8 Key Issues for Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Photo: Shutterstock

Eight of the key issues of most significant concern for Indigenous Peoples in Canada are complex and inexorably intertwined - so much so that government, researchers, policymakers and Indigenous leaders seem hamstrung by the enormity. It is hard to isolate one issue as being the worst. The roots of these issues lie in the Indian Act and colonialism.

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8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues

Little Grand Rapids, First Nation reserve in Manitoba, Canada. Photo: Shutterstock

Did you know that adequate housing was recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Did you know almost one in six Indigenous people lived in a home in need of major repairs in 2021 [1], a rate almost three times higher than for the non-Indigenous population, and more than 17 percent of Indigenous people lived in crowded housing?

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A Snapshot of On-Reserve Clean Water Issues

Photo: Pixabay

In Canada, access to clean drinking water is considered a given. A given, I suspect, that is frequently taken for granted by those who enjoy clean drinking water at the twist of the tap. For thousands of Indigenous Peoples, clean water at the twist of the fixture is an elusive dream. Entire generations in some communities have grown up under various degrees of drinking water advisories (DWA). The Neskantaga First Nation, with a population of about 240, in northern Ontario, has had a DWA in place since 1996. That means one whole generation has grown up under a DWA, and a second generation is now growing up having never turned on the tap for a glass of water.

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Tommy George Prince Military Medal and Silver Star Recipient

The story of Thomas "Tommy" George Prince, Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldier, is inspiring and tragic. It also underscores the inequality that Indigenous soldiers experienced upon returning home after risking their lives to fight under the Canadian flag.

Tommy George Prince, born in 1915 on the Brokenhead Reserve in Manitoba, came from a long line of men who were distinguished in battle - family members fought for the Crown in the Red River Resistance in 1870, led the Nile River Voyageurs in 1885, and fought in World War I.

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Honouring the 'Free' in Free, Prior and Informed Consent

In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Six of the 46 Articles that make up the UN Declaration reference the right of Indigenous Peoples to have “free, prior, and informed consent” (FPIC) regarding any activity that affects their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources. 

“FPIC is a principle protected by international human rights standards that state, ‘all peoples have the right to self-determination’ and – linked to the right to self-determination – ‘all peoples have the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.’” [1]

In this article, we contemplate the 'free' aspect of FPIC. The decision-making process must be free of pressure, intimidation, manipulation or coercion. The decision-making process should also be self-directed by the community from whom consent is sought and free of expectations and external timelines.

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Free, Prior, and Informed Consent and Eight Key Dates for the Indigenous Peoples in Canada

The road to adoption of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDec) has been a rocky one for Canada. Canada did finally “endorse” the Declaration but not without political pressure from Indigenous Peoples. What follows is a brief synopsis of the timeline leading to endorsement:

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Why We Need to Stay the Course on Reconciliation

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
Mark Twain

Is reconciliation dead? Our trainers and staff frequently are asked this question, and their answer is “No!” 

However, some think it’s dead, so I asked Google. My query showed 30,600,000 results. A quick scan of the first three pages of articles declared reconciliation dead (except ours, Reconciliation Isn’t Dead. Here are 94 Reasons Why) or took the approach that it wasn’t dead because it never was alive.  Why do we hold this belief when others have thrown up their hands? More progress has occurred in the past few years than ever before. It is not for us or anyone other than the survivors of the residential schools themselves to make that call. For survivors, reconciliation is a journey of healing, dignity and justice. If we give up on reconciliation, where does it leave us as a country? 

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Why We Shouldn’t Say "Bury the Hatchet"

Photo: Pexels

Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its report and 94 Calls to Action, we have seen significant progress for Canada and Canadians on the path to reconciliation. The signs are all around and we are hopeful we are indeed moving the needle on reconciliation.

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Responses From Some Indigenous Leaders on the Historic Papal Apology

For many survivors of residential schools and their families, the Papal apology was all they hoped to hear, for others it did not go far enough. Here are some thoughts from notable Indigenous leaders on the apology, the implications, and their hopes for the next steps on the journey to reconciliation.

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Timeline of the Papal Apology to Residential School Survivors

On April 1, 2022, I held my breath as I am sure thousands of other Indigenous Peoples did while listening to Pope Francis publicly address the Indigenous delegation from Canada. Would the leader of the Roman Catholic Church apologize for the church’s role in residential schools? And then he did. 

Photo: Unsplash

“For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God's forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.” Pope Francis, April 1, 2022

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