I have been attending the Nation-to-Nation conference (of which Canadian Mining Journal is a sponsor) in Ottawa this week. This is one of several such meetings held around the country with the intent of finding a means to bring indigenous peoples fully into the Canadian socio-economic world of the Twenty-first Century. The change is long overdue: 150 years overdue.
The speakers have been thoughtful and results oriented. But before the federal and provincial governments can ask the important questions, Canada’s indigenous communities must answer this one: What is our nation? Or nations?
There is no agreement on the number of indigenous nations in this land. AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde puts the total at 58. Sixty-something is a number frequently posited by politicians. Others suggest there may be more than 600 as every community could be considered a nation unto itself. Or do they fall into only three – First Nations, Metis and Inuit?
The number of nations is a question that can only be answered by the indigenous community. No political party, no government agency, program or institution, and certainly no non-indigenous person or consultant can answer the question.
This decision rests solely with those most closely affected by the outcome. And it won’t be an easy decision.
I will be covering more of the Nation(s)-to-Nation discussion in CMJ’s January 2018 issue. Read it to catch up on all the pressing and complicated issues that affect this issue as governments more forward.