The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s six-volume, 2.3-million-word final report was issued on December 15, 2015. It not only contains stories from survivors of residential schools, but a set of 10 guiding principles and 94 recommendations or Calls to Action.
While the federal, provincial and territorial governments must act upon the majority of the 94 recommendations, there are also recommendations for all sectors of society, including the churches, media, arts, academia, and industry.
For example, the churches now have less than 90 days before issuing a joint statement by March 31, 2016, on how they will implement the spiritual and religious components of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The churches must also reject the concepts – such as “terra nullis” and the Doctrine of Discovery — used by the church and state to assert sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and their lands.
However, I must point out that First Nations do not expect industry to atone for the sins of the past. But we do, however, expect to be treated as equals, and as the rightful owners of the land.
Mining companies in Canada must recognize and acknowledge the era of Reconciliation as common place in all of its dealings with First Nations as it relates to mining exploration, development, extraction and remediation. This also includes training and educating management and staff on First Nation history, culture, human rights, and anti-racism.
Here are some key points to consider:
- The Truth and Reconciliation process is becoming an institution in Canada that will inspire and influence positive approaches to relationships between Canada and its First Peoples. s Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and respecting Treaties is a major focus within the TRC Calls for Action.
- Business and industry in all Canadian sectors are being prompted by the TRC Report to become aware of the report and make efforts to build bridges. This will close the divide between First Nations and Industry that was created as a result of ignorance of history of Canada’s Indian Residential school past.
- First Nations deep connection to the land is evident in language, culture, and world view – this is a key focus in many of the calls for action.
- The respect and responsibilities that First Nation peoples have for the land is an important element to the process of Reconciliation that is now being recognized by federal jurisdiction. As noted in the 2015 speech from the Throne, the environmental assessment process will soon become formalized, adding First Nations to the decision-making process as it pertains to the protection of the environment.
- Benefits to First Nations regarding mining development are also a key factor in reconciliation. The era of sealing a deal solely with an IBA, (Impact Benefit Agreement) is a thing of the past. First Nations seek to take on their roles as governments, beneficiaries and providers for their people.
- The ‘Reconciliation Lens’ can be a way for industry to create stronger relations, avoid conflicts, build strong business partnerships and help achieve collective prosperity with First Nations.
In conclusion, here are four key messages that sum up the outcomes from acting upon Reconciliation and forming a new relationship with our Peoples.
- Reconciliation can be a benefit to building strong mining partnerships with First Nations;
- Reconciliation as a policy approach for mining companies will expedite relationship-building beyond most conflicts that arise out of resisting First Nation history and Cultural competence;
- The cost benefit to a Reconciliation approach in the mining industry is invaluable;
- Reconciliation in Canadian mining can cultivate a social consciousness that could define the industry as a 21st century legacy maker.
I look forward to continued dialogue with the mining industry as we work together on making 2016 a breakthrough year for positive change. Together, we will build a better, more inclusive Canada for our children, and future generations.
Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini is Ontario Regional Chief