Ottawa, ON – On the anniversary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Dec. 15, 2016, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal cabinet ministers to establish an approach to Indigenous Peoples Rights for First Nations and the federal government to work together to advance reconciliation and implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action that fall under federal responsibility, including implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Reconciliation is key to building stronger First Nations and a stronger country for all Canadians,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Reconciliation requires that we work together as partners because that is the foundation of our nation-to-nation relationship. The era of colonialism is ending. We all are committing ourselves to the hard work of reconciliation in honour of the former students and for our future generations.”
The Prime Minister announced a new, permanent process to work in partnership on shared priorities and monitor progress on those priorities. The National Chief has called for high level approaches to give life to the TRC Calls to Action, stating that a top priority is entrenching the UN Declaration as the framework and guide for reconciliation. The announcement today reflects that approach.
“This is essential work and it is important that First Nations drive this process across all our priorities,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “This approach needs to be based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership with the ultimate goal of closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canada.”
The announcement by the Prime Minister's Office also included reference to establishing an Interim Board of Directors to oversee the creation of a National Council for Reconciliation. National Chief Bellegarde and the AFN Executive will provide advice and recommendations on how this interim, formative step will reflect the broader goals of First Nations.
Prime Minister Trudeau issued the following statement on Dec. 15, 2016, on advancing reconciliation with Inuit, First Nations, and the Métis Nation:
“Last year, I committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples, one based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. Today, we take further steps on the journey of reconciliation.
“First, we will create permanent bilateral mechanisms with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the four Inuit Nunangat Regions, and the Métis National Council and its governing members. In this Kelowna-like process, every year, we will meet to develop policy on shared priorities, and monitor our progress going forward. Similar meetings with key Cabinet Ministers will take place at least twice each year.
“Second, we will establish an Interim Board of Directors to make recommendations on the creation of a National Council for Reconciliation. The Interim Board will begin an engagement process to develop recommendations on the scope and mandate of the National Council.
“Third, we will provide $10 million to support the important work of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation located at the University of Manitoba, as recommended in Call to Action 78. This contribution will help to ensure that the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system is remembered.
“These announcements build on progress we have made together over the past year. Work is underway on 41 of the Calls to Action outlined in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that fall under federal or shared purview.
“While much more remains to be done, I believe that we are making real progress towards renewing our relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
Last year on Dec. 15, 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau issued the following statement after receiving the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
“The Indian residential school system, one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history, has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on Indigenous culture, heritage, and language. As a father and a former teacher, I am overwhelmingly moved by these events.
“Seven years ago the Government of Canada apologized for this abhorrent system. The apology is no less true, and no less timely, today. The Government of Canada ‘sincerely apologizes and asks forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly’.
“Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I have the honour of accepting the Commission’s Final Report. It is my deepest hope that this report and its findings will help heal some of the pain caused by the Indian residential school system and begin to restore the trust lost so long ago.
“To the former Indian residential school students who came forward and shared your painful stories, I say: thank you for your extraordinary bravery and for your willingness to help Canadians understand what happened to you. As the previous government expressed so eloquently in its formal apology: your courage ‘is a testament to [your] resilience as individuals and to the strength of [your] cultures...The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a government, and as a country’.
“Moving forward, one of our goals is to help lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families, and from your communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities – and our failings – as a government and as a nation.
“This is a time of real and positive change. We know what is needed is a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. We have a plan to move towards a nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation and partnership, and we are already making it happen.
“A national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is now underway. Ministers are meeting with survivors, families, and loved ones to seek their input on how best to move forward. We have also reiterated our commitments to make significant investments in First Nations education, and to lift the two per cent cap on funding for First Nations programs.
“And we will, in partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces, territories, and other vital partners, fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“We recognize that true reconciliation goes beyond the scope of the Commission’s recommendations. I am therefore announcing that we will work with leaders of First Nations, Métis Nation, Inuit, provinces and territories, parties to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, and other key partners, to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework, informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
“The Government of Canada is committed to walking a path of partnership and friendship with Indigenous peoples. Today’s Final Report marks a true milestone on that journey. Again I thank the survivors, their families, and communities for this monumental achievement towards healing and reconciliation. I also thank Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson who worked tirelessly to bring to light the truth about residential schools in Canada.”