First Annual (2020) Statutory Report Pursuant to Section 10 of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act, Statutes of Canada, Chapter 29, 2019

Message from the Ministers

We are pleased to present the first Annual Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s 2019-20 Departmental Report on measures undertaken to advance reconciliation and self-determination with Indigenous Peoples.

This year has demonstrated more clearly the urgency and need to address systemic racism and truly dismantle barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on longstanding social and economic inequities, including those that shape the realities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. We must address the challenges of today, and prepare to face them in the future. We have the opportunity to build back better – environmentally, economically and socially – to ensure a more inclusive future for First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.

Based on a recommendation from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada was formally dissolved in 2019 to create two new departments – Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada. The Commission was clear that as self-determination was realized, the jurisdiction for the delivery of services like health and education would be asserted by Indigenous peoples and no longer by the Government of Canada.

There is no more important relationship to the Government of Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. The work of anti-racism and decolonizing our institutions means we need to meaningfully advance and accelerate reconciliation and renew our relationship First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Working with Indigenous Peoples’ to implement their visions of self-determination is essential to building a stronger country from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Our journey of reconciliation is guided by the RCAP report, the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action, the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice, implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and doing this in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

This report reflects on what has been accomplished together while highlighting areas where our work continues. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada works across the federal government to support other Departments on their work to rebuild and advance our relationship with Indigenous peoples and Northerners. We are also continuing the important work, along with partners, to make progress on the implementation the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. We continue to make new investments in food security measures through the Nutrition North Program and the Harvesters Support Grant, co-developed with Indigenous partners. This work aims to close the persistent gaps in social and economic outcomes among Indigenous peoples and all Northerners.

We will continue to collaborate with our provincial and territorial partners on moving our shared work forward, for example, the co-development of the National Action Plan to respond to the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.

Reconciliation is a Canadian imperative - we all have a role to play. We know there is still much more work ahead of us as a country. We will only move forward on advancing true reconciliation by working together.

 

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

The Honourable Daniel Vandal
Minister of Northern Affairs

 

Table of contents

Introduction

The role and contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada – First Nations, Inuit and Métis – are significant, rich and far-reaching throughout Canadian society, despite a complex and troubled historical relationship with the Government of Canada that has negatively impacted Indigenous Peoples and their ways of life. In its final report, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples stated that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was viewed by many to be rooted in this troubled colonial history and that it should be abolished and replaced by two new distinct but linked departments. This recommendation led the Prime Minister to announce on August 28, 2017, the dissolution of INAC and the creation of two new departments: Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), each with related but separate mandates.

The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act came into force on July 15, 2019 and established CIRNAC, while the Department of Indigenous Services Act established ISC. The former INAC – legally, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development – was abolished by the Budget Implementation Act, 2019.

Under the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act, the Minister must cause to be tabled in each House of Parliament, within three months after the end of the fiscal year or, if the House is not then sitting, on any of the first fifteen days of the next sitting of the House, a report on the measures taken to advance self-determination, and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. This report covers the period from the coming into force of the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act on July 15, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

Mandate of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

CIRNAC was established to carry out activities that support the Government of Canada’s commitment to advancing reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Its primary focus is renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationships based on affirmation and implementation of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. CIRNAC also works to promote respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Such activities include: facilitating collaboration and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples and with the provinces and territories in relation to entering into and implementing agreements; the recognition and implementation treaties concluded between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples; promoting self-reliance, prosperity and well-being for the residents and communities of the Canadian North, taking into account their respective needs and challenges; recognizing and promoting Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing; and, promoting public awareness and understanding of the importance of working toward and contributing to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

To achieve a coherent whole of government federal approach to Crown-Indigenous relationships, the work of CIRNAC is always conducted in partnership with other government departments. CIRNAC and ISC are mandated to work together on capacity building to bring control of and jurisdiction for service delivery back to Indigenous communities. CIRNAC is responsible for continuing to modernize institutional structures and governance so that Indigenous Peoples can build capacity that supports the implementation of their vision of self-determination. In parallel, ISC’s primary responsibilities are focused on capacity building to improve access to high-quality services, and to support Indigenous Peoples in assuming control of the delivery of services at the pace and in the ways they choose. Such services include health care, education, social programs, and economic development.

Structure of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

To meet its new mandate, the Department was established with five sectors from the former INAC:

The Policy and Strategic Direction Sector shapes the overall departmental agenda for advancing Indigenous and Northern issues through strategic approaches to policy, relationships, and litigation management, including the coordination of short, medium, and long-term policy planning, as well as Cabinet, legislative and parliamentary affairs. The Sector also supports the management of the Permanent Bilateral Mechanisms, federal-provincial-territorial relations, international affairs, the work with the Métis Nation, non-status First Nations and urban Indigenous Peoples, funding to Indigenous representative organizations, the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and the response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The Treaties and Aboriginal Government Sector leads the negotiations of treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements, and works with partners to develop the policy and fiscal approaches to support self-determination through these agreements. The Sector also works collaboratively with Indigenous partners to identify and address common impediments to agreements, and to co-develop innovative approaches for advancing negotiations based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. The Sector is also responsible for demonstrating leadership, advancing coordination, and identifying emerging issues across the federal system with respect to rights-related discussions with Indigenous partners.

The Implementation Sector implements the nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and Government-to-Government relationships with modern treaty and self-government partners and works in partnership to ensure that federal obligations under treaties and agreements are respected and fulfilled. The Sector supports government departments and agencies to understand and fulfill their constitutional obligations around the Duty to Consult with Indigenous Peoples. Finally, the Sector supports other implementation initiatives (such as the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) through policy and coordination with other government departments and agencies.

The Resolution and Partnerships Sector works to resolve outstanding historical grievances, including the assessment and settlement of specific claims, the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the strategic management of Indigenous Childhood Claims settlements and litigation. The sector also supports self-determination as it manages the relationship with the First Nations Fiscal Institutions, advances institutional development, governance and land management through enhancements to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act and First Nations Land Management Act, continues the modernization of the Additions to Reserves Policy and manages additions to reserves for CIRNAC, and engages on reforms of the Indian Act to support First Nations communities in transitioning away from the Indian Act.

The Northern Affairs Organization leads the Government of Canada’s work in the North. This includes the coordination of federal policy across departments and leading the negotiation and implementation of devolving federal jurisdiction to Territorial Governments (Yukon Act, Northwest Territories Act, Nunavut Act). The Sector also manages a number of federal regulatory and other functions not devolved through the Territorial Acts and leads whole-of-government activities relating to the environment and renewable resources, northern food security and northern science.

Reconciliation

As stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), reconciliation is the ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. 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. Both the ongoing process of reconciliation, and the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous individuals, communities, and governments are, and will remain, enduring elements of the Canadian landscape. Building on previous efforts, defining a way forward requires a balance between the need to make meaningful progress, with the recognition that the government cannot impose solutions on Indigenous Peoples and communities. This way forward is informed by a number of guiding principles and frameworks, including: Section 35 of the Constitution Act; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration); the Attorney General of Canada's Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples; the TRC’s Calls to Action; the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada's Relationship with Indigenous Peoples; and, Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy Framework. At the same time, an ongoing commitment to dialogue, joint priority setting and co-development, de-colonizing federal structures and institutions, meaningful consultation and accommodation, and initiatives to inform and engage non-Indigenous Canadians are essential to building a productive and respectful relationship. CIRNAC recognizes the great strides have been made to achieve its mandate, alongside Indigenous partners, and the significant work that still lies ahead.

Supporting Self-Determination

Positive federal measures to respond and support the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination are needed to achieve the federal objective of helping to strengthen Indigenous communities by addressing core public services and economic opportunities. In the context of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and as indicated in the Declaration, self-determination can be defined as the ability to determine political status and to freely pursue economic, social, and cultural development. In exercising their right to self-determination, Indigenous Peoples might exercise the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions. Self-determination can be advanced in several different ways, through such measures as: treaties (modern and historic); self-government agreements; local/regional governance; and, taking part in decision-making processes (e.g.: environmental assessments and international treaty negotiations).

The whole-of-government approach to reconciliation and supporting Indigenous self-determination is rooted in three pillars: acknowledging and addressing the past; closing socio-economic and service gaps; and supporting visions for self-determination and renewed relationships. These three pillars reflect the Government of Canada’s determination to address federal policies that continue to be harmful, more work needs to be done in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and that Indigenous rights must be implemented. Together, they drive specific measures CIRNAC has undertaken to advance reconciliation and support Indigenous self-determination. As the "closing socioeconomic and service gaps" pillar is captured by the statutory reporting requirement under the Department of Indigenous Services Act, this pillar is not included in this report as it will be included in the annual report to be submitted by the Minister of Indigenous Services. Additionally, it should be noted that due to restrictions on work access and mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic, a whole-of-government report was not possible at this time, although a engagement process was undertaken with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Land Claims Agreement Coalition.

COVID-19 has had an impact on our work and will inevitably play a role in shaping it going forward. Given the timing of this report, focus is on the government’s response to the crisis as it relates to First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to March 31, 2020. Although difficult to anticipate at the time of writing, implications for wellbeing and economic recovery and the broader approaches to support reconciliation and self-determination are beginning to emerge. As such, the COVID-19 response has been included as an additional key pillar to account for extensive national efforts to respond to the crisis, and anticipated implications for the approaches in the near to medium term.

1. Response to COVID-19

On March 26, 2020, the Government of Canada outlined the details of the $305 million distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund, newly created to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities related to COVID-19, in the spirit of advancing reconciliation. Outside of the regular funding initiatives of the federal government, this initiative reflects the unique needs of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation communities in addressing the impacts of the global pandemic while working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their communities.

The Indigenous Community Support Fund is being distributed through a distinctions-based model: allocations to each First Nation are distributed based on population, remoteness and community well-being, with funding distributed to modern treaty and self-government partners based on a collaboratively developed allocation methodology; Inuit allocations are distributed to each of the four land claims organizations determined by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and regional Inuit land claims organizations; Métis Nation communities will receive allocations flowing through each of the Governing Members; and regional and urban Indigenous organizations who support their members living away from their communities will receive funding, as well as to regional organizations such as Friendship Centres and the Metis Settlements General Council of Alberta.

CIRNAC facilitated engagement with Indigenous partners to support their efforts in ensuring well-coordinated, effective measures are being put into place to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in Indigenous and northern communities.

For Inuit partners, work focused on ensuring flexibility and alleviating any potential process issues that could impede Inuit organizations’ in efficiently flowing funding to their members. Inuit priorities under the Fund include: support for Elders and vulnerable community members; measures to address food insecurity, educational and other support for children; support for land-based activities to allow families to perform social distancing; mental health assistance and emergency response services; and, preparedness measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Work with the Métis Nation focused on identifying an appropriate funding vehicle to allow for time-sensitive community funding. Departmental officials provided support for ISC to amend the program Terms and Conditions of the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples to provide Métis communities with needed flexibility to ensure they could address pressing needs, including funding for quarantine housing.

In Canada’s North, a number of measures were put in place to support territorial governments and Northerners, notably, funding was provided to the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut to support their COVID-19 health and social services preparations and response. Additional funds made available to the territorial governments to support northern air carriers, in partnership with territorial governments, and non-repayable funds for businesses in the territories were earmarked to help address the impacts of COVID-19. Nutrition North Canada was also provided additional funding to increase subsidies so families can afford much needed nutritious food and personal hygiene products.

The Government of Canada will continue to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, and to ensure a safe, sustainable, and greener economic recovery. Canadians have come together and done their part. These collective efforts have helped us during the pandemic, and will continue to do so as we work to build a healthy, more resilient, and more prosperous country for everyone.

2. Acknowledging and Addressing the Past

The historic relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation is challenging and complex. Harmful policies of the past, such as land management, the appropriations of reserve lands, control over Indigenous identity, residential and day schools, continue to impact Indigenous Peoples today. These impacts manifest in many ways, including socio-economic gaps, intergenerational trauma, and discrimination. The TRC stated 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." As such, addressing past wrongs reflects the Government’s responsibility to uphold promises and is a key element in advancing reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination through building trust and working together as true partners.

Over the past year, the Department’s efforts to acknowledge and address the harmful policies and programs of the past have included federal co-ordination on an approach to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and Two-Spirit People, research to inform Canada’s implementation of the Declaration, and preliminary work to establish an Indigenous Peoples’ Space. Measures to mitigate or eliminate harmful policies have included engagement with Indigenous partners to review specific claims settlement processes, enacting legislation to eliminate of gender-based inequities from the Indian Act, and to improve additions to reserve and reserve creations. Finally, the Department has continued to explore and advance reparation through several settlement agreements to address past wrongs, such as the impact of the Sixties Scoop or the Day Schools on Indigenous Peoples.

Measures Taken

Response to the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

"Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls" was released on June 3, 2019. The Calls for Justice are directed at all levels of government, institutions, social service providers, industries, and all Canadians, and require that underlying systemic issues be addressed. Call for Justice 1.1 calls on all governments, in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, to develop and implement a National Action Plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People.

Following the release of the Final Report, the Prime Minister committed that the Government of Canada would work with partners to develop a National Action Plan. Building on the work started in 2015 with provincial and territorial governments, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group has been meeting bi-weekly and in July 2019, Minister Bennett wrote to her provincial and territorial colleagues to seek support for the creation of a National Action Plan. Since then, measures taken towards developing a National Action Plan have included both engagement across federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as with Indigenous partners and organizations.

In August 2019, the Government of Canada struck its own senior interdepartmental working group to review existing actions and identify immediate areas for action. Through these discussions at the Ministerial, Deputy Minister and Director General levels, provinces and territories have been formally requested to share information on how they are approaching their response to the final report, as well as how they are working with their Indigenous partners and other groups towards the advancement of a National Action Plan. In addition, a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Deputy Ministers Committee was struck in March 2020 to focus on the development of a National Action Plan and to promote and identify opportunities for cross-jurisdictional and multilateral engagement, collaboration, and partnership in response to the Final Report.

Since the Winter of 2019, funding from the Government of Canada has supported national and regional Indigenous organizations, and Indigenous women’s organizations to engage their members, including families and survivors, to identify priorities, promising community-led initiatives, and how they want to be included in development of the National Action Plan. With this funding, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak (LFMO), the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and 2 Spirits in Motion held national and regional meetings with their membership between January and March 2020 and reported back to the Government with priorities for the National Action Plan.

In order to ensure that everyone contributing to the National Action Plan has access to the advice of those with expertise and lived experience, as well as proven and promising practices, a resource page was developed to provide an evolving digital library of resources related to keeping Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People safe and the themes and issues identified in the national inquiry's final report shared.

Funding for MMIWG Measures

Several investments aimed to improve the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous Peoples and their communities, including the safety, security, and well-being of Indigenous children. In 2019, nearly $50 million was invested to respond to the National Inquiry’s Interim report. These funds were used to: establish a MMIWG Commemoration Fund to honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit People; support Justice Canada’s Family Information Liaison Units which ensure that family members have a culturally-grounded and trauma-informed team to assist them in accessing information about loved ones and to help them navigate the criminal justice system; ensure continued healing and health supports for families and survivors, and some assistance with ongoing transportation costs; and, to support the establishment of a national investigative oversight body at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

More recently, the Government of Canada announced additional funding to: build and operate 12 new shelters (10 in First Nations communities on-reserve and 2 in the territories); deliver health support services for those affected by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; and, extend supports for Family Information Liaison Units and culturally responsive and trauma-informed community-based services for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to March 31, 2023.

The Government continues to support organizations to keep the National Action Plan evergreen, and funding for the initial phase of engagement was provided to the following organizations: Assembly of First Nations’ Women’s Council, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, CAP, LFMO, National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, National Association of Friendship Centres, NWAC, Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and 2 Spirits in Motion Foundation.

Impact of COVID-19 on MMIWG Activities

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we engage and collaborate, and delays have occurred in the development of the National Action Plan due to the truly national nature of our engagement. Nevertheless, the commitment to working with Indigenous partners, families and survivors, provinces and territories, and others remains the same, and the Government of Canada is moving forward on developing the National Action Plan as quickly as possible.

In the absence of face-to-face events during the COVID-19 pandemic, conversations continued through virtual discussions and conference calls with Indigenous governments and organizations, provincial and territorial governments, 2SLGBTQQIA organization leaders, family members, practitioners, academics, and subject-matter experts, to share perspectives and identify priorities to help inform the development of the plan.

Based on the work to date and informed by consistent communications with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, participation is continuing through a framework of Working Groups for the development and implementation of a National Action Plan. In particular, provinces and territories continue to be active in the development of a National Action Plan through their work with Indigenous and other partners, as well as through the development of new initiatives and the identification of promising community-led initiatives.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

As a key priority of the Government of Canada, underscored by the Prime Minister’s commitment to introduce legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by December 2020, CIRNAC has been working closely with the Department of Justice and other government departments and agencies to achieve that goal. To date, work has focused on interdepartmental coordination and policy analysis on understanding the implementation of the Declaration in the Canadian context. Internal research has included examining international benchmarks to better understand implementation of the Declaration in New Zealand, Australia and other countries; and reviewing British Columbia’s recent legislation to implement the Declaration in the Province. Preliminary distinctions-based engagement between the Government of Canada and key Indigenous partners has taken place and is ongoing.

Indigenous Peoples’ Space

In 2017, the Prime Minister announced that a new space for Indigenous Peoples would be established at 100 Wellington Street in the National Capital Region, on the ancestral land of the Algonquin people. Since then, the footprint was expanded to include 119 Sparks Street and the infill between the two buildings. The Indigenous Peoples’ Space is to be a place to educate and raise awareness of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples’ contributions to Canada’s past, present, and future. It is intended to be distinctions-based and reflect First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, and the diversity within those Peoples. It will also provide a space for Indigenous governments to conduct intergovernmental relations and official business.

This national space will also provide a concrete marker and physical presence, directly across from Parliament Hill. The spirit and intent of the Indigenous Peoples’ Space has always been that it must remain First Nations, Inuit and Métis led, and the work is being undertaken in the true spirit of reconciliation with all decisions being made with Indigenous partners.

The Government of Canada and Indigenous partners have made progress to establish the Indigenous Peoples’ Space, while planning and engagement on the long-term vision and design are being completed. While there have been some delays in advancing the initiative, these have been necessary to ensure that the Indigenous Peoples’ Space is reflective of the interests and perspectives of all Indigenous partners, including the Algonquin.

Bringing into force the removal of the 1951 cut-off (Bill S-3) to eliminate all known sex-based inequities in the Indian registration provisions

c An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada (Procureur général) (Bill S-3) to remove sex-based inequities from the Indian Act came into force on December 22, 2017. Amendments concerning the removal of what is commonly known as the 1951 cut-off were added to the bill which received royal assent on December 12, 2017; however the coming into force of the 1951 cut off was delayed to allow for consultations with Indigenous partners on an implementation plan. Following the conclusion of the "Collaborative Process on Indian Registration, Band Membership and First Nation Citizenship" and a summary report to Parliament tabled on June 12, 2019, the remainder of Bill S-3 (An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada) was brought into force on August 15, 2019 to remove the 1951 cut-off from the registration provisions of the Indian Act. This measure eliminates all known sex-based inequities in the Indian Act and ensures that women and their descendants do not face discrimination and delays in being recognized under the Indian Act. From July 2019 to March 2020, CIRNAC continued to support First Nations and share information about Bill S-3 through several community sessions and regional events.

Reparations and Settlements for Past Wrongs

Qikiqtani Apology

As part of the commitment to reconciliation, in August 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations delivered an apology to Qikiqtani Inuit for the harmful effects of federal policies imposed in the Qikiqtani region from 1950 to 1975, outlined by the Qikiqtani Truth Commission Final Report in 2013. Following the apology, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and the Government of Canada announced a formal partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on building a long-term and sustainable response to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s findings and recommendations, including $20 million from the Government of Canada.

Kivalliq Hall inclusion in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement

When the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was approved in 2006, Kivalliq Hall was not included in the list of eligible institutions. On April 25, 2019, the Court ordered that Kivalliq Hall in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut be added to the Settlement Agreement. As a result of this addition, former students of Kivalliq Hall had until January 25, 2020 to apply for compensation under the Common Experience Payment and/or the Independent Assessment Processes, and the assessment of these claims is nearing completion.

Federal Indian Day Schools Settlement Agreement (McLean)

Through the Federal Indian Day Schools Settlement Agreement, compensation has begun to be provided to thousands of former students for the harms suffered, including physical and sexual abuse, while attending a federally run Indian Day School. In addition, the Settlement Agreement provides an investment of $200 million to support healing, commemoration, education, language, and culture. The implementation of the settlement began on January 13, 2020.

Implementation of the Sixties Scoop Settlement

The Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement provides compensation to First Nations and Inuit who were adopted, became Crown wards, or were in permanent or long-term care between January 1, 1951 and December 31, 1991. Individuals could apply for compensation until August 30, 2019. The Settlement Agreement also provided $50 million to establish the Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation to support healing, wellness, education, language, culture, and commemoration activities open to all Indigenous Peoples affected by the Sixties Scoop.

CIRNAC has committed to working with plaintiffs, their counsel, the provinces and territories and the Métis Nation to address the remaining Sixties Scoop litigation. Following the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision on carriage, the parties are now in a position to begin exploratory discussions to resolve the remaining Sixties Scoop litigation. CIRNAC will continue to work with Métis leadership to share information that may inform potential options to resolve the litigation and provide funding to support the Métis Nation as they engage with their community members.

Update on Specific Claims Settlements

Resolving specific claims is an important element in advancing reconciliation with First Nations. Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, the Specific Claims Branch has processed 36 claims for research and assessment; completed the assessment of 43 claims, out of which 39 were accepted for negotiation; and, settled 28 specific claims, for a total settlement amount of $598.4 million.

In support of reviewing current specific claims processes and developing possible reform options, in 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations committed to provided $1.5 million for a broad-based engagement initiative with First Nations across Canada to inform future co-developed proposals with respect to specific claims policy and process reforms. The engagement sessions were led by the Assembly of First Nations in fall 2019, and examined themes including, but not limited to fairness, independence, impartiality, openness, and transparency. The Assembly of First Nations plans to develop a report of policy reform options anticipated for late fall 2020. Ideas around how to make the specific claims process more independent of government decision-making, the inclusion of Indigenous dispute resolution traditions and fundamental reforms to the Specific Claims Policy, process and Specific Claims Tribunal Act are anticipated to be raised.

Addition of Land to Reserves and Reserve Creation Act

Since 2009, the Department has been working with First Nations to explore policy, process, and legislative options for improving additions to reserve and reserve creations. After various consultation and legislative efforts, the Additions of Land to Reserve and Reserve Creation Act was enacted and came into effect on August 27, 2019. The Act streamlines the approval for the additions to reserve and reserve creation and enables First Nations to designate pre-reserve lands and address third-party interests prior to lands being set apart as reserve. Additionally, the Minister now has the authority to grant reserve status in all cases, which decreased the amount of time required for the approval of an addition to reserve or reserve creation proposal. These legislative changes contribute to advancing reconciliation and improving the treaty relationship through the fulfillment of Canada’s outstanding historic obligations to First Nations. Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, thirteen additions to reserve or reserve creation submissions were approved.

3. Creating Conditions for Self-Determination and Renewed Relationships

Advancing Indigenous Peoples visions of self-determination and renewing relationships between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown are essential to advance reconciliation. Both are essential for building more respectful relationships and for a shared future that includes new ways of working and living together, based on implementing self-determination as well as the reconciliation of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. They also involve a whole-of-government commitment to greater collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, through co-development of policy, legislation, and negotiation mandates.

Over the past year, the Department has continued its efforts to build trust and enhance partnerships through the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism process with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation leaders, and the implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action. At negotiation tables, partners explored new ways of working together, and co-developed policies to guide future treaty, self-government and other negotiations. Loan reform, the Nation Rebuilding Program, and the negotiation and implementation of treaties and other constructive agreements all contribute to the conditions for strengthening Indigenous governments and communities. In addition, the First Nations Land Management Act and First Nations Fiscal Management Act continued to provide First Nations with optional tools for increased self-governance and economic development. Consultation and engagement activities continued to strengthen the relationship, as public servants increased their understandings of federal responsibilities. A variety of regional agreements supported self-determination in the North, including measures to facilitate Nunavut devolution, as well as broader initiatives such as the launch of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework and programs to facilitate Indigenous engagement in addressing climate change, in major project reviews, and in the remediation of abandoned mines.

Measures Taken

Permanent Bilateral Mechanisms

In 2016, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of permanent bilateral mechanisms with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation leaders. The purpose of this approach is to identify joint priorities, co-develop policies and monitor progress going forward on the path to reconciliation. Each of the three distinction-based processes include: an annual meeting between the Prime Minister and each of the National Indigenous leadership; two meetings per year between key Cabinet ministers and the National Indigenous leadership; and, four Senior Officials meetings between federal Assistant Deputy Ministers and their equivalents within the organizations. Working level meetings take place on an ongoing basis to plan, implement and monitor joint priorities. In addition, the Prime Minister, key federal Ministers, and the elected leadership of Modern Treaty and Self-Governing First Nations have agreed to an annual meeting to discuss the work done together over the past year, what remains to be done, and to celebrate successes.

Government of Canada and First Nations Bilateral Mechanism

Over the last year, the Government of Canada has met with the Assembly of First Nations at the departmental level to reflect on the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism to strengthen and build on the process. For example, the Senior Officials Meeting held in February 2020 allowed partners to take stock of the status of existing joint priority areas and to position for a Leaders Meeting; the timing of a Leaders Meeting was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Activities undertaken which addressed joint priority areas include the development of legislation for both First Nations policing and the implementation of the Declaration, and the establishment of joint tables to review key federal policies such as Specific Claims, Comprehensive Land Claims, Inherent Rights and Additions to Reserves. In addition, progress has been made on the implementation of sustainable, predictable funding models.

Work over the last year has helped identify next steps for existing joint priorities as well as potential new priorities for discussion and confirmation at the Leaders level. Joint priorities include policing and community safety, Indigenous languages, implementation of the Declaration, implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action, New Fiscal Relationship, decolonization of federal laws and policies and closing the socio-economic gap.

Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee

Over the last year, the Government of Canada has met with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Land Claim Organizations at the departmental level to reflect on the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism to strengthen and build on the process. At Officials’ level meetings in December 2019 and February 2020, partners took stock of the status of priority areas and revised work plans in response to the evolving needs of Inuit communities and the new mandate commitments of the government. A Leaders Meeting took place in Ottawa on March 6, 2020, co-chaired by the President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Prime Minister.

There was notable progress on implementing several priority areas of the Committee. Prioritizing actions items set out in the co-developed Inuit Nunangat Housing Strategy (2019) advanced work on a Performance Measurement Strategy with respect to Budget 2018 Inuit housing investments, providing year-three of the $400 million over 10 year investments to Inuit partners to improve housing in Inuit communities in a way that best meets Inuit needs. There was also work on the development of the Inuit component of the Nutrition North Canada Hunters Support Grant by the Food Security working group, and the co-development of Inuit components of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework.

Government of Canada and the Métis Nation’s Government-to-Government, Nation-to-Nation Relationship Permanent Bilateral Mechanism

Over the last year, joint efforts through the Canada-Métis Nation Accord and the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism have led to real and substantial progress. Despite the postponement of Senior Officials Meetings, the Government of Canada continued work with Governing Members on joint priorities throughout the year. Partners created a joint-working group to provide advice to Senior Officials on the implementation of the Métis Nation Housing Strategy, formed a Canada-Métis Nation Joint Committee on the Fiscal Relationship to support establishing a New Fiscal Relationship with the Government of Canada, and worked to develop a Memorandum of Understanding related to environmental policy.

CIRNAC officials met with the Métis National Council and its Governing Members to implement ongoing investments. Over this year, joint work to implement historic housing investments led to the design and implementation of Métis-specific housing programs meeting the unique needs of each Métis region, addressing construction needs for new homes, renovation of existing homes, housing affordability, and operations and maintenance of housing programs.

Implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action

Implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action is foundational to reconciliation. CIRNAC plays a key role in the whole-of-government coordination of Canada’s response and implementation of these Calls to Action. To date, nearly 80 per cent of the Calls to Action under the responsibility of the federal government alone or shared responsibility between the federal government, provincial/territorial governments, and other key partners, are well underway.

Twelve Calls to Action have been fully implemented including:

  • 4: Enact Indigenous child-welfare legislation
  • 13: Acknowledge Indigenous Languages Rights
  • 14: Enact an Indigenous Languages Act
  • 25: Develop written policy regarding independence of RCMP
  • 41: National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  • 67: Funding to the Canadian Museums Association
  • 68: Dedicated Canada 150 projects on reconciliation
  • 78: National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation funding
  • 83: Canada Council for the Arts projects on reconciliation
  • 84: Increased funding for CBC/Radio Canada
  • 87: Provide public education that tells the national story of Indigenous Athletes
  • 88: Long-term Indigenous athlete development and growth (PCH lead)
Ongoing Efforts

The Government of Canada has continued to take important steps to address the Calls to Action pertaining to the elimination of the over-representation of Indigenous People and youth in custody with the recent adoption of Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Sections relating to administration of Justice offences, changes to the bail system to ensure that the circumstances of accused who are Indigenous or from vulnerable populations are considered at bail, Youth Criminal Justice Act amendments and intimate partner violence (in response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) came into force on December 18, 2019.

Several Calls to Action are close to completion. For example, with respect to Call to Action 15 (Aboriginal Languages Commissioner), the Government of Canada has undertaken a series of online and in-person consultation and engagement sessions, starting in March 2020, to implement the Indigenous Languages Act, with a particular focus on the appointment of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and Directors. Budget 2019 provided $333.7 million over 5 years, starting in fiscal year 2019-2020, for the preservation, promotion, and revitalization of Indigenous languages, with $115.7 million per year ongoing to support the implementation of the Act.

Progress made on Calls to Action related to Newcomers to Canada includes: an information kit for newcomers to Canada (Call to Action 93) developed with National Indigenous Organizations to reflect Indigenous Peoples’ history; the co-development of a revised Oath of Citizenship (Call to Action 94) to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples and Treaties; and, the finalization of Call to Action 94 through Bill C-223, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, which was introduced in the House of Commons in February, 2020.

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, over $200 million was invested to address several Calls to Action, including:

  • The construction of an Indigenous Legal Lodge at the University of Victoria (Call to Action 50). Planning, including community engagement, and design have taken place since summer 2019 with construction set for 2021-2022;
  • Establishing a National Council for Reconciliation and endowing it with initial operating capital (Calls to Action 53-54). Planning for the establishment of the transitional committee to support the National Council for Reconciliation took place between December 2019 and March 2020. This committee will develop the enabling legislation as well as the bylaws to set up the organization;
  • Supporting an Indigenous youth pilot program delivered by Canadian Roots Exchange (Call to Action 66). A three-year contribution agreement is currently in place and the pilot project was launched in July 2019;
  • The development and maintenance of the National Residential School Student Death Register, including work with parties to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries (Calls to Action 72-76); and,
  • The establishment of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Call to Action 80).

Negotiating Treaties and Agreements

The Government of Canada is engaged in discussions with Indigenous Peoples across the country related to treaties, self-government agreements and other constructive arrangements. These tables explore new ways of working together to advance the recognition of rights and self-determination, and support reconciliation. In recent years, Canada has been undergoing a shift from settling claims towards recognition and implementation of rights in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. The Government of Canada has shifted away from "one size fits all" type of agreements towards tailor-made, rights-based agreements that support the renewal of Crown-Indigenous relationships. Negotiations today enable the development of flexible agreements with opportunities for the evolution of rights and the evolution of relationships through living agreements.

Between July 15, 2019 and the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year, the Government of Canada and its Indigenous partners established three new discussions tables for engagement with ten First Nations, bringing the total number of active tables to over 150. In addition, fifteen preliminary-type agreements were signed to frame discussions and identify priorities for potential negotiations, bringing the total preliminary-type agreements to 81. Substantive agreements were signed addressing areas of mutual interest in fisheries, advance community priorities and support incremental approaches to reconciliation, including agreements with Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk [formerly Maliseet of Viger First Nation], Elsipogtog and Esgenoopetitj First Nations, Coastal First Nations, Heiltsuk Nation and the Tsilhqot’in National Government. There are now 25 modern treaties, three stand-alone self-government agreements, two sectoral self-government agreements, and fourteen other agreements.

Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia

On September 4, 2019, the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and the First Nations Summit released the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia. Based on a longstanding and established working relationship, Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit worked together throughout 2018-2019 to advance other meaningful initiatives on a tripartite basis, which included the co-developed Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia. This policy replaces the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies in the context of treaty negotiations in British Columbia. A central feature of the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia is basing negotiations on the recognition and continuation of rights without those rights being modified, surrendered or extinguished when an agreement is signed.

Building on many years of work to improve and expedite British Columbia treaty negotiations, this rights-based policy will support and enable approaches to the negotiation of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements between Canada, British Columbia and participating First Nations in British Columbia, and could also inform policy work to replace the existing outdated Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Rights policies in other parts of the country.

Release of the Collaborative Self-Government Fiscal Policy

Since 2016, CIRNAC has been working in a collaborative forum with self-governing Indigenous governments to review and replace fiscal financing policies that apply specifically to them. All 25 self-governing Indigenous governments have participated along with a core group of participants meeting monthly with federal officials. Other governments and representative organizations have also been involved (e.g. working with the Assembly of First Nations, ISC, and provincial/territorial statistical agencies on the development of common socioeconomic indicators). In August 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations released the Collaborative Self-Government Fiscal Policy that facilitates the negotiation of renewed financing agreements with self-governing Indigenous governments, and funding agreements were concluded with all 25 Indigenous governments.

The success of those renewals was due in large part to the changes the Government of Canada made to its fiscal policies as a result of successful policy co-development with Indigenous partners. Work to develop specific policy annexes (funding methodologies) is ongoing, with various technical working groups addressing different areas of self-government jurisdiction and monthly plenary meetings to ensure approaches have broad support. This process has built stronger ties and trust between Indigenous governments and the Government of Canada and across Indigenous governments themselves. This measure also advances self-determination by providing transparent methodologies that reassure Indigenous Peoples currently in negotiations that they will have sufficient support from the federal government to finance their own operations.

Funding initiatives undertaken by self-governing Indigenous governments to support Indigenous self-determination

The Collaborative Self-Government Fiscal Policy includes a co-developed funding process for closing socio-economic and service gaps that maximizes self-determination in targeting community wellness. While ISC has a specific mandate to reduce socio-economic gaps between Indigenous Peoples and other Canadians, self-governing Indigenous governments have access to other funding processes to support their self-determination. Funds have been made available to address a variety of socio-economic gaps, including funding for each group to tailor to its specific social wellness needs. Between August 2019 and January 2020, CIRNAC and self-governing Indigenous groups identified over $45 million worth of projects specific to each Indigenous community. CIRNAC’s role is largely limited to agreeing on indicators to be used and the general approach of the initiative along with co-reviewing the eventual results which will be shared with other governments for learning purposes.

Loan reform: forgiveness and reimbursement

Budget 2019 committed up to $1.4 billion to forgive all outstanding comprehensive land claim negotiation loans and to reimburse Indigenous governments that have already repaid these loans. This measure would enhance financial stability and enable Indigenous communities to improve access to funding mechanisms that may not have been otherwise available due to the outstanding liability. It also eliminates the erosion of an existing or future capital transfer settlement as the loan is no longer required to be repaid or will be reimbursed to communities who have already repaid their loans.

Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, CIRNAC worked with 27 modern treaty holders to reconcile their amounts eligible to be reimbursed. Letters were sent from the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to 80 Indigenous communities providing a status update on the loan forgiveness commitment, and a further 25 letters were sent to communities outlining the amounts eligible to be reimbursed. Following the approval of Supplementary Estimates, the forgiveness and reimbursement budgets were loaded in the departmental reference levels allowing officials to prepare for the forgiveness transaction and reimbursement payments.

Nation Rebuilding Program

The Nation Rebuilding Program provides funding to Indigenous nations seeking to rebuild their nations in a manner that responds to their priorities and unique needs. It aims to support nation rebuilding efforts that will re-establish Indigenous nations and increase the ability of reconstituted nations to take on greater sectoral responsibilities. Funding is provided annually, for up to 5 years, through contribution agreements. The program funded 48 projects in the 2019 to 2020 fiscal year across the country, with almost $20 million in funding allocations. To date, 108 projects have been funded under this program.

National Treaty Commissioner’s Office

The Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations’ mandate letter instructed her to co-develop with Indigenous Peoples a new distinctions-based process for the ongoing review, maintenance and enforcement of Canada’s treaty obligations through a new National Treaty Commissioner’s Office (NTCO) to be designed and established with Indigenous partners. Development of the NTCO is in a preliminary stage, including reviewing a range of existing entities and mechanisms supporting the implementation of treaties and working with Indigenous partners to ensure that various perspectives on the treaty relationship are reflected.

Implementation of Modern Treaty and Self-Government Agreements

The implementation of modern treaties and self-government agreements is a key element in renewing the Nation-to-Nation, Inuit-Crown and Government-to-Government relationship and is consistent with principles of self-governance and self-determination – principles which underpin the Declaration. Each modern treaty is reflective of the spirit of reconciliation and self-determination and each is recognized under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Canada is currently implementing 25 modern treaties, four stand-alone self-government agreements, and two sectoral education agreements in partnership with Indigenous and provincial/territorial governments. To support this, between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, regular implementation committee meetings were held to foster ongoing relationship and support fiscal transfer payments of over $1 billion to Indigenous governments, First Nations, Inuit, the Métis Nation, and other treaty partners. Collectively with the renewed fiscal transfer arrangements, Indigenous partners have greater certainty for timely access to funds to support self-government and self-determination.

Several measures were undertaken to support the application of the Cabinet Directive on the Federal Approach to Modern Treaty Implementation to strengthening whole-of-government understanding surrounding modern treaty and self-government agreement obligations, such as: three Deputy Ministers’ Oversight Committee meetings on Modern Treaty Implementation with Indigenous government partners participation; an assessment of Modern Treaty Implications and publication of the first provisional Annual Report on the Implementation of Modern Treaties and Self-Government Agreements; and, the delivery of training on modern treaties and self-government agreements. Continued support was also provided to the Canada-Modern Treaty and Self-Governing First Nations Forum, as well as the Land Claims Implementation Working Group of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee.

Guidance, Training, and Information Services regarding Consultation and Accommodation

Consultation and engagement activities are key opportunities for Canada to demonstrate its commitment to rebuilding relationships with Indigenous partners. CIRNAC provides tools and capacity for Indigenous Peoples to manage consultation consistent with their recognition and self-determination objectives. These activities include the delivery of relevant and up-to-date guidance, training and information services for federal officials, enabling a coordinated approach to the evolving legal and policy considerations for Duty to Consult obligations, which derive from Section 35 of the Constitution and the Honour of the Crown. Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, an additional consultation protocol was finalized, bringing the total to ten signed protocols (supporting 43 Indigenous communities and 15 Métis regions in Ontario) and five Resource Centres (supporting 74 Indigenous communities and 6 Métis regions in Alberta) in the implementation phase. Another seven consultation protocols are under negotiation.

Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, nine two-day Duty to Consult training sessions were held with more than 250 federal official participants. Sessions provided an opportunity for Indigenous communities and groups to present their perspectives on consultation and engagement, as well as test new methods such as digital options and shared delivery with Indigenous partners on traditional territories.

The Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and Information System, which supports assessments of Duty to Consult obligations by detailing the geographic location and nature of potential and established Aboriginal and Treaty rights, served approximately 15,000 external requests for information. As well, over 35 Aboriginal Treaty Rights and Information System webinars and coaching sessions were delivered to 250 federal officials to support data needs, with 50 new records established, 165 existing records updated, and twelve cartographic services on emerging issues were provided.

Additionally, a pilot project of twelve streamlined/executive training sessions was established with three sessions targeting international audiences, and a joint CIRNAC-Canada School of Public Service Armchair Discussion on the Indigenous perspectives on consultation was held in February 2020 where six different Indigenous speakers engaged with more than a thousand public servants.

First Nations Land Management Act

Through the First Nations Land Management Act, First Nations have seen increased economic development, including more external and internal investments, job creation and new business opportunities. This has also provided for re-investment in social programs and cultural renewal activities that have strengthened communities’ social and cultural well-being.

Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, twelve First Nations began governing their own lands, environment, and resources according to their own land code by opting into the First Nations Land Management Act. As of March 31, 2020, 46 First Nations are in the process of developing their land code, 91 First Nations are now operating under their own land codes, and 25 First Nations are currently inactive. 165 First Nations have signed the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, including three First Nations that have since transitioned to self-government.

First Nations Financial Management Act

The First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA) is an optional legislation that provides First Nations with support and tools to strengthen their communities and build their economies. Between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020, fifteen First Nations were added to the regime, bringing a total to 294 First Nations able to access measures that advance self-determination at the pace they desire.

During this same period, funding was provided towards several programs and/or projects in relation with the FNFMA, including: the Credit Enhancement Fund; First Nations Finance Authority Regulations Development Support; Development of Ontario First Nation Tobacco Tax Jurisdiction; First Nation Cannabis Tax Option; and the First Nation Infrastructure Institution to establish an infrastructure standards centre of excellence. Funding was also provided towards the First Nations Leading the Way National Meeting: Economic Reconciliation, which aimed to provide First Nations with information on how institutions can support and enhance economic reconciliation in fiscal relations, land management, as well as 10-year funding plans.

Northern Self-Determination

CIRNAC is the lead federal department responsible for supporting Northerners and northern Indigenous Peoples in the pursuit of healthy and sustainable communities, and better economic and social outcomes. CIRNAC Regional Offices in the territories provide programming from both ISC and CIRNAC to Indigenous governments, territorial governments, and communities. They also have responsibilities for regional delivery of some federal Indigenous programming, as well as support for the ongoing implementation of land claim and self-government agreements in the North. Specific actions taken by CIRNAC Regional Offices between July 15, 2019 and March 31, 2020 in support of self-determination and reconciliation initiatives include the following:

Yukon Region

Yukon First Nation Chiefs, Yukon's Premier, and the Ministers of ISC and CIRNAC signed the Intergovernmental Forum Protocol, confirming a political commitment to ongoing trilateral dialogue on shared priorities. In addition, eleven Self-Government Financial Transfer Agreements were completed with Yukon First Nations, and several multi-year administrative and financial management training and mentorship projects were put into place to help smaller non-self-governing First Nations build long term governance capacity within their communities.

Northwest Territories Region

Several initiatives were completed, such as the Taltson hydro electricity system, to involve Indigenous communities in local development and infrastructure projects. Government of Canada officials worked with partners to in a variety of ways, and brought together federal, territorial and Indigenous Peoples to pursue new approaches to meet Indigenous housing needs, resolve concerns about the remediation of the Rayrock Mine with the Tlicho Government leadership, and support Giant Mine research that will inform responding to the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s apology and compensation request.

Nunavut Region

The signing of the Canadian Heritage Rivers Inuit Impacts-Benefits Agreement in July 2019, between the Government of Canada, Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, has led to $6.7 million in programming funding to carry out water quality monitoring, build Inuit cultural camps along designated rivers, and create a fund to support business opportunities. As well, the Nunavut Region continues to develop and implement departmental and whole-of-government Inuit Employment Plans to increase Inuit employment to representative levels, and the Nunavut Regional Office continues to collaborate with the Qikiqtani Truth Commission to implement its recommendations and secure long-term funding for the sustained delivery of programming related to healing, restoring language, culture and identity.

Nunavut Devolution

The devolution of province-like responsibilities to the territories is a long-standing federal policy objective. Nunavut is the last jurisdiction in Canada without responsibilities for public lands and resources, and devolution will allow the Government of Nunavut to manage these resources and collect royalties. As Nunavut’s population is approximately 85% Inuit, devolution creates stronger public governments that are more responsive to local issues and priorities within territorial boundaries. Devolution also fosters reconciliation by renewing the Crown-Inuit relationship and advances self-determination for Indigenous Peoples and all Nunavummiut. The Government of Canada, Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated signed an Agreement-in-Principle on August 15, 2019, completing a significant milestone in the devolution process.

Arctic and Northern Policy Framework

The Arctic and Northern Policy Framework was launched in September 2019 and is now moving from co-development into co-implementation. The Framework articulates a shared vision for a strong, prosperous and sustainable Arctic; principles that recognizing that decisions about the Arctic and the North will be made in partnership with Inuit, First Nations and Northerners, to reflect the rights, needs and perspectives of all; and ongoing reconciliation with Inuit and First Nations, building on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other initiatives.

As part of Arctic and Northern Policy Framework implementation, Budget 2019 announced a number of new targeted Arctic and Northern investments to support post-secondary education. In 2019-20, Canada provided support for the development, extension and maintenance of the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning’s accredited post-secondary courses, which will enhance Northerners’ access to Indigenous and culturally appropriate curricula.

Food Security

Nutrition North Canada provides a subsidy on eligible food and other items in 116 isolated communities that lack year-round surface transportation (road, rail, marine). Since August 2019, the subsidy program has been updated to include eligible products shipped by seasonal surface transportation, including both sealift and winter road. This change helps lower the prices of non-perishable items, with a subsidy of $1.00 per kilogram for eligible items shipped by seasonal ground transportation (winter road, sealift, or barge) to eligible communities. In addition, the Harvesters Support Grant was implemented at the end of fiscal year 2019-20, its design directly informed by feedback from Indigenous partners. This new grant is providing $40 million dollars over 5 years through partnerships with Indigenous communities to support hunting and harvesting in isolated communities.

Climate Change Programs

Indigenous Peoples are among the most sensitive and most exposed to climate change impacts because of their locations, their close relationship with the land and its resources, and because climate change exacerbates existing challenges and health stressors. CIRNAC has five programs that take a collaborative and capacity building approach, and work with provincial and territorial governments, communities, and Indigenous organizations to identify priorities and provide funding to support Indigenous communities. The programs are: First Nation Adapt, Indigenous Community-Based Climate Monitoring, Climate Change Preparedness in the North, Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity and Engaging Indigenous Peoples in Climate Policy.

These five programs were designed to empower Indigenous Peoples and Northerners to take a leadership role in climate change policy and programming, thereby advancing self-determination. They also advance reconciliation by improving local health, promoting energy security and energy independence, reducing energy costs, and providing a potential source of revenue that can be reinvested into social and economic priorities. In fiscal year 2019-2020, the programs invested $33.75 million in 300 community driven projects in Indigenous and Northern communities across Canada.

Northern Participant Funding Program

The Northern Participant Funding Program supports self-determination by ensuring Indigenous governments and Northerners have the capacity and capability to meaningfully participate in northern environmental assessment processes. The program also supports reconciliation by reincorporating Indigenous perspectives into decision-making and building capacity.

Currently, funding has been made available to eligible individuals and organizations participating in the following environmental assessments between July 2019 and March 31, 2020: the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board’s review of CIRNAC’s Faro remediation; Goldcorp Incorporated’s Coffee Gold project; BMC’s Kudz Ze Kayah Zinc Mine project; the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board’s review of Diavik Diamond Mines Inc.’s proposal to deposit processed kimberlite in pits and underground; and the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s review of Agnico Eagle Mines Limited’s Whale Tail Pit Expansion and Baffinland’s Mary River Phase 2.

Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program

The Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program works to address eight large and high-risk abandoned mines in a way that ensures communities and Indigenous communities who have been affected by former operations will be involved in the remediation of these sites through employment, training and business opportunities, thus providing increased self-determination and economic reconciliation opportunities.

The Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program also advances reconciliation through consultation and engagement with affected Indigenous communities. Examples from the Department’s work on two major projects in 2019-2020 include: bi-weekly Technical Review Committee meetings held with First Nations and other stakeholders for the Faro Mine Remediation Project, which allowed the affected First Nations to review and discuss project plans in real time as the remediation design continues to take shape; and the Giant Mine Remediation Project’s annual forum, hosted by the Department in March 2020, which provided updates on the project’s progress and achievement of socio-economic objectives to stakeholder groups, including two affected Indigenous communities.

Conclusion

Moving forward, thoughtful discussion, genuine collaboration and working in partnership will continue to be key factors to delivering meaningful results that will lead to improved outcomes for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Equally, a whole-of-government approach will continue to be an integral part in achieving the renewal of a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relationship with Indigenous People. While considerable work remains to be done, measures taken to-date demonstrate the strength of the government’s commitment going forward.

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