I first heard the word “reconciliation” when I read the case law, the Haida court case in 2004, when the judgment came down. It described the government's duty to address infringements on rights and title. The judge who used it said that we had to start addressing these because, let's face it, no one was going anywhere and we also had a duty to the greater society to make this work.
Originally I didn't agree, because I thought the priority for government should be to address this, but as I learned later on, I couldn't draw a line between first nations and non-first nations. I couldn't do it, especially since I enjoyed having hospitals, schools and roads and I had non-first nations in my family. I have non-first nations in my community. There is no way that I would single them out and say that they're different just because of reconciliation.
Over the last 10 or 15 years, no matter what the issue has been regarding first nations, I have always seen the word “reconciliation” pop up, and there was a whole spectrum of reasons it was used. Nobody actually brought the definition of “reconciliation” back to the case law where it started. There is no starting point, in my opinion, to the definition of “reconciliation”. Everybody has a different definition, and if there's a specific objective they want, then it seems convenient to bring up that word or it seems convenient to talk about some type of process, but if you don't have a starting point or if you don't have a clear definition of what a process is or what a word is or what it's meant to mean, you're going to have a tough time trying to achieve your objectives.
We didn't even talk about reconciliation back in our community. All we knew was that everything we had in place up until that date—the programs, the government funding, the suicide hotlines—all failed, every single thing. It wasn't until we walked away from the government funding, all of the government programs and all the hotlines and we focused entirely on economic development that we realized that yes, inadvertently we've actually solved all of our social issues.
I know you're talking about Bill C-29 in a specific manner, but on reconciliation itself, I still believe that if we're not addressing the social ills that plagued first nations, then it's just going to be another committee, and it will be open to interpretation by no matter who is in government to actually use that unless you have clear objectives.