What the federal parties have to say about reconciliation
The four major federal parties have all promised to implement at least some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action
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We asked candidates from each riding tough questions on how the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools affected them, how they would approach reconciliation, and whether consultation or consent is needed for major projects. You can find their responses here: Cloverdale-Langley City; Langley-Aldergrove; Abbotsford; Chilliwack-Hope; Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon.
Recent discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools across Canada have put reconciliation at the front of many politicians’ minds in this election. The issues are particularly important in the Fraser Valley, where all residents live on land that is the traditional territory of local Indigenous people, where 8% of the population is Indigenous, and where two residential schools operated for decades.
All four of the major parties say they would address all 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and all have also pledged to fully fund work to search for missing children. But on issues surrounding land rights, consultation, and trying to find a route toward true reconciliation, some parties are promising more comprehensive action than others.
Many pledges centre around clean water for Indigenous communities on boil advisories, child welfare, and Indigenous self-determination. And while all parties emphasize the need to consult with First Nations on important projects—as has been deemed necessary by the Supreme Court—there is less agreement on whether consent from First Nations is required. And few parties have specifics about what can be done to give consultation exercises increased legitimacy.
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While the Conservative platform promises to specifically implement Calls to Action 71 through 76, which specifically focus on missing Indigenous children and residential school burials, it does not mention not the other calls to action. Leader Erin O’Toole, though, has said the party would implement the other 91 calls to action. The party said it would also build a national monument in Ottawa to honour the children who were lost. The party’s platform focuses on increasing the ability of Indigenous people to participate in natural resource projects. They said they would support communities that want to purchase an equity stake in major projects, and consult with Indigenous communities before “cancelling approved projects” when they have already signed agreements.
The Greens said they would call on the Pope to apologize for the Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools, and follow Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal orders to compensate child and family victims of discrimination. They have also made promises in regards to Jordan’s Principle for children off-reserve and provide funding for Indigenous Healing Centres. The Greens do not specify how they would consult or work with First Nations on federal projects that impact their traditional lands. They have said they would work to help First Nations transition away from the Indian Act, and create an Indigenous Lands and Treaties Tribunal Act to ensure treaty negotiations are conducted and financed fairly.
The Liberals are promising to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by including it in each minister’s mandate letter. They have also pledged to create an Urban, Rural, and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy and to help Indigenous children in care by ensuring First Nations youth who reach the age of majority receive support for an additional two years. They have also promised to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. Earlier this year, we reported that the number of Indigenous children in care in the Fraser Valley has increased in recent years. The Liberals do not specifically mention consultation with Indigenous groups on infrastructure projects, although they promise to develop a national benefits-sharing framework to ensure Indigenous communities “directly benefit from major resource projects in their territories.”
The NDP is pledging to fully implement UNDRIP. The party says it will back Indigenous jurisdiction over child welfare with long-term funding. It would also create a “fully funded Indigenous National Housing Strategy.” On resource projects, the NDP says it “will replace mere consultation with a standard of free, prior and informed consent for Indigenous communities affected by government policies.” It does not say how it would determine that consent, or how it would determine policy if and when different communities signal different wishes.
APTN has an even-deeper analysis of the parties’ promises, which you can read here. To learn more about each party’s commitments to Indigenous people, read the platforms in the document below.