Canada Votes 2019: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which travelled across Canada and interviewed residential school survivors and their families, produced a series of recommendations for future action as its primary outcome.

Please choose three of these recommendations to which your party ascribes top priority and indicate how your party, if it is successful in forming the next Government of Canada following the October 21 General Election, would implement each of these three calls to action.

Max Chapman
Green Party of Canada

Canada has a profound legal and moral obligation to reconciliation and ending colonial practices across the country. Undoing centuries of colonization will not be an easy or short process, but that does not mean the government can drag its feet.

While we are committed to implementing all of the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, three that are of priority are:

43. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

18. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

It was appalling to see Bill 262, the legislation that would have fulfilled call to action 43, die in the Senate before the last election. The Green Party will reintroduce legislation to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in Canadian law. It will require that the government reform legislation and policy in Canada to meet the requirements of a nation-to-nation relationship, not just on paper but with meaningful action. A Green government would work to build a relationship based on equal partnership between the Canadian state and Indigenous Nations.

Ending the healthcare gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples requires that government fully accept its past actions. Acknowledging and apologizing for the past must also be coupled with action. That is why the Greens will work to end funding the funding gap and create sustainable funds for healthcare and healing facilities in Indigenous communities. Ending boil-water advisories, lack of adequate on-reserve housing and food insecurity for Indigenous people across Canada are all vital to reconciliation. Greens will work to make sure the governments fiduciary duties to achieve these goals are being met.

The Green Party fully repudiates outdated and racist legal doctrines such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius. Both of these were used by settlers to justify their actions of violence against Indigenous people in Canada. That is why we will end their use in Canadian courts. In doing so we can ensure that future governments cannot rely on their use to extinguish Indigenous Peoples title over their traditional lands.

Canada has a long way to go to meeting its obligations to reconciliation. It will only be through continuing in the spirit of working together, and not against each other, that we can hope to build a better Canada for everyone. We believe that Canada cannot reach its full potential as a nation until the socio-economic gap between Indigenous Peoples and the rest of Canada is closed and the legal doctrines of settler superiority are abolished.

Carol Hughes
New Democratic Party

Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples must change. Successive federal governments have denied the basic human rights of Indigenous peoples, stolen children from their parents, forced Indigenous peoples off their homelands and territories, and claimed lands without consent or compensation.

New Democrats don’t believe Indigenous peoples should be treated this way. That’s why we are committed to undertaking the important work of reconciliation in good faith and in true and equal partnership with Indigenous communities across the country. We’re committed to making choices that prioritize Indigenous sovereignty and autonomy and supporting services and programs that increase quality of life and dignity. A big part of that will be implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and we are committed to honouring the Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. 

Listing just three is challenging but given this week’s news that the government will appeal the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order for Ottawa to compensate First Nations children who had been discriminated against by the federal child welfare system, we will start with that.

New Democrats will take immediate action to respect, support and resource Indigenous jurisdiction over child welfare systems. We’ll back this commitment with long-term, predictable funding guaranteed in legislation so that Indigenous peoples can exercise their jurisdiction and authority over matters involving their own children and families.

We commit to ending discrimination against Indigenous children, young people and families by fully implementing the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders to stop chronically underfunding child welfare services on reserve and work with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society to implement the Spirit Bear Plan.

And we will implement Jordan’s Principle to end the delays and ensure equitable access to health services and educational supports for Indigenous children from coast to coast to coast.

In keeping with that theme, we will prioritize recommendation 19, in consultation with aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. 

New Democrats will make sure that the federal government steps up to close the health gap in Indigenous communities and supports Indigenous health self-determination building a long-term partnership with reliable, ongoing funding.

We will make sure that people can get the treatment they need in their community through investments in Indigenous health care infrastructure and diagnostic equipment. We will work in partnership with Indigenous communities to improve access to mental health and addiction treatment services—including an evidence-based action plan to prevent suicide, backed by dedicated federal resources, fully implementing the New Democrat motion on suicide prevention passed by the House of Commons.

We will work with communities and care providers to ensure that Indigenous-led, culturally appropriate home care and long-term care is available for elders, in their homes, communities and languages.

We commit to support Indigenous food sovereignty and build a treatment centre for residents affected by long-term mercury exposure and compensate families affected by the inter-generational problem of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows.

Finally, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, a New Democrat government will fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We’ll do that by working with Indigenous peoples to co-develop a National Action Plan for Reconciliation to ensure Canada’s laws, policies and practices are consistent with Canada’s human rights commitments—including cultural rights, land rights, and rights to self-determination and self-government.

We will establish a National Council for Reconciliation to provide oversight and accountability for this process, reporting regularly to Parliament and Canadians. We will recognize and respect treaties, supporting Indigenous Nations who are building and re-building their governance structures

A New Democrat government will replace mere consultation with a standard of free, prior and informed consent for Indigenous communities affected by government policies—including for all decisions affecting constitutionally protected land rights, like energy project reviews. 

A New Democrat government will work in partnership with Indigenous communities to help protect and revitalize the diversity of Indigenous languages in Canada with new legislation and stable funding and establish a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to acknowledge the painful legacy of colonization, honour the survivors of residential schools, and help communities across Canada commit to meaningful reconciliation.

Heather Wilson
Liberal Party of Canada

There are 22 First Nations communities in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing so the implementation of the 94 Calls to Action offered within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is imperative to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.

The past Liberal government committed to implementing all 94 of the Calls to Action and also the 231 Calls to Justice within the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  

It is difficult to choose just three of the Calls to Action since we have committed to implementing them all and in fact have accomplished much in the last four years. This includes the implementation of Jordan’s Principle and investing in infrastructure projects that will aid in the long term reconciliation process.

However, the Liberal platform is committed to following through as follows:

13) We call upon the federal government to acknowledge that aboriginal rights include aboriginal language rights.

A Liberal government will fully implement the Indigenous Languages Act as we recognize that language connects us to our families and communities and helps us discover who we are thereby rooting us in our culture and affirming our identity. For Indigenous Peoples, language is reflected in unique histories, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs, political beliefs and social systems. 

The Liberal government has already taken steps to implement this as evidence in M’Chigeeng First Nations where Lakeview School is expanding their Anishinaabemowin Immersion Program. Ngwaaganak has expanded to another grade this year at Lakeview school and M’Chigeeng leadership is committed to the language as a key component to the success of students.

19) We call upon the federal government, in consultation with aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends. 

A Liberal government is committed to ensuring that Indigenous People have access to high quality, culturally relevant health care and mental health services. We believe no one should go without the care they need to stay healthy. To move forward with making high-quality health care a reality for all Indigenous Peoples, we will co-develop distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation that is backed with the investments needed to deliver the care and will continue to work with communities to ensure Indigenous control over the development and delivery of services. 

Since clean water is a staple of healthy living we are committed to ending all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021. In the last four years, we have invested nearly $2 billion to build, repair and upgrade public water systems in First Nations communities and working with First Nations communities have eliminated 87 long-term drinking water advisories so far. Locally, Whitefish River First Nation has seen upgrades to their water treatment facilities and now can boast some of the best drinking water in the province.

We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of aboriginal children in care.

Indigenous children make up less than eight percent of all children but account for more than half of all children in foster care in private homes. The current system is broken and needs to change. To reduce the number of Indigenous children in care, and affirm the inherent rights of Indigenous communities we will ensure that the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis Children, Youth and Families if fully implemented. We will also move to forward with long-term, predictable, and sufficient funding to support the full implementation of the act. 

In fact, through continued support of organizations such as Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services that work to ensure children are protected while also staying connected to culture, language and community we have the ability to move forward given the intergenerational trauma from residential schools.

Dave Williamson
Conservative Party of Canada

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was initiated by the previous Conservative government, has been an important step in our shared history. There are many meaningful recommendations for all levels of government and others (including churches, the media and business) to contribute to the reconciliation process. 

There are many important recommendations, but three that are very meaningful for me include: No. 4, which seeks to build a child welfare system that is more respectful of Indigenous culture and families, while still ensuring that all children are protected; No. 7, which acknowledges the critical importance that education and employment have in building community resilience and restoring hope; and No. 19, which identifies real gaps in health outcomes that must be addressed in order to restore health to Indigenous communities that were ripped apart by residential schools. 

The gaps in health and social outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are all too real. These are legacies not only of residential schools, but also of an outdated Indian Act that holds communities back and makes it difficult for them to access opportunities enjoyed by other Canadians. The government can and will do more to address these gaps, but simple increases in social spending are not enough and never will be. Instead, we must be more supportive of communities as they seek to build their own wealth and opportunities so that they can get ahead and not just get by.

Sometimes this means that the government should provide more support, but just as often it requires the federal government to get out of the way and let Indigenous communities take command of their own future. What this looks like will be different for every community, but a Conservative government will be a partner in building a future of shared prosperity. We believe that there can be no true reconciliation without economic reconciliation, and we will work with Indigenous communities to achieve that.

As the representative for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing I will work with First Nation communities and focus on helping them move forward through a consultative process and honest dialogue. Unlike the NDP, led by Jagmeet Singh, or the Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, a Conservative government will focus on building an honest relationship where commitments are made and honoured.

Dave DeLisle
People’s Party of Canada

As a person with aboriginal heritage, I believe that the People’s Party of Canada platform on aboriginal rights is an important issue. It is “A New Relationship Based on Mutual Respect.”

The People’s Party of Canada knows that the aboriginal population of Canada is extremely diversified. It accounts for about five percent of Canada’s population and comprises First Nations, Inuit and Metis. There are more than 600 First Nations communities dispersed across the country. More than half of First Nations Canadians don’t live on reserves.

Aboriginal issues are also very complex. Some communities are prosperous, others much poorer than the Canadian average. Many suffer from acute social problems, including crime, domestic violence, substance abuse and suicide. Many don’t have the basic services that we take for granted such as access to clean water. There are other major issues to address regarding treaty negotiations, housing, property rights on reserves, etc.

It is not possible to address more than a few of these issues in the context of this election platform. Here is what a People’s Party Government would prioritize on the basis of its four key principles.

Respect:

Many injustices were committed in the past by the Canadian government towards aboriginals. We cannot rewrite the past, but only seek the best way to live together harmoniously in the future. This relationship must be based on mutual respect and a balance approach taking into account the needs of the aboriginal population and the interests of the Canadian population as a whole.

A People’s Party government will explore options to replace the paternalistic Indian Act, which keeps aboriginals in a state of dependency and allows the federal government to control most aspects of their lives, with a new legal framework that guarantees equal rights and responsibilities to aboriginal as Canadians, and promotes the self-reliance of communities.

A People’s Party government will respect our Constitution and treaties. It will reaffirm the federal government’s power to approve natural resources and infrastructure projects, after adequate consultations with affected aboriginal groups, and in partnership with them to ensure they can benefit from these economic opportunities.

Freedom:

The lack of real private property on reserves is in part responsible for the poor state of housing and the social ills that derive from it, and is one of the greatest impediments to economic development.

A People’s Party government will explore further avenues to promote the establishment of individual property rights on reserves so as to empower its residents, and give them increased control over their lives.

Fairness:

Fairness demands that all Canadians benefit from roughly equivalent services wherever they live. It’s unacceptable that some aboriginal communities live in conditions that resemble those of third world countries. But the current model to solve these problems is based on top-down bureaucratic solutions imposed by Ottawa on dependent communities with no voice in the process.

A People’s Party government will insure that aboriginal communities take more ownership of the services they receive in partnership with Ottawa and other levels of government.

Responsibility:

Although Ottawa spends about $21 billion a year on aboriginal programs, there is little evidence that living conditions have been improving in aboriginal communities. The federal government and aboriginal administrations have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent.

A People’s Party government will review federal spending to ensure that programs are better targeted to benefit the aboriginal population, in particular the communities that the greatest needs.