending where you live as an Indigenous person, if you live on reserve, off reserve, depending on your status, if you're a status Indian, if you're Métis, if you have non-status, there's a lot of diversity and this creates a responsibility gap in the sense that a lot of people fall into the cracks, and it's not clear who is responsible for what and hence which programs apply, who is supposed to pay for such and such services, and there are many, many examples of this which we can talk about more in detail later.
It also creates a funding gap. Responsibility comes with expenditures, obviously. So, who is responsible to fund, for example, social programs for Indigenous people while depending on status, depending on where you live, and so on and so forth? It varies quite a lot, and so there's a lot of tensions there and also discrepancies between programs that are funded by provinces and programs that are funded by the federal government. Education is the most obvious example but there are many others.
It also creates a multiplication of rules, accountability, practice, and so on and so forth, because it's not clear who is responsible for what. The tendency is to create mechanisms and rules on both sides, and so Indigenous organizations and governments often face multiplications of accountability measures and rules and so on and so forth, and the most obvious example I could find, there are many others, is in child welfare.
I mean, there's a new legislative framework for child welfare now, but for the longest time, for example, on reserves in most of the country, but there were some exceptions including Ontario, the federal government was funding the programs. They were run by Indigenous local organizations, directly by the federal government or by the province according to the provincial standards, and so you had two kind of different orders of government playing their role there and having expectations about the costs and the expectations about rules and so on and so forth. So, this made it extremely heavy and complicated.
It does create what I call a gridlock for Indigenous-governing authorities that are seeking to assert their autonomy. It's become very difficult to come out of these multiplications of rules.
So, looking forward, looking today, I think the challenge is really one of properly acknowledging and recognizing the co-existence of multiple federal forms as I said at the beginning, but more concretely, also to disentangle this jurisdictional web, to create space for Indigenous people to assert their own authority on their communities and lands.
But of course, the take home message of all this is that the federal government... since the audience here is mostly connected to the federal government, the federal government cannot do this alone and so it's not just federal policies that matters, and this is really important. Of course, Indigenous people matter. You can't do that without their collaboration and their initiative but it's also important that provinces and territories be part of that change, be part of that story.
And this is a part that is often missing. I've underscored the importance of provinces and territories, well, territories less, in that story, and really, changes will only come if we pay attention to this reality, that it's not a bilateral thing despite what we would like. Sometimes, it is really more complex than this.
I just want to conclude with a couple recent developments that I think are relevant to think about this disentanglement and think about the reconstruction of these relationships.
First, the timing is right now, and it's important because conceptually and also discursively but also just in terms of the reception of the broader society to this issue has never been greater, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has played a really important role in this. The developments related to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People are also important. It's a really fundamental document that proposed not a concrete but a set of principles and standards to reconcile our Canadian federation with Indigenous governments.
And these ideas, these standards, these principles, are really permeating everywhere in the Canadian society now, and so the awareness is much greater which creates political momentum, and really, you should not lose that momentum because it's important right now.
Another thing I want to mention is I haven't mentioned yet Section 35 of the Constitutional Act 1982 which recognized Aboriginal treaty rights, recognized and protected Aboriginal treaty rights. This, of course, had a really important impact also on federal provincial dynamics. I just want to insist on the impact it's had on provinces because it's really important because Section 35 rights, provinces are also bound by Section 35.
So, they have to uphold Aboriginal and treaty rights but they also are responsive for what has emerged as a really important part of this which is the duty to consult, the obligation for governments to consult Indigenous people when they're infringing or possibly infringing your rights, and the duty to consult has become a massive thing. There's massive amounts of consultations. Many in the audience are aware of that, probably. It's a big thing and it's not always done right. It's not always well done but it's important because what it does for provinces and territories, I should add, is really to force these governments to engage concretely with Indigenous communities on the ground and develop partnerships, collaboration mechanisms to ensure that this consultation takes place.
And so, this is really changing the landscape. It forces provincial governments to really develop their capacity in engaging more systematically and more institutionally with indigenous people, especially on reserves, in a way that there were not before.
[A slide is shown with the title "Intensity and formalization of Indigenous-provincial relations" and a graph showing Indigenous-provincial agreements between 1995 and 2020.]
And I'm just giving you a graph here. I did not put too much data here but this is just one that I find really striking. It's the number of Indigenous-provincial agreements per year over the year in the past... well, since 1995, and as you can see, there's a massive growth somewhere in the early 2000s and this is really connected to the Supreme Court jurisprudence on the duty to consult.
And the growth is really more prominent in one province in particular, British Columbia. Why? Because in the early 2000s, British Columbia did a 180-degree turn in their approach to Indigenous policy and really embraced this agenda of negotiating agreements with Indigenous people to formalize, to institutionalize the relationship. Some say it works well, some say it works less well, but it's a very striking and important development and it really brings the point that I was making, that provinces and territories are important partners now in that reconfiguration of the relationship.
Very quickly, a couple other developments that I find really important. This is not new, but it's present and we have to mention it, of course. Modern treaties and self-government agreements, especially in northern territories but not exclusively, there's some in Labrador and Quebec, in British Columbia as well, they're really important. Why? Because they do create a new type of political and legal relation, both with federal and provincial and territorial governments. These treaties and the self-government agreements that are associated with them, some of them benefit from constitutional protection under Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, but more broadly, even if they're just legislated, they do recognize some heads of powers for Indigenous governments.
And so, the nature of the relationship, including the fiscal obligation of the federal and provincial government to fund these governments, is really of a different order than what we're normally seeing notably under the Indian Act. So, this is probably the closest we have in Canada to the notion of a third order of government in our federal system and it's really important as a development.
The last thing I want to mention, more at the policy level, it's really interesting to know the extent to which policy development, the way we develop policy in relation to Indigenous issues and policies, has changed slowly, probably not enough, but certainly. I'm talking about examples of collaborative policy process at the federal and provincial level where policy is developed, really, through a collaborative process with Indigenous organizations. I can name the example of the collaborative fiscal policy process with self-governing Indigenous governments that has been fairly successful.
Another interesting way or approach with this is tripartite agreements, federal and territorial and provincial, federal... and Indigenous, sorry, governments. So, a tripartite model of policy development. I can mention the tripartite agreement on health in British Columbia as a good example.
And of course, there's the growing engagement of Indigenous organization in our intergovernmental relations mechanism at the first ministers meetings, but also at the administrative and ministerial level. I have data on this that I'm not going to show but it's quite striking, the extent to which Indigenous organizations are more and more systematically engaged in what used to be a fairly exclusive federal-provincial club of intergovernmental relations.
So, let me conclude by saying that these developments, of course, are significant. They're changing how we approach our relationship but of course, we're still far away from the imagined model that I was talking at the beginning with two kinds of federal systems co-existing. We're really far from that and there's many structural and practical obstacles to developing this, but I'm optimistic in the sense that I do see the changes incrementally happening and I do see that things are evolving at many levels, and we can talk of more specific examples in the discussion if you want.
So, I've already spent my time so I think I'm going to close my presentation and let everyone else speak. There you go. Thank you.
Danielle White: Great. Thank you, Martin.
In a very short period of time, you've walked us through a very complex historical and legal context that I think is key to understanding, and you did it in a very clear way. So, that was tremendously helpful.
I'll pass it over now to Catherine to share her perspective.
Catherine MacQuarrie: [Speaks in Indigenous language]
Thanks very much, Danielle. Hello, everyone. It's really a pleasure to be here with you today. I'm a Métis woman who was born in Alberta but raised in the Northwest Territories and now make my home on unceded Algonquin territory here in Ottawa.
I'm really thrilled to be with these two other panelists today. Martin doesn't know this but I've enjoyed his writings over the years, and one of the things I read in preparation for this that I really recommend to you is a book chapter that's fairly recent, I think, called Nation to Nation, and it looks at federalism and Indigenous peoples, very well-written and very interesting.
And then, of course, I get to work with Darcy on the Rebuilding First Nations Governance Project that we have running across Canada. So, I'm looking forward to some of the very real day-to-day practical examples that Darcy can share with you about some of the challenges of intergovernmental relationships.
I will talk about the role of public servants but I do want to cover a little bit of history too, so that you have a good sense of the frame with which I and my colleagues on the project look at these issues.
But I also want to start with a little story about when I first came to Ottawa in 1998. I was one of the early directors of the Self-Government Policy Unit and one of my responsibilities was for coordinating the processes, the departmental processes, that mandated all the self-government and land claims tables, and also helped advise and recommend, to government, the final agreements for those negotiations.
Those sort of interdepartmental discussions were always challenging as you can well imagine, probably still are today in many cases, Dan was nodding, but I remember particularly one day. An unnamed person from an unnamed department, as we were sort of kind of concluding some of the tough language around a final agreement, sort of went, so if we sign this, does that mean that they will stop bothering us and we won't have to deal with them anymore?
Yes, very shocking. I hope it's not a sentiment you hear much 25 years later, but it was... I raise it because it was a framing of these agreements as a finality as opposed to the beginning of a relationship, and certainly, when you look at the principles of federalism, it's about ongoing relationships in this country to reconcile, balance, and accommodate the diversity across the country, and it's about people getting together to say, how are we going to do this together? How are we going to be able to self-rule where we need to in our regions and our communities and so on, and where are we going to share rule and jurisdiction?
And that's fundamentally what the agreement at Confederation was about, although as Martin points out quite rightly, not only were Indigenous people left out of any of the decision-making around that and were never asked for their consent, but the whole process of Confederation was based on an assumption that they didn't even really exist and it was based on an assumption of presumed sovereignty, by both the federal and provincial levels of power, and presumed or assumed jurisdiction over the lands of Canada, and those are some of the fundamental issues that we're still dealing with today.
But I actually want to go back even farther, because Martin mentioned this at the very beginning of his talk, and that is that, for Indigenous people in this country, starting with the First Nations in Mi'kma'ki territory who would have dealt with some of the first newcomers, there has been a continuing process of trying to arrange those relationships, to talk about self-rule and shared rule through Peace and Friendship Treaties. Certainly, if you look at the
Two Row Wampum between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 1613, I mean, that's a very clear agreement around how we're going to live together side by side and each in our own pathways travelling down this river.
I think it can even be argued that... well, and I do argue it strongly as a Métis person, that the resistance in Red River, and then about a decade later in Saskatchewan, were really about the people, and in that case, they were majority Métis people, but there were First Nations and others who were trying to negotiate their way into Confederation. They had been left out of the table.
There was, once Rupert's Land was sold and the Canadian government assumed that they would have full jurisdiction over all of these areas, and people who lived there were like, hey, wait a minute, we want to be able to discuss with you the basis on which we'll be part of this federation as well, and that was met with military action.
So, what other sort of... certainly, I think, by Confederation and by 1876 with the latest version of the Indian Act at that time, that was where they went from the presumed sovereignty and jurisdiction to actually actively trying to suppress any residual remaining rights that Indigenous people thought they might have on their territories.
And certainly, even some of the number of treaties that were negotiated at that time, even under the pressures of starvation and rapid settlement, the First Nations themselves still see those treaties as being agreements about the terms under which they would share the land and continue to be able to self-rule, didn't even get into treaties in British Columbia which creates the present day problem.
But as people there, over the period of settlement, were trying to raise their issues and negotiate arrangements with both the provincial and Canadian governments at the time, they were met with, in fact, changes to the Indian Act that disallowed or made it illegal for them to seek representation, legal representation in the courts or hire lawyers to represent their interests with government.
And that was actually... so, there was a period of 50 years, and probably more on either side, where Canada deliberately refused to entertain any questions in regards to the relationship. Fast forward, of course, to a period of sort of rights awareness, court decisions, and ultimately Section 35 appearing in the Canadian Constitution in 1982 with its repatriation and the recognition of the existence of Aboriginal treaty rights.
I think one of the important things to understand, again, from an Indigenous perspective, is that Section 35 was not anything or is not anything that confers rights on Indigenous peoples. What it does is recognize existing rights and pre-existing rights and sovereignty, and that notion is increasingly agreed to by Canadian courts and it's one of the reasons that you see increasing agreements and changes in relationships with both the federal government and provincial government.
I love that chart, Martin, at the end, in terms of the increase of agreements and interactions since 1995. It's kind of a reflection of that evolution of increasing recognition of the rights and the relationships and enduring relationships that provinces and the federal government and territories need to have with Indigenous people.
I would argue that much of that change has been driven by Indigenous peoples themselves and continues to be, and I think the pressure is on our traditional notions of what the federation consists of or what federalism in Canada, being just two orders of government, is slowly being chipped away with each new arrangement, agreement, and a court case that is challenging those fundamental notions, and there's certainly going to be a very significant one coming very soon from the Supreme Court in regards to child and family services which really goes to that fundamental question of jurisdiction and how jurisdictions between various orders of government need to be reconciled, and that's going to be a very important case.
So, the weight of evolutionary change is starting to reach, I think, a tipping point, in my view, in Canada, where accommodating... hopefully more than accommodating, welcoming the changes in relationships between Indigenous peoples and their governments and other orders of the Government of Canada is just going to be an increasing part of our business.
And it's particularly important for public servants in advising their governments on any relations or issues dealing with Indigenous relations, that we are very cognisant and are providing ministers with the full range of advice and information about the changes, the history, and the legal peril of not paying attention to these issues.
Martin had a slide on consequences. I did too, or not a slide but I was thinking about some of the consequences of not addressing and acknowledging these changes as they go along, allowing them to continue to go to court as we did with dealing with things like the Jordan Principle. They have a human cost in the continuing poor outcomes that we see in far too many Indigenous communities in Canada, and they have a financial cost, and unfortunately a financial cost that usually lands on the federal or provincial governments, and basically and fundamentally on taxpayers.
And so, it really is an important part of our jobs, professionally, to be able to advise properly on these things.
So, in terms of what could we be doing? I mean, like Martin, I don't foresee a great transformation of the terms of Confederation. I think it will be more evolutionary in nature, but it is happening right before our eyes and so there are many, many things that can be done at the political level. Certainly, setting tone and direction, as the most recent Liberal government did when they first came into power in 2015, is an important aspect of the work, but so too is aligning their decisions with the rhetoric of those promises.
But I think importantly, what politicians can do is reframe the relationship for one, that... one I think about is, we have to manage, we've got to constrain it, we've got to limit it, to one that is actually welcoming and accommodating, and acknowledges that there is an ongoing relationship to be had in this country.
In the public service, it basically comes down to educating yourself, making it a professional responsibility to understand the legal and historical realities of the relationship, and particularly the day-to-day challenges of your counterparts in Indigenous communities, and this can happen no matter where you work in government. It's not exclusive domain for CIRNAC and ISC. Indigenous issues touch on every aspect of government business and if you don't realize that, then you need to find out what you don't know because I can guarantee you it does almost everything you do.
And just as you would consider what provincial or territorial concerns or issues might be in some of the work that you're working on, you really do also need to know where your departments mandate and activities might intersect with or rub up against Indigenous rights and interests, and plan for it accordingly.
And I think Darcy will be able to give you some examples of things that you might not have thought of that really did create some big challenges for him and his community, and some recent policy changes.
Lastly, I really encourage everyone to adopt a supportive mindset, which doesn't mean that you capitulate but that you can really think about where you can streamline your service and program delivery, do things more efficiently for recipients, where you can get out of the way of an Indigenous community setting its own priorities and policies, trusting them to know what's best for their own communities. If you're even just looking at funding models, what's going to work best to support local priorities or their capacity needs and put accountability in the right places, and Martin already touched on some of the results of administrative burden that come when you don't do that.
But lastly, I would encourage everyone to be excited for where these changes might take us, not afraid of them, because they really are a reflection of who we say we are as a country.
And I'll just close with, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples more than 28 years ago, this is how they closed their report. They said "Canada is a test case for a grand notion, the notion that dissimilar peoples can share lands, resources, power, and dreams while respecting and sustaining their differences. The story of Canada is the story of many such peoples trying and failing and trying again to live together in peace and harmony."
Danielle White: Thank you, Catherine. That was wonderful.
So, Darcy, I'll turn it to you to have the last word on the panel and to perhaps give us a sense of how some of this translates in very practical terms from the perspective of a First Nations chief. So, over to you.
Darcy Gray: Thank you.
First off, [Speaks in Indigenous language]
I'm very happy to be here with you today.
[Speaks in Indigenous language]
So, my name is Darcy Gray. I'm from and I live in Listuguj, and I have to say,
Wela'lin, Monique [Speaks in Indigenous language].
Thank you for the opening prayer and the good thoughts to get us started in a good way.
So, I feel like the two speakers did a fantastic job of setting me up to try to close this in a good way, but also, I don't know how I'm going to do that in 15 minutes. It's very hard to know exactly what to share and what to cover in these types of situations. Myself, I worked as Chief for six and a half years in our community. Prior to that, I worked in education. I worked as a guidance councillor, primarily supporting our students to be encouraging their success in high school.
So, I guess looking at some of the examples or some of the concepts that were shared, I need to give some context. So, Listuguj, is, as Danielle had said, the Western-most Mi'gmaq community. We are actually, I guess you'd say, in the province of Quebec along the Restigouche River, and on the other side of the Restigouche River is the province of New Brunswick. So, we are in a unique situation in the fact that there's a river that connects two provinces. From our view, we don't see that division. We don't see that divide or separation. It's Gespeꞌgewaꞌgi. It's the seventh district of Mi'kma'ki that we live in and it's a shared territory. It's one territory, not two provinces.
We're about 4,000 members that are members of Listuguj, making us one of the larger Mi'gmaq communities, and we have a lot of capacity, and for the most part, our mindset is that we want to take care of things for ourselves and we try to do that across a number of issues. The one that probably jumps up to mind and is most obvious and I would say is an example of success in what can happen would be regarding our fisheries.
I guess if you want to get the full context, the impetus for moving so hard and pushing so hard for our fisheries is, first off, we have an amazing salmon fishing river or salmon river right in front of our community that has sustained our people for thousands of years, protecting the river, protecting the salmon, and our relationship with the salmon is of the utmost importance. So, in the late seventies, early eighties, this became a problem for the province of Quebec, the fact that we were fishing in the river in a way that they felt was inappropriate.
So, in 1981, they raided our community with hundreds of rescue officers, arresting our people, physically assaulting our people, telling us that we can't fish anymore, and basically trying to take over the community. We resisted, of course, as Listuguj does. After that, we decided that it's important that we take on the work for ourselves to make sure that we continue to fish but we continue to do it in a good way that is respectful of our ways, respectful of our values, and protecting that relationship we have with our salmon.
So, fast forward to mid-90's. Listuguj creates a law, a fishing law for itself, not under Indian Act bylaw processes, but going back to our traditional government processes of engaging with our people, looking to our knowledge keepers, our elders, our regional government reps by district, and connecting that to the Grand Council of the Miꞌkmaq, the Santé Mawiómi which pre-dates Confederation.
So, in doing so, we re-assumed or took on the responsibility of managing the river and managing our relationship with that salmon, implementing management regimes that respect conservation and ensure that we're respectful of the relationship we have with our salmon, but we're also able to feed our people and do things in a good way.
And then, we also created a rangers law, and the rangers law allowed us to enforce the law in a good way and keep disputes or issues that arise on the water internally. It's not going to a provincial court or a federal court to resolve a fishing issue on our river that's going to come to a good understanding or a good result or changing of the behaviour. It was important that we take that on for ourselves, and we do that. Since then, nobody has ever been charged for illegal fishing on our river, and we won an award for one of the best or the best managed river in Quebec. So, obviously, our people are doing good things in a good way, building off of those traditions.
Jump forward to during my administration, we were fortunate enough to be able to push that even further into the lobster law and look at how do we apply some of the concepts that have been talked about today, and I guess it's important. How we got to that lobster law was by community conversation, not consulting the community but engaging the community on a very high level over a two-year span. It was about getting to the heart of the matter of, okay, if you were to wipe away, you know, Fisheries Act, provincial legislation, or imposition of any of these rules and regulatory regimes, how would we as Mi'gmaq of Listuguj want to go about fishing? What would be important to us?
And from those conversations, we were able to shape the values and principles that guide our law. We got Ango'tmu'q, which is taking care of something in a careful manner, Apajignmuen, sharing and giving back, Gepmite'tmnej which is about respect, respect not just for ourselves but respect for the lobster, respect for any species that we're fishing, and Welte'tmeg, that we agree in thought. So, these became the guiding principles for our law. They became how we interpret and look at our fishing activity and efforts.
Our rangers were asked to not only monitor the fishing on the river, but the lobster fishing is out in the Baie des Chaleurs, Chaleur Bay, which is a little down the way for us, a little out towards the sea. So, it required additional skillsets. There were safety regulations. There was other things that we had to do. We didn't ignore those. We took those on, took on that responsibility to make sure that the rangers had the skills, the knowledge, and the tools that they needed to be able to do this in a good and safe way.
All the while, we're negotiating with Canada on how we can implement, coinciding sort of jurisdiction or regulatory regimes. It wasn't without challenge. It wasn't without a lot of painstaking effort and conversation and relationship-building and just... I think we were helped by the pandemic in the fact that the focus of what we had to talk about became very narrow, and because of the ability to connect virtually, you could meet really frequently.
So, we were able to really push this conversation and develop a common understanding, common themes, common issues, and realize that what we're pushing for in terms of salmon fishing or lobster fishing or any type of relationship we have with these species is not one that's detrimental to the species because we're not going anywhere. We've been here for thousands and thousands of years. The last thing we want to do is destroy the species. We want to preserve and protect. The measures we're going to put in place are going to have that as the most top priority.
As an example, when our lobster fishermen come back from their fishing efforts, we have dockside monitoring. We have people literally counting the number of lobster that are caught. 10% of those lobster go straight back to the community to feed our elders, to feed those in need, to feed families. These are things that we are able to put in our law because they were important for our law. You won't find that in the Fisheries Act but you find that in our law, and I don't think that that's a bad thing.
But through the ongoing conversation, the ongoing relationship that was built with the people we were speaking with at the time, we were able to come to that common understanding and get to a point where the minister signs off and says, yes, let's give this a shot, but it doesn't stop there, right? We've been able to put into place committees, bodies that meet regularly to talk about what's the next step. It's not static. It's not stagnant. It has to continue to evolve. We have to continue to grow our effort, and I guess not just the effort around fishing but the effort to ensure that things are done in a good way.
So, we have a rangers training program that we've kicked off in partnership with a college, but it's not the college that just comes in and delivers the course. We have a committee in the community that reviews the content of that course and ensures that it meets the standard of what we need for Listuguj, what do our rangers need, not just learning about Quebec law or federal law but Mi'gmaq law, Mi'gmaq values. That's what we're putting in place.
What's very interesting is the rangers have asked, after signing, after we signed an enforcement protocol with DFO to map out how we address any concerns that we might see on the water, they've asked for French second language courses in this program so that they can work better when they're collaborating with the DFO officers. Now, if you go back to '81, you would never have imagined that that type of request would be made, never, but here we are, finding common ground where we can respect each other's jurisdiction, respect each other's approach to a fishery despite that there are differences.
And it's not perfect and we do have some challenges. We do have people saying that it's a free-for-all. We do have people suggesting that we are going against conservation when the standard for conservation is higher than anywhere else as far as I know, in any research we've done, and we do have scientific research that's being done in the territory to make sure that we're doing things in a good way. That's how we approach things in Listuguj. We try to take on the whole... looking at the whole gamut of responsibilities and obligations that come with putting your rights into action, that collective responsibility that we have to each other.
I don't know if I have much time left but I just wanted to share... I think Catherine made mention of, you know, during the pandemic, we saw sort of the opposite of maybe a positive approach to collaboration, where, because of our situation, we had obligations from Quebec being imposed on us in terms of restrictions, and I know there were restrictions everywhere that we all faced but what was very unique about Listuguj is we have a number of little depanneurs or grocery stores, small convenience stores throughout the community, but we don't actually have groceries. You can't buy clothes in the community. We go to the New Brunswick side for that. We go to Campbellton, New Brunswick, Atholville, New Brunswick.
So, what happened is that you had New Brunswick completely closed off access to the province from anybody outside as their, I guess, policy approach to keep people safe. However, in doing so, they may have made an attempt to protect New Brunswickers but they created a crisis situation for a lot of the local people in a very local Listuguj, and not just Listuguj but Pointe-à-la-Croix, our neighbours, and even Campbellton.
Because you have very complex relationships that exist where sometimes there's shared parenting and custody situations, where one parent would be in New Brunswick, one parent is in Listuguj, and how does somebody cross a bridge that's supposed to connect when it's been literally blocked off to disconnect? So, that was, I think, an example that would have benefited from conversation up front, from an open dialogue, and say, how do we keep people safe? That's the goal of everybody. We're all doing the best we can, but how do we also recognize your local reality?
And I think that's one of the keys going forward. If we really want to change the way we work or the way we do things, is taking the time to listen and hear the differences in our local realities. Listuguj is different than Gesgapegiag. It's different than Oqpi'kanjik. It's different than Pabineau. Our situation in the pandemic was very unique.
There's been economic studies that have been done since, and the economic impact on Campbellton, but what's missing is sort of the health and well-being, the mental well-being of the people of Listuguj, being told that you have to get permission to go buy underwear, to go buy socks, being told that you can't go get certain items that you deem essential for your family, and yes, we understand that this is your traditional territory but you can't go there, and those kind of impacts are lasting and they're hard to work through, but it's through dialogue and continued conversation that I think we can get there.
And I imagine I'm done my time, but thank you very much and let's get to the questions.
Danielle White: Thank you, Darcy. That's actually perfect. We are right on time at 2:30. So, you're on the nose.
So, I would encourage folks... we've got a couple of questions in the chat but not a lot. So, if there are questions for the panel, please provide them.
Maybe to kick it off, I have a question. We've talked about both the potential for federalism to help solve problems but also posing some challenges in relationships and particularly around the intersection between the federal system and Indigenous self-government, and I know... perhaps I'll maybe start with Catherine on this question. Given your experience in the Northwest Territories where there are quite a few self-governing First Nations as well as some non-self-governing First Nations, how do self-governing nations align their efforts with this notion of federal-territorial relations and what does that look like in practice, because I think there's some really interesting models emerging in the north that can be instructive for those of us south of 60?
Catherine MacQuarrie: Sure. Well, yes, there are emerging models but I think it's important to say that some of the self-government agreements are going back to being at least 15, 20 years old, and they have not been implemented faithfully by federal or provincial or territorial counterparts and that has actually been a problem. It goes back to my early story. A lot of people in the federal and provincial or territorial governments figure you get it signed and then it's done and you don't have to deal with people anymore.
So, Northwest Territories is actually unique, I think, just because of the demographics and the structure of the population that's more than 50% Indigenous. There are many Indigenous communities. Even Yellowknife as a majority white community still has very large Indigenous populations. The territorial government representation is, I believe, now majority Indigenous in terms of elected officials, has had Indigenous premiers for at least the last two or three rounds and more often. So, you have an openness to the relationship that's just kind of baked into the system.
And so, there have been sort of several iterations and I actually don't know how well things are functioning currently, but you actually have a system whereby the territorial governments and the heads of Indigenous governments meet regularly, and they don't legislate together. They each keep their own sort of powers to self-rule but they work out issues together on a regular basis. So, there are regular multilateral meetings between all of them up and down the valley and with the territorial government.
The territorial government also, and the legislative assembly, has taken a different approach to creating legislation and actually starts not with a draft but in engagement with the Indigenous governments in terms of... and this is a relatively new thing that they've been doing as well, and I should know which piece of legislation it was most recently done with, but it is turning out to be a successful model so things actually come into the legislature that have already been developed, to a certain extent, with the other Indigenous governments.
But it is worth pointing out that in terms of... although there are a number of self-governments now throughout the Northwest Territories, at least they have self-government agreements, they are self-governing around a core of internal interests, whether it's language or education, that even there, the people are still relying on sort of service delivery arrangements with the territorial government in order to get certain things done. So, they haven't drawn down fully their education jurisdictions, for example, and are operating it independently. Although, that evolution could still and may still take place even sooner rather than later. So, that's kind of how it works up there. I hope that addresses what you were looking for.
Danielle White: Thank you, yes.
So, now I have a question from the chat. It's directed to Martin and it's kind of a funny question. It says, are there any suggestions for the federal government on how to make practical progress despite reluctance and resistance of some provincial governments?
And I think likewise, you might also be able to turn that question on its head, the other the other way as well, but I'd invite you to share some thoughts on, you know, how do you overcome resistance from any one of the parties potentially at the table?
Martin Papillon: There's resistance coming from many places, and you opened the door to me reversing the question. I think resistance is coming from within the federal government, at least as much as from the provincial or territorial governments. The vested interest is different, obviously, and depends what we're talking about. If we're talking about expenditures, jurisdiction, the nature of the resistance is different.
And Darcy talked about concrete examples where it was possible to negotiate agreements based on an assertion of authority and lawmaking authority from the Mi'gmaq. It was a great example where, for the federal fisheries, this has impact but the impact is perhaps less complicated or complex than in other cases, say, for example, where Indigenous people with a certain jurisdiction on mining or forestry that have much greater implications and directly impact provincial economic interests in a much more concrete way. So, it really varies on a case by case basis.
So, I just want to... I'm going use this question to talk a bit, because Catherine mentioned the important court decision, Supreme Court decision, that's going to come on child welfare, and the origin of this litigation is really Quebec that is challenging the constitutionality of the federal legislation on child welfare, First Nation child welfare.
And so, I've talked to Quebec officials on this because it looks like Quebec is really the bad guy in this story and the federal government is generously recognizing the authority and jurisdiction of First Nations on child welfare, but we have to keep in mind that for provincial governments that are running their child welfare system, there is also a concern not so much that the child welfare systems that are being developed by Indigenous communities are not good or not consequent and so on and so forth, but there is the concern to sort of be able to coordinate these things.
And if the relationship is just between the federal government and the Indigenous communities, it is not happening. So, essentially what Quebec is saying is, A, we should have been part of the conversation, provinces should have been part of the conversation in establishing framework, and so that resistance is coming from there.
This comes back to something that I've said before which is that these changes, these evolutions, are very slow but they're much more effective and successful when they involve everyone included and when everyone is part of that conversation, and this is a real example of this. So, the resistance of provinces when it's encountered, it's very often, quite frankly, because the federal government didn't think of talking to the provinces and their concerned in their jurisdiction in changing this.
And it's annoying in many ways because it's adding another complication. It's adding another source of resistance. It's adding another multiplication of interest and so on and so forth, and First Nations and other Indigenous organizations and governments that are engaged with the federal government changing things are not very keen on this because it further complicates things.
But in the long term, from the number of cases that I've looked at, it actually ends up working better, when the province is involved or the territory's involved in these changes. So, it can be double bilateral, it can be federal. The example of the northern territories with the treaties is a good one. There's bilateral relation with the federal government, obviously, but also with the territorial government, but there are other models where it's more tripartite and these tend to be also probably more conducive to reducing conflicts or avoiding litigation the way we're seeing now.
Danielle White: Thank you.
So, I have another question. I'm going to turn to Darcy for this one, and it's a bit of a two-part question. I'm cheating a little bit and combining some questions, but the question from the chat is, from a community members perspective, do you think the provinces are more open to consultation with First Nations than the federal government? So, that's part one.
And then the part two, you talked about the fisheries issues, what do you think is the next big issue, intergovernmental issue, that your community will face?
Darcy Gray: Sorry, I'm just writing down so I don't forget.
Danielle White: I can repeat if you need.
Darcy Gray: No, no, it's all good.
So, I guess in terms of the consultation and accommodation, my experience with that is that it is entirely problematic. I think it's ineffective and leads to more issues than it does resolving issues. We're consulted on everything, which is, I suppose, good, but at the same time, we are communities with limited capacity.
I know myself as Chief. In the role, you're dealing with municipal governments, local... your community members. You're dealing with neighbouring First Nation communities. You're dealing with provincial governments. You're dealing with federal governments, day-to-day operational issues, and then trying to plan and move ahead and deal with all these things, plus some time for your family, and then you get consultations, you know, can we put a culvert here? Can we add a road there?
And they're just kind of a steady stream of information, and it almost seems like there's no differentiation between, say, a mine and a culvert, or sometimes, the consultation, depending on the way the legislation is written. Like, when it came to exploration or exploitation of oil and gas, we didn't get those consultations about oil and gas. We got the consultation about the road that would lead to the drilling of the well, the deforestation. So, it's really hit and miss.
And I think, as a Chief, it was problematic. As a community member, it would be fantastic if we could get that information out to our rightsholders, our people, and let them know what is planned for the territory, what's being considered in a good way, and then find some way to include, not just be seen as the opposition to projects or a development, which it ends up being or seeming like, where, as Martin has said, if there was an inclusive conversation upfront, perhaps the end result would be much better.
And I think that that's really the way consultation and accommodation has been approached to date, hasn't been as effective as it could, and I think it's more about getting to that negotiation.
And the other one, the next big issue, I think it comes down to that, right? You have more and more opportunity that is coming in the territory. You have, I would say in a good way, more and more of these proponents and potential partners coming to meet with your community, coming to engage in those conversations, but if you don't have the capacity to take up those conversations or get involved in a meaningful way, then the way forward is going to be difficult.
And a lot of times in our communities, we don't have the experts on standby just waiting to take up the potential mega project as well as deal with the potential issue you might have with the culvert. So, it's really a capacity issue, I think, coming up with these major opportunities that are coming.
Danielle White: Thank you.
And any thoughts on kind of the next big issue that's in front of you?
Darcy Gray: Well, to me, that's it. There are going to be big opportunities, big issues coming, big projects. If, let's say, a proponent does come and say, we want you to be part of this, not every community has the capacity to respond like that. In fact, a lot of us don't. We don't. You have to build that up to get to that meaningful engagement, and that takes time. So, to me that's the way I see it, as really a capacity issue, and to be meaningfully involved in what's going on.
Danielle White: Thanks.
Catherine MacQuarrie: Danielle, can I just jump in on this one, because this is something I saw when I was most recently with the government of the Northwest Territories. It was actually a federal issue because I know people within the federal government have been doing a lot of thinking about, well, I'd also been told don't forget about the duty to consult, etc.
But what I saw was, and this goes back to my point about, you know, be thoughtful about what the heck you're doing with Indigenous partners or to Indigenous partners, because what I saw was out of fear and worry that they weren't consulting enough when all of the infrastructure funds were going into communities, into the Northwest Territories. There was a really high bar set by the funders for consultation and a combination of discussions at the most significant level with project proponents, most of whom were themselves Indigenous communities.
And so, the territorial government was going, we don't need to do all this consultation and accommodation under the duty to consult because it's Indigenous proponents, and unfortunately... and the communities themselves are going, what the heck, but unfortunately, we could not, at that time, it's changed since, convince the folks within the federal public service to back down a bit.
And then it goes to what Darcy's talking about, is you're consulting people on things and stripping the capacity of them to actually be paying attention to the bigger things. So, think about that.
Danielle White: Thanks.
Something struck me as you all were talking, and in particular, Darcy gave us a really practical example of the kind of collaboration that can happen at the community level when you get the right partners in the room around it, you know, the fisheries issue in that case. I think, in my own experience, where it gets more complex is when you start to move out to broader policy development.
And that's why I gave the example of the legislative development types of questions, and in particular, from the Indigenous side, questions around representation, whether it's in bilateral or multilateral processes, and if you're going to call a first ministers meeting, it's obvious Canada sends the Prime Minister, the provinces send the premiers.
I think, and Martin, you touched on it in the very beginning, there's a tremendous diversity within and across Indigenous nations, and so one of the challenges we often face is, what is the right level of Indigenous representation in these forums, recognizing national organizations are not rightsholders.
And so, where are the best opportunities to make progress, and progress that's going to be credible and legitimate in the eyes of Indigenous partners. Is it through kind of regional processes, bilateral processes, big national multilateral discussions? I'd invite all three of you to share your views on that because I think that is something we struggle with across all departments. We have a fairly well-established federal, provincial, territorial system of ministers meetings, but how do we bring Indigenous voices to that table in the most effective and credible way?
Martin Papillon: Well, maybe I can start. I think it has to happen at multiple levels. So, it has to be at the very local level, regional, at the national level. There's an interesting paradox. The more Indigenous organizations or Indigenous people and communities exercise autonomy and jurisdiction, in fact, the more important intergovernmental relations become. There's not less, and this is a point that, really, Catherine emphasized. Once there's an agreement, it's just the beginning (inaudible).
And so, because there's more autonomy, there's actually more relationship. There's a greater role for a different kind of people, a different kind of civil servants. Well, it could be the same people but the role is different. Where the role used to be running programs and thinking amongst ourselves and sort of deciding, now the role is relational, but that doesn't mean that there's less resources invested in this. The resources are of a different type, it's time, it's a different kind of expertise, and so on and so forth.
The question of who to talk to or who is the right partner at the Indigenous level for this really, I think, depends on the context and the issue and so on and so forth, but it also depends on Indigenous peoples themselves, how they view their relationship with federal and provincial authorities.
And in some cases, the engagement will have to be at the community levels. In some cases, it's going be at the nation level. For example, I've worked a lot with the James Bay Cree in Quebec and their nation-based system of governance is very effective for intergovernmental relations. That's a good example of a nation that has kind of consolidated through the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and has kind of created this form of governance that is really effective for intergovernmental relations, but there are other examples. So, that's an example.
The big gap right now, in my view, and this is my humble opinion, I might be wrong on this and other people may have different opinions, but I find that the problem or the gap is at the provincial and federal level. Who talks on behalf of Indigenous people at those levels?
And I don't want to diss the Assembly of First Nations and other provincial organizations. They're doing what they can, but they have a fundamental problem of representation where they're representing chiefs, they're not representing people, and they don't have any authority. So, when you're engaging in intergovernmental relations with these organizations, it becomes very complex to engage in transformative policy development because of the sort of lack of authority and representation that they have.
There's ways around this but there's also alternative models that could be interesting to consider. I'm not saying that Canada should do that but, for example, having what Scandinavian countries have, which is an Indigenous parliament... now, it's much more complex in Canada because there's a diversity of Indigenous people. In Scandinavian countries, it's only Sámi.
But that model, that idea of having a legislative body that is elected by Indigenous people at the federal-provincial level is one example, for example, where it's much clearer who you're talking to and the legitimacy of that body is much stronger. Again, there's a whole bunch of problems with that kind of model for Canada, but that is to say that the existing model right now in those organizations is not the only one that's possible, but really, it's not up to the federal government and provincial government to decide that. It's really up to Indigenous people themselves to decide how they want to interact with Canadian federalism.
Danielle White: Thank you.
Any other thoughts on that question, Catherine or Darcy?
Catherine MacQuarrie: Well, I have a couple but I'd like Darcy to go first because he has lived this every day.
Danielle White: Absolutely.
Darcy Gray: I think the first and most important thing is that it can't be an imposed approach, and I think in some of the negotiations that we had engaged in or some of the processes that we engaged in, that was the preferred method, right? So, you've got the three Mi'gmaq communities in the Quebec region that... who's your spokesperson? Who's your one person that represents all three? And if we're going to sign an agreement, it's with all three of you together. So, who's signing that agreement?
But internally, between the three communities, we've never engaged in that process and we've never given that authority as the three chiefs, and certainly not as community members or Mi'gmaq people, right? So, nobody has that authority and we have to respect the autonomy of each community.
Now, it's not to say that these conversations aren't being had, and I was fortunate enough to be part of a few where all of the chiefs throughout Mi'kma'ki came together and started having these conversations. I mean, talk about empowering and great conversations, but you're not going to get one singular Mi'gmaq chief that represents all Mi'gmaq people. We're not there yet.
I think if you go pre-Confederation, you go back to, you know, 400 years ago, there was a process to getting to that consensus where there was a spokesperson, but through colonization, we've kind of lost those processes, and it's about rebuilding them.
Danielle White: I think that's perhaps a perfect segue into some of the work Catherine's doing on rebuilding governance. So, Catherine, I'll let you have the last word.
Catherine MacQuarrie: Well, I guess it was two things. One, particularly if this is largely a federal audience watching, please don't assume that by simply working with the three representative organizations, or five if we ever let CAP and Native Women's back in, that that is going to satisfy policy consultation across this country, for all the reasons Martin said.
And I know why we do it, because it's easy, but you don't, generally, in my experience, for all the effort that goes in, get the best outcome. So, that's one thing.
And then the other... sort of more to what Darcy's talking about, is don't assume that if you're working with an individual community and that the Chief and council itself is even in a position to be able to give you... to sign an agreement or give you a decision on behalf of the community, because as I think we start to see in many very public issues, there are still hereditary systems in place and there are still traditional systems in place.
And they, for the most part, do not... the Chief and council do not speak for the rightsholders. They are a creature of the Indian Act administration. So, you need to be really aware of who has been given the authority and power to speak on behalf.
And as Darcy said, if you find that frustrating, you have only the Indian Act to thank for the current situation, which spent 150 years in this country and more, dividing all of these people into tiny little reserves and communities and setting them aside. You can't blame them for not suddenly coming together again as nations, and so that's going to take time and that's going to take lots of conversations.
And so, some of the work that we're doing, we actually have acknowledged that we've got to start at a community level. That's probably the place to start, and as people develop confidence again in their systems, in their governments, those nations will eventually be rebuilt but I think in most parts of the country, it's still a ways off.
Danielle White: Great. Thank you very much.
So, we're almost at the end of our time here. So, I just wanted to take a moment to thank all three of you for joining us today. It was a very informative, engaging discussion.
I know I work in this space. Intergovernmental relations is part of my responsibility but I know I definitely learned from all three of you and it caused me to reflect on some of the work we're doing, from public servants needing to take that long-term view of the relationship, recognizing the complexity, I think as Darcy pointed out, the unintended consequences sometimes of federal and provincial policy decisions, and we saw a lot of that during COVID, for sure, including in some of the areas I work in, and the really important questions around governance and capacity and consultation, and the importance of recognizing the priorities of communities and nations.
And it's not just about what a federal or provincial government has an obligation to consult on, we need to seek that broader alignment around priorities and how we approach things is often as important as the substance itself.
I've been advised that Monique has not been able to reconnect to do a closing prayer, which is really too bad because I know she would have sent us all off in a good way. So, I will bring it to a close here. I would just remind participants to complete the evaluation forms, that the evaluation, the feedback, is very important in terms of informing the way forward. Lots more events on the horizon from the Canada School as part of the Indigenous Learning Series.
And I would really thank you all again for joining us. Miigwech. Wela'liek. Thank you very much. Thank you and be well.
Christine MacQuarrie: Thanks, Danielle, bye bye.
Darcy Gray: Thank you, everyone.
Martin Papillon: Bye.
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