COVID 19: No excuse to delay reconciliation

While pipeline construction, man camps and resource extraction continued unencumbered throughout the pandemic, long standing commitments to Indigenous rights and reconciliation are taking a back seat.

The pandemic has jeopardized delivery of the Canadian government’s reconciliation commitments, including a promise to end all long-term boil-water advisories on First Nation’s reserves by next March. The September 23, 2020 federal throne speech, with its shift in language, throws into question Canada’s commitment to eliminate the long-term boil water advisories. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada defines reconciliation as “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.” It adds that “a critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change. How can trust be established when commitments to end boil water advisories, ever more crucial during a pandemic, are delayed? How is it respectful of Indigenous women and their families to delay the National Action Plan in response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice? Meanwhile, new man camps are given priority on unceded Wet’suwet’en lands and along the Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline route.

Of Canada’s blatant failings to meet its own mandates and targets, Indigenous lawyer Pam Palmater asks,

“Where are they on a national action plan for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls — the largest human rights crisis ever facing Canada? I mean, they were found guilty of genocide.”

The federal government failed to pass legislation (Bill C-262) implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There has also been woefully slow progress implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. 

Government delays justice amidst escalating violence

As the government delays delivery on commitments to honour Indigenous People’s rights, the last 10 months have seen an escalation in rights violations on Indigenous territory. Take Coastal GasLink and the RCMP’s violence toward land protectors on unceded Wet’suwet’en lands;  the Department of Fisheries and Oceans failing to uphold Mi’kmaq treaty rights; the government-owned TMX pipeline project plowing through Indigenous territories without consent. In a time when public attention has been upended by an unprecedented pandemic, Indigenous communities continue to be encroached upon by man camps, ecological destruction, and rights violations that compound the neglect they face in the government’s failure to prioritize Indigenous rights and wellbeing. 

According to the throne speech, “The Government will walk the shared path of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and remain focused on implementing the commitments made in 2019.” However, carrying over unkept promises into a new year does not amount to leadership. 

This year has been anything but successful for the government’s purported commitments to meaningful reconciliation and implementing UNDRIP.

The BC Assembly of First Nations issued a press release stating their frustrations with the federal government’s Speech from the Throne 2020. Robert Bertrand, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief said, “What they cite as a record of success looks like a record of colonialism, paternalism and neglect to the off-reserve and non-Status Indigenous community.”

This kind of abject and recurring failure is why Indigenous Nations often choose to use courts to enforce their rights when governments pay them only lip service. While RAVEN looks forward to the day when Indigenous rights are flourishing in this country, until then we are committed to providing access to justice.

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