Indigenous rights framework far from dead as Trudeau government rolls it out in pieces

A series of announcements in the last few weeks, and several more expected any day, suggest the Trudeau government is rolling out its Indigenous rights framework by piecemeal opposed to the failed plan of one large piece of legislation.

Those pieces appear to include the recently revamped K-12 education funding formula for First Nations across Canada. It is set to improve funding for First Nations as of April but also open the door to a self-government type of system for a single nation, or group, to negotiate with the federal government.

The same concept is expected with Indigenous child welfare legislation, to be tabled in the House of Commons any day. There’s an opt-in clause expected in that legislation, meaning nations can do nothing, and remain status quo, or decide to negotiate a deeper deal with Ottawa to control the welfare of their children.

That’s all similar to the idea of the Indigenous rights framework that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last Feb. 14 in the House of Commons.

The Trudeau government gave itself a deadline of last December to table a large bill that would likely to encompass all these new agreements in the hopes of doing away with the Indian Act.

But it was going to provide First Nations with a clause to opt-out of the Indian Act. No nation was going to be forced out from under it. But if they opted out then they could negotiate what it actually meant regarding, such things as, title and taxation.

Faced with still opposition, by many First Nations and regional governments, the Liberals backed away from tabling the bill.

The idea was for Canada to “renew its relationship with Indigenous peoples, one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”

That’s not from Trudeau speech, even though it sounds awfully similar, rather it comes from a Jan. 16 press release issued by Crown-Indigenous Relations marking the signing of a “protocol for consultation and accommodation” with the Huron-Wendat Nation.

Similar language was used in an announcement involving the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne on Jan. 23 to solve issues of around border crossings. There’s another on Jan. 15 with the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island and working towards a “Tripartite Framework Agreement” to recognize and implement the rights of the Mi’kmaq.

“What we heard resoundingly from First Nations, Inuit and Metis is take the time to do it right and listen to us which is an obvious approach but novel for governments,” said MP Marc Miller, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, on Nation to Nation Thursday.

But Conservative MP Cathy McLeod said it can only been seen as a failure, or an over-promise, under-deliver situation by Trudeau.

“The Prime Minister has failed in terms of standing up in the House a little over a year ago making a big commitment and not getting it done,” said McLeod, who is the Conservatives critic on Indigenous affairs.

But what those that were against this approach in the first place?

“It just shows that this government is not following through on its promise to have respectful dialogue,” said NDP MP Rachel Blaney.