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May 16th, 2018
Rhonda Moore Policy Lead at Public Policy Forum

Legitimacy in reconciliation: a path forward in Canada

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@JustinTrudeau has talked the talk on #reconciliation for Canada's #Indigenous Peoples but much more needs to be done, says @R_mmoore

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A new report from @ppforumca sets out how to bridge the divide between Canada's Indigenous Peoples and their country's government

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Canada must redefine the balance of power and share that power with Indigenous Peoples – just one of six new recommendations from @ppforumca

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30-second summary

  • A new report from Canada's Public Policy Forum examines the process of reconciliation with Indigenous communities, highlighting both its fragility and how much work there is still to do.
  • Despite the importance that Justin Trudeau's government has placed on the Indigenous agenda, little seems to have changed - actions speak louder than words.
  • It's time for Canada to come together: the government Indigenous peoples should join forces to re-establish culturally relevant governance structures - rooted in traditional Indigenous cultural values - to rebuild these communities.

Today, the Public Policy Forum (PPF) released our report Legitimacy in Reconciliation: A Path Forward. This report details the unconference PPF undertook on November 29 with 30 young Indigenous people from across Saskatchewan. PPF is grateful for the support of partners who made this unconference happen: The Centre for Public Impact, First Nations University, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and the Government of Canada.

There are three things I want you to know about this report: Magic, March and Momentum.

Magic is the best word I can find to describe the unconference process and the tremendous young people we met that day. Each one of the participants has the potential to be an agent of change in their family, their community and for this wonderful country, we all call home. They are humble, honest, intelligent, articulate individuals. Collectively, they offer simple recommendations that are all the more obvious and earnest coming from our future Indigenous leaders. I sincerely hope the six recommendations below will inspire Indigenous leaders, provincial and federal public servants, and political leaders to act together in Canada's best interest.

This report was initially due to be released in March 2018. In light of the Cormier and Stanley trial verdicts that dominated Canadian discourse at the time, PPF pulled the paper back and reached out to two of the unconference participants for their help. Moses Gordon and Nickita Longman have produced a letter that is both rich and raw. Their letter tells us, frankly, what those verdicts mean to young Indigenous people in Canada. Their voices have enabled us to preserve the hopeful integrity of the original report while demonstrating how fragile reconciliation is in Canada; how much work we have yet to do.

This report is just a very small part in a big chapter of Canadian history called reconciliation. PPF will continue to engage young Indigenous people across Canada in discussions of this nature, to strengthen the voice of future Indigenous leaders in Canada and ensure the path to reconciliation is one of authenticity and legitimacy. We invite all interested Canadians to join us in building momentum for this movement.

Here are the six recommendations, put forward by the young Indigenous leaders from Saskatchewan, to build an authentic, legitimate nation-to-nation(s) relationship.

  1. Adopt and immediately begin to implement the 94 calls to action and document progress of the implementation on all relevant Government of Canada websites, in plain language.

  1. The Government of Canada should cease the litigious and adversarial approach to Aboriginal rights by placing a moratorium on legal challenges to the expression of Aboriginal rights; and, engage in nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-Canada and government-to-government dialogue and negotiation to find mutually agreeable resolution where there are disputes.

  1. Canada must redefine the balance of power and share that power with Indigenous Peoples. The Government of Canada wields a disproportionate amount of control over the pace and scale of change. Reconciliation is a two-way street. It is time for the Government of Canada and all non-Indigenous citizens to recognize the role each one has played - directly or indirectly - in the systemic repression of Indigenous Peoples. Collectively, all Canadians have a responsibility to make amends and take concrete steps to redress the harm that systemic repression of Indigenous Peoples has caused.

  1. Every federal and provincial department should develop a reconciliation action plan that clearly identifies how each department will support reconciliation in Canada. These action plans should be tied to each department's strategic plan and include practical actions that will contribute to reconciliation.

  1. Actions speak louder than words. Despite the priority the government has placed on the Indigenous agenda, little seems to have changed. The Government of Canada, working with provinces and territories, must take immediate action to correct that which can be done in an expedient manner to reduce the economic and social barriers facing Indigenous Peoples. For example, while investments in housing and infrastructure have been described by the government as “historic,” they will not significantly address the shortfall if the government continues to fund housing and infrastructure in the same “pay-as-you-go” manner. It is time to design a plan to finance a housing solution, not just homes.

  1. Indigenous people need to get their own house in order, and have confidence in their own governance systems and practices. In many cases, current governance systems and practices were forced upon Indigenous Communities through the Indian Act. The Government of Canada and Indigenous Peoples should work together to re-establish culturally relevant governance structures - rooted in traditional Indigenous cultural values - to rebuild these communities



What is legitimacy to you? Where do you see legitimacy working well? How governments work with citizens to build legitimacy is a big question for CPI. 

Find out how to get involved in our Finding Legitimacy project 

Editorial credit: arindambanerjee /

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Rhonda Moore Policy Lead at Public Policy Forum
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