Opinion-Policy Nexus

Christopher Alcantara and Jen Nelles, August 2016 piece in Policy Options (Montreal: IRPP).

Cooperation between municipalities and Indigenous people is transforming life in Canada for the better.

Over the last 10 months, Justin Trudeau and his government have tried to radically shift how Canada approaches its relationship with Indigenous peoples.  At the centre of their efforts have been promises to implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to allocate billions of dollars to improve the socio-economic lives of Indigenous communities. He has also pledged to conduct relations with Indigenous governments on a nation-to-nation basis. Last week, the long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women was launched.

At first, these announcements were greeted with enthusiasm, which ranged from cautious to exuberant. That enthusiasm, however, has started to wane, mainly because Trudeau and his ministers have hit a recurring brick wall in their efforts to reshape the relationship between Indigenous communities and the Crown.  Several months after promising to implement UNDRIP, for instance, the Minister of Justice informed the Assembly of First Nations that her government was unable and unwilling to adopt it into Canadian law.  This is a familiar refrain for Indigenous peoples in Canada.  New politicians arrive in Ottawa hoping to implement transformative change, only to encounter the rigidity of the Canadian state and the constitutional order.  The result is a never-ending cycle of hope, mistrust and then anger on the part of Indigenous communities toward the Crown and the rest of Canada.

Read the rest of the essay here.