Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada’s overarching goal is to advance reconciliation and self-determination by renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
To achieve this goal, the Government of Canada is implementing a national reconciliation framework in collaboration with first nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation. Key elements of the framework are already under way, and it will continue to advance and evolve over time.
The first important milestone of the framework is the establishment of permanent bilateral mechanisms to co-develop policy on shared priorities and monitor progress as we move forward. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on December 15, 2016, two of the three distinctions-based permanent bilateral mechanisms have been established. The Inuit Nunangat Declaration on Inuit-Crown Partnership was signed on February 9, 2017. It committed the federal government and Inuit leadership to work in partnership on shared priorities. Similarly, on April 13, 2017, the Prime Minister, the president of the Métis National Council, and its governing members of the council signed the Canada-Métis Nation accord during the first Métis Nation-Crown Summit in Ottawa, Ontario. The accord outlines the ways in which the Government of Canada and the Métis National Council and its governing members will work together to set priorities and develop policy in areas of shared interest. A third permanent bilateral mechanism with First Nations will be established in the near future. These permanent, distinctions-based bilateral mechanisms provide a foundation to reset the relationship and advance towards true nation-to-nation, crown-to-Inuit, and government-to-government relationships. These new processes demonstrate a substantive and significant change in how the Government of Canada is working together with indigenous peoples to co-develop policy and achieve results.
Another important component of the framework involves the establishment of the working group of ministers on the review of laws and policies related to indigenous peoples, which was announced by the Prime Minister in February 2017. The working group of ministers has the mandate to review existing federal laws, policies, and operational practices to help ensure the crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to aboriginal and treaty rights and is adhering to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The third key component of the framework includes the Government of Canada’s commitment to work in partnership with indigenous communities, the provinces and territories, and other partners to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action. To date, progress has been made on 49 of 70 of the calls to action under federal or shared responsibility. In 2016, Canada became a full supporter, without qualification, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The government is committed to fully implementing the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution and is working in full partnership with indigenous peoples on the path forward. The government has also made unprecedented investments in both budget 2016 and budget 2017 towards safe housing, clean water, high-quality education, child and family service reform, and the revitalization of indigenous language and culture to help close the socio-economic gaps and address the priorities of communities from coast to coast to coast.
The government is also working with first nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation to advance new fiscal relationships, including changes to funding approaches and financial transfer mechanisms that support renewed nation-to-nation, crown-to-Inuit, and government-to-government relationships. In July 2016, Canada signed a memorandum of understanding on a new fiscal relationship with the Assembly of First Nations and has been engaged with self-governing first nations on the structure of a new fiscal relationship with these communities. Budget 2017 also provides $84.9 million over the next five years in key long-term stable funding to support the Métis Nation as it continues to develop and grow governance capacity that will support its future endeavors, including section 35 self-determination and reconciliation discussions. This is on top of existing funding currently being provided to the Métis Nation and under previous Powley funding.
Reconciliation and the implementation of the framework is being implemented through a whole-of-government approach. A large number of federal departments, as mandated by the Prime Minister’s mandate letter to each respective federal minister, are directly engaging with indigenous peoples across Canada on implementing policies and programs related to a broad range of issues.
This approach and framework for reconciliation is evergreen and will continue to evolve as the government renews and strengthens the relationship with indigenous peoples.