Indige­nous must ‘con­trol own des­tiny’: PM

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JOANNA SMITH

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is plan­ning to over­haul the way the fed­eral govern­ment re­lates to Indige­nous Peo­ples in Canada, in­clud­ing a new leg­isla­tive frame­work de­signed to pave the way to­ward stronger rights and greater con­trol over their own des­tiny.

“We need to both rec­og­nize and im­ple­ment Indige­nous rights,” Trudeau said Wed­nes­day in a speech in the House of Com­mons.

“Be­cause the truth is, un­til we get this part right, we won’t have last­ing suc­cess on the con­crete out­comes that we know mean so much to peo­ple.”

The prime min­is­ter said the new ap­proach, to be de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit, is needed to tackle the many chal­lenges fac­ing their com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing over­crowded hous­ing, un­safe drink­ing water and high rates of sui­cide among Indige­nous youth.

“All of these things de­mand real, pos­i­tive ac­tion — ac­tion that must in­clude the full recog­ni­tion and im­ple-

men­ta­tion of Indige­nous rights,” Trudeau said. “We need to get to a place where Indige­nous Peo­ples in Canada are in con­trol of their own des­tiny, mak­ing their own de­ci­sions about the fu­ture.”

The new Recog­ni­tion and Im­ple­men­ta­tion of Indige­nous Rights Frame­work — to be un­veiled later this year fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tions led by Carolyn Ben­nett, the min­is­ter for Crown Indige­nous re­la­tions, and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould — will in­clude new leg­is­la­tion.

Trudeau said the Lib­er­als in­tend to im­ple­ment it in time for the 2019 elec­tion.

“This frame­work gives us the op­por­tu­nity to build new mech­a­nisms to rec­og­nize Indige­nous govern­ments, and en­sure rig­or­ous, full and mean­ing­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of treaties and other agree­ments,” he said.

It would al­low the fed­eral govern­ment to find new ways to help Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties re­build, in­clud­ing through self-govern­ment, and could lead to new, more col­lab­o­ra­tive ways to re­solve dis­putes.

Trudeau said it will not, how­ever, re­quire re­open­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, where Sec­tion 35 al­ready rec­og­nizes these rights.

That recog­ni­tion, Trudeau ac­knowl­edged, came only af­ter the “out­spo­ken ad­vo­cacy” of Indige­nous Peo­ples, since the Lib­eral govern­ment at the time, led by his fa­ther Pierre Trudeau, had not orig­i­nally planned to in­clude them.

The prob­lem, Trudeau said, is that fed­eral govern­ments have not been fully im­ple­ment­ing those rights, forc­ing Indige­nous Peo­ples to turn to the courts to en­force them, time and again.

“This will give greater con­fi­dence and cer­tainty to ev­ery­one in­volved,” Trudeau said.

Wed­nes­day’s speech comes as the fam­ily of Colten Boushie wraps up their visit to Par­lia­ment Hill, where they said they have felt both wel­comed and sup­ported in their ef­fort to press0 the fed­eral govern­ment for change fol­low­ing the ac­quit­tal of the man charged in Boushie’s death.

Trudeau men­tioned his meet­ing with the fam­ily in his speech.

“Through all their grief and anger and frus­tra­tion, their fo­cus was not on them­selves and the tragedy they have en­dured, but on how we must work to­gether to make the sys­tem and our in­sti­tu­tions bet­ter,” Trudeau said.

“Re­forms are needed to en­sure that — among other things — Indige­nous Peo­ples might once again have con­fi­dence in a sys­tem that has failed them all too of­ten in the past.”

A num­ber of vis­i­bly Indige­nous peo­ple were ex­cluded with­out cause from the jury that last week ac­quit­ted Saskatchewan farmer Ger­ald Stan­ley, 56, in the shoot­ing death of Boushie, 22, a mem­ber of the Red Pheas­ant First Na­tion.

The Lib­er­als have long promised jus­tice re­forms, but are now promis­ing to re­view the use of peremp­tory chal­lenges, which al­low lawyers to re­ject jury can­di­dates dur­ing the se­lec­tion process.

The Lib­eral govern­ment be­gan sig­nalling this new ap­proach last sum­mer, when Trudeau an­nounced that Ben­nett, who had been in charge of the Indige­nous Af­fairs De­part­ment since 2015, would be joined on the file by for­mer health min­is­ter Jane Philpott.

Since then, Ben­nett has been fo­cused on ef­forts to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship, lead­ing con­sul­ta­tions on how to dis­solve the de­part­ment and cre­ate two sep­a­rate min­istries.

Her man­date let­ter said that would in­clude be­ing part of a min­is­te­rial work­ing group — along­side Philpott and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould — tasked with de­vel­op­ing this new “recog­ni­tion of rights frame­work and en­sur­ing the Crown is fully ex­e­cut­ing its le­gal, con­sti­tu­tional, and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights obli­ga­tions and com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected treaty rights.”

Trudeau also said at the time that the Lib­eral govern­ment was tak­ing steps to move be­yond the In­dian Act, a 141-year-old statute that has been widely crit­i­cized by Indige­nous lead­ers as colo­nial and pa­ter­nal­is­tic.

Last Novem­ber, the Lib­eral govern­ment said it would sup­port a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill in­tro­duced by NDP MP Romeo Sa­ganash that calls for the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the United Na­tions Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples.

The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion, which ex­am­ined the legacy of the In­dian res­i­den­tial school sys­tem in Canada, also rec­om­mended an en­tirely new way of view­ing the re­la­tion­ship, in­clud­ing by call­ing for a “Royal Procla­ma­tion of Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion” from the Crown.

As Lib­eral leader, Trudeau promised to im­ple­ment all 94 rec­om­men­da­tions in the com­mis­sion’s 2015 re­port.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, Boushie’s cousin, Jade Tootoosis, told a news con­fer­ence the fam­ily felt ex­cluded and ig­nored by the jus­tice sys­tem fol­low­ing the fa­tal 2016 shoot­ing in Saskatchewan, but their meet­ings on and around Par­lia­ment Hill this week have made them feel they are fi­nally be­ing heard.

“It’s those wel­com­ing arms, it’s those open doors that’s not only im­pacted us as a fam­ily, but shown that lead­er­ship is se­ri­ous about the is­sue and the ex­pe­ri­ences that we have felt,” Tootoosis said. Tootoosis said the fam­ily will con­tinue work­ing to root out what they de­scribe as sys­temic racism plagu­ing the Cana­dian crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and that educa­tion and open di­a­logue will help bring about unity.

“We will we back. We will be speak­ing out. This does not end here,” she said.

“We will con­tinue the di­a­logue and we will press for con­crete changes,” he said.

JUSTIN TANG THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is em­braced by Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Canada Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould. Trudeau in­tro­duced a bill giv­ing Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples a greater de­gree of de­ci­sion mak­ing.

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