What does Indigenous success look like? Here are 85 examples of reconciliation in action!

Are you tired of always reading or hearing negative stories about how Indigenous people are treated in this country: how systemic barriers to Indigenous interactions with social structures are entrenched and continuously reinforced; how the economic pillaging of Indigenous territory continues unabated, and the pattern of Indigenous erasure seems to be repeating itself over and over again? Mainstream media occasionally shines an illuminating glance at positive things that are happening within the Indigenous world but not enough to break the momentum of the negative press.

Despite all the inevitable conclusions about how reconciliation seems to be stuck or abandoned, positive things are happening. Governments have enacted positive legislative change and/or shifts in policy directions. Institutional stakeholders – associations, social service organizations, universities and colleges, school boards, business – are slowly shifting direction, acknowledging historic wrongs and initiating change to treat Indigenous people the same as other Canadians. But much more often it’s the persistent, methodical and concentrated actions of the national Indigenous advocacy groups and/or Indigenous organizations complemented by the individual resilience, dedication and collaborative will of Indigenous people that is changing the dynamic of reconciliation in this country.

Following are 85 examples of positive change and/or actions that taken together tell an overwhelmingly positive narrative about how and where Indigenous lives are changing for the better. Now if only the institutional, corporate and social barriers to advancing reconciliation were removed as effectively as these examples indicate is possible – true reconciliation would be inevitable. Then, finally, the treaty promise from so long ago reflecting Indigenous beliefs about the sanctity of treaties as more than just real-estate transactions that exist beyond words on a piece of paper but lasting “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows” would finally be honoured.

Child Welfare

  1. Bill C-92 “An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families” received Royal assent on June 21, 2019. Co-developed with Indigenous partners, Bill C-92 affirms Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services
  2. Cowessess First Nation is the first Indigenous community to pass its own child welfare legislation “Miyo Pimatisowan Act” under the new federal Indigenous Child Welfare legislation
  3. Five provinces end the practice of using birth alerts to apprehend and remove Indigenous babies from their mothers and families:
    • British Columbia – Sept. 16, 2019
    • Manitoba – June 30, 2020
    • Ontario – Oct. 15, 2020
    • Saskatchewan – Feb. 1, 2021
    • Prince Edward Island – Feb. 1, 2021
  4. On Sept. 2019 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal awarded $2M in damages to First Nation’s children apprehended by child welfare authorities on or after Jan. 1, 2006 as well as to those denied essential services as per Jordan’s Principle. This was the culmination of a successful 13-year battle with the government of Canada by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations
  5. Anishinabek Nation launched Koganaawsawin, the central body supporting the Anishinabek Nation Child Well-Being Act, their inherent right and jurisdiction over child and youth well-being and child welfare

Education

  1. Maskwacis Education Schools Commission Resource and Development Agreement marks official transition of true local control of education to Maskwacis Cree
  2. Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement with 23 Ontario First Nations is the largest such deal in Canada
  3. Chief Whitecap School in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is the first on-reserve school to be integrated into a Saskatchewan School Division: Grades 5-8 from Whitecap and K-8 from Stonebridge
  4. Kativik Ilisarniliriniq launches in April, 2020 an Inuit-centered education resource portal (Nunavik-IcE) a website dedicated to educational resources in Inuktuk, English and French, Nunavik is the Inuit territory in northern Québec
  5. Deepening Knowledge Project“, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s (OISE) Aboriginal Peoples Curricula Database to infuse Aboriginal Peoples’ histories, knowledge and pedagogies into all levels of education in Canada
  6. The 2019 Indigenous Economic Progress Report from the National Indigenous Economic Development Board filled the gap left by the lack of reporting from the Government of Canada across three core indicators: employment, income and community well-being plus 19 additional measures including education
  7. A 13-member Task Force on Northern Post-Secondary Education will assist in delivering on objectives identified in the Arctic Northern Policy Framework that seek to close gaps in education and skills training that exist between the north and the rest of Canada
  8. In the last year, 7 universities initiated research practices to support reconciliation: University of Calgary, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscaminique, UBC, University of Saskatchewan, University of Victoria, Dalhousie University and Memorial University
  9. Rebuilding First Nations Governance is an alliance of First Nation communities and tribal councils, and academic researchers and practitioners, committed to working from the community level up to end Indian Act governance and build alternatives that realize the inherent right to self-government as affirmed in the Constitution Act.

Language and Culture

Government

  1. Passage of Bill C-91 “The Indigenous Language Act to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada” on June 21, 2019. Inuit objected to the bill over its exclusion of specific Inuit recommendations to protect Inuktitut

Indigenous Organizations

  1. Uvaqut TV, an all-Inuit language cable and satellite TV channel launched on Jan. 18, 2021, broadcasting 168 hours of Inuktut programming each week
  2. Inuit Tapariit Kanatami developed Inuktuk Qaliujaaqpait, a standard orthography to write their language to replace a patchwork of nine different, often mutually unintelligible, scripts
  3. HELISET TŦE SḰÁL ‘Let the Languages Live’ – 2019 International Conference on Indigenous Languages hosted in BC from June 24-26 by The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council in partnership with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. The focus was on Indigenous language revitalization.
  4. Nunavut Tunngavik and Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtit partnered with Facebook to provide translation for Inuktuk

Individuals

  1. Indigenous education scholar, Onowa McIvor, University of Victoria’s newest President’s Chair, published research in September, 2020 showing that Indigenous language revitalization continues to thrive in Indigenous communities despite the impacts of COVID-19, clear proof of the resilience and creativity of Indigenous people
  2. Tessa Ericson, Nak’azdi Whut’en First Nation created an application and organized a summer camp to help get younger people in her central BC community speaking the Nak’azdi dialect of the Dakelh language

Health

Government

  1. On Jan. 28, 2021 the Government of Canada announced the co-development of a distinctions-based health legislation aimed at giving First Nations, Métis and Inuit people control over the delivery of healthcare in their communities
  2. On Feb. 11, 2021 Minister of Indigenous Services announced funding of $2 million to support the implementation of Joyce’s Principle, a set of concrete actions to improve health and social services after the death of Joyce Echaquan in a Joliette hospital. The Québec Government rejected Joyce’s principle 8 days after it was presented to them
  3. Release of “In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous Specific Racism and Discrimination in BC Health Care” by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the first review of racism in a Canadian health-care system in Canada. Identifies three foundational elements to address the legacy of colonialism and 24 detailed recommendations for stakeholders in the BC healthcare system (Dec. 1, 2020)
  4. As a direct result of “In Plain Sight“, BC is hiring 32 Indigenous health liaisons in health authorities throughout the province
  5. Historic MOU signed on June 18, 2020 between Government of Canada and Southern Chiefs Organization in Manitoba to give Anishinaabeg and Dakota peoples greater control of their health and wellness
  6. Government of Québec investing $15M to implement targeted activities to enhance cultural safety for members of First Nations and Inuit in health and social services sectors. Committed on Nov. 5, five weeks after the death of Joyce Echaquan

Indigenous Organizations

  1. Joyce’s Principle, released by the Council of Atikamekw of Manawan and the Council of the Atikamekw Nation after the death of Joyce Echaquan in September, 2020
  2. A coalition of BC First Nations was partially successful in having the BC Government release proximate COVID-19 information after the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner refused their initial request
  3. Anishnawbe Health has reached funding goals to build a state-of-the-art Indigenous health facility in Toronto
  4. After the murder of Tina Fontaine, Winnipeg’s Bear Clan Patrol reconstituted and launched in 2014 with 12 members now numbers 980 members in Winnipeg and 24 communities in 12 cities in 5 provinces
  5. Shkaabe-Makwa (Spirit Bear Helper) launched at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto on Nov. 16, 2020 to improve health care services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people
  6. January 28, 2021 – The National Consortium on Indigenous Medical Education (NCIME) is a partnership between the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada , the Medical Council of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and was formed to implement Indigenous-led work streams that will reform Indigenous medical education and contribute to the delivery of culturally safe care

Indigenous Health Research

  1. Our Health Counts: Urban Aboriginal Health Database Project” led by Dr. Janet Smylie of Well-Living House, St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto delivers the most comprehensive Indigenous urban health research studies completed in Canada: Toronto, London, Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Ottawa (Inuit), Kenora. Establish baseline health data from an Indigenous perspective with an overall goal to improve Ontario’s urban Aboriginal health data
  2. Regional Health Survey: Volumes 1 & 2” first and only national heath survey created, conducted, and carried out by First Nations people for First Nations people by the First Nations Information Governance Centre. The survey collects information about on-reserve and northern First Nations communities based on both Western and traditional understandings of health and well-being
  3. Inuit Tapariit Kanatami released the “National Inuit Health Survey: Qanuippitaa – What About Us? How Are We?” All the data will be owned by Inuit and survey questions will reflect Inuit priorities
  4. Building Research Relationships with Indigenous Communities” co-developed by Indigenous People’s Health Research Centre and Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research in March 2019 as an in-person training module for health researchers. First of its kind in Canada

Drinking Water

  1. Atlantic First Nations Water Authority has had responsibility for water and waste water services transferred from Indigenous Services Canada so they can act as the single utility provider for 15 Indigenous communities
  2. The Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations and Water First Education & Training Inc. announced on Dec. 3, 2020 their partnership to deliver a drinking water treatment and environmental water science internship program for young Indigenous adults. Funded through a partnership with the Anishinabek Nation
  3. The Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies signed a formal agreement with EPCOR and Enterprise Canada on Dec. 14, 2020 to become the first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada developed via a Public-Private Community Partnership

Individuals

  1. Dr. Alika Fontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alberta originally from Treaty 4 territory in southern Saskatchewan elected as the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Medical Association Dr. Fontaine led the Indigenous Health Alliance from 2013-2017 a “Heath Transformation” project involving 150 First Nations and several national health organizations
  2. Trevor Andrew, Sewllkwe water operator and innovator, created an app-based water management program “Sewllkwe Book” to provide users real-time information on water quality and usage (August 2020)

Justice

Governments

  1. Bill C-22 “An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” reforms mandatory minimum sentences that contribute to the over incarceration of Indigenous people
  2. On January 26, 2021 the Federal Government announced funding for the construction and operation of women’s shelters in Inuit Nunangat after excluding the Inuit from the June announcement of 12 new shelters for First Nations and Métis across Canada. Pauktuutit Inuit Women Canada continued to advocate after the initial decision for the government to include Inuit in their plans
  3. Release of the Viens Commission (Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec) with its 142 Calls to Action in police services, correctional services, justice services, health and social services and youth protection services to eliminate all forms of discrimination
  4. On Sept. 8, 2020, 13 years after the Ipperwash Inquiry issued its Final Report, the expropriated land was finally returned to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation by the federal government, five weeks after the land had been transferred by the province of Ontario
  5. Federal Government committed on Dec. 8, 2020 to introduce legislation recognizing Indigenous policing as an essential service, the only police force in Canada denied that designation
  6. City of Montréal released its “Reconciliation Strategy with Indigenous People” in response to the recommendations from the Viens Commission that the AFNQL states aligns with their own recommendations and actions
  7. Municipality of Gatineau mandated by unanimous consent to work with AFNQL in response to the actions proposed to municipalities stemming from the AFNQL’s action plan on the fight against racism and discrimination towards First Nations

Canadian Courts

  1. Alberta Court of Appeal overturned Alberta Energy Regulator approval of Prosper Rigel Oilsands project requiring it to be reconsidered with proper attention to protecting the constitutional guarantees of Treaty 8
  2. Supreme Court of Canada in May 2020 denied Taseko Mines application to appeal the rejection of the New Prosperity Mine proposal by the Government of Canada in 2014. The mine threatened a sacred area of profound cultural importance to the Tŝilhqot’in Nation in BC
  3. As an intervenor in Supreme Court R vs Barton 2019 SCC 33, the Assembly of First Nations argued successfully about protecting the equality and privacy rights of a victim, and the necessity for fair and balanced instructions to the juries regarding racial biases. On Feb. 1, 2021 Bradley Barton was convicted of manslaughter in his second trial for the killing of Cindy Gladue

RCMP and other Police Forces

  1. Bill 53 “An Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act” introduced for First Reading in the Nunavut legislature on Oct. 22, 2020. The Bill would allow independent investigations to look into police-involved civilian injuries or deaths in the territory and the terms to create such a body
  2. Pinasuqatigiinniq (Inuit for working together collaboratively) Agreement between Pauktuutit Inuit Women Canada and the RCMP MOU signed on Jan. 27, 2021. The agreement commits each organization to working together towards implementing recommendations from Pauktuutit’s 2020 report, “Addressing Gendered Violence against Inuit Women: A review of police policies and practices in Inuit Nunangat
  3. Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation is partnering with Nunavut Tunngavik Corporation and the RCMP to prepare Inuit recruits over a 4-month program to get ready for the 6-month RCMP basic training in Regina
  4. Although the investigation into the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto did not lead to any charges for any of the seven Toronto police officers who were in her apartment at the time of her death, the report had the following outcomes:
    • acknowledged that systemic racism existed within the Toronto police force
    • $34M budgeted for the purchase of body-worn cameras for front-line officers
    • expansion of mobile crisis intervention team
    • establish a non-police emergency mental health service
  5. Kativik Regional Police Force commits to body-worn cameras as way to increase police accountability, boost public confidence and reduce use of force by its officers
  6. Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Statistics Canada announced on July 15, 2020 a commitment to work with policing community and key organizations to enable police to report statistics on Indigenous and ethno-cultural groups in police reported crime statistics on victims and accused persons

Indigenous Organizations

  1. National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued its Final Report “Reclaiming Power and Place“, on June 3, 2019 calling for transformative legal and social changes through 231 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians
  2. Assembly of First Nations Quebec – Labrador released their own “Action Plan on Racism and Discrimination: Engaging with First Nations Against Racism and Discrimination” with 39 Recommendations and 141 specific actions on Sept. 29, 2020 after the Québec Government refused to allow any Indigenous input into their own investigation into racism in Québec that produced only12 recommendations
  3. National Indigenous Justice Summit on July 7-8, 2020 brought together Indigenous thinkers, community leaders, and grassroots organizations over two days to call for immediate justice and policing reform around three sessions with 10 immediate action points:
    • Need for policing reform
    • Indigenous approaches to justice reform
    • Community-based Calls for Reform
  4. Wetsu’wet’en First Nation signed an MOU with the federal and provincial governments who are set to formally recognize Indigenous title over traditional land for the first time outside of a courtroom
  5. Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Moosehead Campaign Development Society signed an historic MOU on Feb. 10, 2021 committing the two organizations to work together to end the ongoing violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people
  6. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Osgoode Law School hosted “determiNation“, the first-ever Indigenous-led summit from May 23-24, 2018 that brought together leaders to create a plan for moving beyond the Indian Act through planning for a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples based on rights, recognition and reconciliation.

Indigenous Laws and Legal Traditions

  1. The Government of BC is investing $13 million to enable the University of Victoria to build its much-anticipated National Centre for Indigenous Laws . The federal government announced in Budget 2019, $9.1 million over 3 years for a national centre of excellence for the study and understanding of Indigenous laws that will house the world’s first joint degree in Indigenous legal orders and Canadian common law (JD/JID). 
  2. The Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University began offering a JD Certificate in Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in September 2020
  3. The Nulh Ghah Dechen Ts’edilhtan law (Wildlife Law) applying to hunting and other activities within the declared Aboriginal title lands was affirmed by the Xeni Gwet’in and the Tŝilhqot’in Nation in 2015 and came into effect on August 14, 2019

Associations and Individuals

  1. Brad Regehr Partner at Maurice Law, is the first Indigenous President of the Canadian Bar Association
  2. Federation of Law Societies of Canada unanimously approved nine recommendations in August, 2020 that chart path towards reconciliation including mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training

Youth and Reconciliation

  1. The Indigenous Youth Council submitted their Final Report “Indigenous Youth Voices, A Roadmap to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action # 66” in June 2018. The report highlights immediate next steps for the government to fulfill the mandate of Call to Action # 66 including immediate and ongoing commitments as well as recommended program areas of focus

Museums and Archives

  1. Canada 150 Fund: Indigenous Projects included:
    • five signature projects (out of 38, or 13% of all signature projects)
    • two (out of 38, or 5% of all signature projects) that are specifically designed to promote reconciliation
    • 248 (out of 636, or 39% of all community Projects)
  2. Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) successfully petitioned the Musée de Lachine to transfer the traditional beaded Cree hood created over 170 years ago in their possession to the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute
  3. The Inuit Art Centre “Qaumajuq [HOW-ma-yourq]”, meaning “It is bright, it is lit,” connected to the Winnipeg Art Gallery is billed as the largest Inuit art centre in the world. The naming ceremony was held on Oct. 28, 2020 and also included an Anishinaabemowin name: Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah [BEEN- deh-gen Bi-WAH-say-yah], meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here” or “the dawn of light is coming.” 

Missing Children and Burial Information

  1. Carleton University’s Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, working with its partners, will launch the Residential Schools Land Memory Atlas (RSLMA) on June 21, 2020 National Indigenous Peoples Day. The RSLMA identifies residential schools from across the country and contributes to the knowledge relating to these schools, their sites and the perspectives of survivors. Its images and maps incorporate both archival and experience-based knowledge of the schools and their sites.
  2. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation revealed the names of 2,800 children who died in residential schools in a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec. A 50-metre long blood red cloth bearing the names of each child and the schools they attended was unfurled and carried through a crowd of Indigenous children, elders and chiefs, residential school survivors and others.
  3. Maamiikwendan: Remembering Residential Schools & Cemeteries as Indigenous Sites of Conscience” presented by National Indigenous Residential School Museum of Canada, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and National Trust for Canada. Maamiikwendan aims to connect Indigenous groups and other organizations actively working to preserve Indigenous sites of conscience to interested NGOs, faith groups, government representatives, and National Trust conference delegates.

Commemoration

  1. Winnipeg (2014), Toronto (2019) and Edmonton (2017) have either installed or are in the process of installing a Residential School Monument in response to Call to Action # 82

Media

  1. APTN is the first national Indigenous broadcaster in the world and has served Indigenous peoples in Canada as well as Canadian audiences, for over two decades with a mission: “to share our Peoples’ journey, celebrate our cultures, inspire our children and honour the wisdom of our Elders.”

Sports and Reconciliation

  1. James Makokis of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Anthony Johnson of the Navaho Nation in the US won AMAZING RACE CANADA, the first Two-Spirit Team (Team Ahkameyimok) who successfully represented the LGBTQ2 community. They together learned that they will always be able to overcome any situation if they face issues head on with a strong commitment to their values and each other (June 14, 2020)
  2. The Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team have been invited to the next World Games in Birmingham after widespread opposition to the decision to deny them an opportunity to compete. The team travels under their own Haudenosaunee Confederacy passports, not Canada or the United States. The eighth-seeded team, Ireland, graciously withdrew to open up a spot

Business

  1. The Apuiat Wind Farm is a 50-50 partnership between the Innu communities of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and the Innu Essipit Band Council and Boralex who have signed a 30-year contract to sell electricity to Hydro-Québec
  2. First Nations Finance Authority provided a $250M loan to the Mi’kmaq First Nations Coalition comprised of communities from across Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in November 2020 to purchase the Canadian off-shore fishing licences from Clearwater Seafoods resulting in a 50% equity share in Clearwater
  3. Release of “Indigenous Economic Reconciliation: Recommendations on Reconciliation and Inclusive Economic Growth for Indigenous Peoples and Canada” report, which provides an overview and thorough analysis of the ideas and recommendations heard during the “Expanding the Circle” forums for First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Developed by National Indigenous Economic Development Board and their partners: National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, Public Policy Forum, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the former Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)
  4. All five Canadian Chartered Banks – RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD and Scotiabank – have now refused to finance any investments in oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  5. Indigenomics with The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, National Aboriginal Capital Corporation and National Aboriginal Trust Officers is leading a national Indigenous economic agenda to facilitate the growth of the Indigenous economy from its current value of $32 billion to $100 billion in five years

Beyond the above, you will find many other examples of positive actions listed throughout Indigenous Watchdog within each of the Calls to Action. As mentioned in an earlier blog post “Is Reconciliation Advancing or Retreating? Status Updates as of Dec. 31, 2020“, tracking reconciliation progress requires two lenses: one focused on the more transactional and structural day-to-day issues in Child Welfare, Education, Language and Culture, Health and Justice etc.; the other focused on the more enduring, intractable – and ultimately contentious issue of Indigenous rights and title where all levels of government are for the most part unwilling to compromise. See the following blog posts for what I mean:

Is the UN Declaration dead or more to the point – has it ever been alive? posted on September 23, 2020

Indigenous Watchdog Status Updates: Nov. 9, 2020 Part 1 – Current Problems and Issues posted on Nov. 13, 2020

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