Current Reality

April 20, 2020 – First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.

Office of Correctional Investigator Annual Report Feb 18, 2020

Jan. 21, 2020 – (Toronto Star) The same urgent calls to action are raised in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), as well as two recent parliamentary committee studies on Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system.  These bodies have called upon the federal government to implement measures recommended by the Office including:

  • Transfer resources and responsibility to Indigenous groups and communities for the care, custody and supervision of Indigenous offenders. 
  • Appoint a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections.
  • Increase access and availability of culturally relevant correctional programming.
  • Clarify and enhance the role of Indigenous elders. 
  • Improve engagement with Indigenous communities and enhance their capacity to provide reintegration services.
  • Enhance access to screening, diagnosis and treatment of Indigenous offenders affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  • Develop assessment and classification tools responsive to the needs and realities of Indigenous people caught up in the criminal justice system.

As Dr. Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator concluded: “It is not acceptable that Indigenous people in this country experience incarceration rates that are six to seven times higher than the national average. Bold and urgent action is required to address one of Canada’s most persistent and pressing human rights issues.”

“Access to Elders and healing lodges have shown to be effective in reducing offenders’ likelihood of reoffending. These and other culturally-based programs and supports must be made accessible in a timely manner in order to ensure successful rehabilitation. This report illustrates clearly why First Nations-led restorative justice systems are a critical component to closing the gap in the quality of life for First Nations citizens. Actions speak louder than words.”

Office of the Auditor General of Canada: Report 3 – Preparing Indigenous Offenders for Release. Correctional Service Canada. November 29, 2016

Justice Calls to Action

There are 18 Justice Calls to Action. To find out more about each Call to Action, including government responses and progress to date, visit the links below.

Call to Action #25Affirm independence of RCMP from government civil litigation
Call to Action #26Review and amend their respective Statutes of Limitations
Call to Action #27Ensure lawyers receive cultural competency and Indigenous rights training
Call to Action #28Mandatory law school course on Aboriginal people and the law
Call to Action #29Settlement Agreements for those excluded from the TRC process
Call to Action #30Commit to eliminate overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody
Call to Action #31Provide stable funding to implement alternatives to imprisonment
Call to Action #32Amend Criminal Code to depart from mandatory minimum sentences
Call to Action #33Develop culturally relevant FASD prevention program
Call to Action #34Reform criminal justice system to address needs of people with FASD
Call to Action #35Eliminate barriers to creation of new Aboriginal healing lodges
Call to Action #36Deliver culturally relevant services to inmates on social issues
Call to Action #37Provide more supports for Aboriginal programs in halfway houses
Call to Action # 38Commit to eliminate overrepresentation of Aboriginal youth in jail
Call to Action #39Develop national plan to publish data on Indigenous criminal victimization
Call to Action #40Create funded and accessible Indigenous-specific victim programs
Call to Action #41Appoint public inquiry into MMIWG
Call to Action #42Commit to recognize and implement Aboriginal Justice Systems

In addition to the above 18 Justice Calls to Action, the Reconciliation Calls to Action included 3 Calls to Action for “Equity for Aboriginal People in the Legal System” that are more focused on broader justice themes of Indigenous legal systems, treaties and title claims. They have been included here to keep all the Justice related Calls to Action consolidated in one place.

Equity for Aboriginal People in the Legal System Calls to Action

Call to Action #50Fund establishment of Indigenous law institutes
Call to Action #51Publish legal opinion on Aboriginal and Treaty rights
Call to Action #52Adopt “acceptance and burden of proof” principles on Aboriginal claims

Current Problems and Issues in Justice

Government of Quebec action plan to review systemic racism in Quebec staffed exclusively by government with no Indigenous representation

Aug. 12, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) announces that it is developing its own action plan to address discrimination and racism. The action group against racism created by the Legault government is composed solely of members of the party in power and has little credibility in the eyes of First Nations leaders. Premier Legault has publicly stated that he does not believe in “systemic racism”.

The AFNQL recalls that the issue has been the subject of many consultations over the past few years and that several avenues for solutions have been presented:

  • Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (Viens Commission), whose report was made public on September 30, 2019.
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG, 2019)
  • the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015)
  • the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

The AFNQL will make its action plan public by the end of September, 2020.

Among non-Indigenous Quebecers who have an opinion of First Nations in Quebec, this opinion is good in eight out of ten cases (81%). However, most Quebecers :

  • Admit that they have little or no knowledge of the issues and realities of First Nations in Quebec (58%).
  • Consider that the relations that non-Indigenous Quebecers have with First Nations in Quebec are poor (53%).
  • Almost all non-Indigenous Quebecers (92%) think that First Nations are subject to racism or discrimination in Quebec.
  • 80% of respondents consider that First Nations people face additional obstacles in the different facets of their lives.
  • 70% of those who have an opinion are of the opinion that, currently in Quebec, First Nations are not treated on the same footing as non-Indigenous Quebecers in social structures.

91% of respondents believe that the Quebec government has an important role to play in achieving and maintaining equality between First Nations and non-Indigenous Quebecers

Supreme Court of Canada dismisses First Nations appeal of Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project

July 2, 2020 (BIV – Business in Vancouver) The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear an appeal of the federal government’s approval of the $12.6 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is already under construction. The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations and Coldwater Indian Band had appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal of an earlier Federal Court of Appeal ruling, which had dismissed an appeal of the project’s approval. First Nations argued that proper consultations had not occurred.

Today’s ruling means First Nations have exhausted all legal avenues to halt the project on the basis of inadequate consultation, although that doesn’t mean the First Nations involved have abandoned all hope of some other legal challenge. “We’re not deterred and are exploring all legal options,” said Tsleil-Waututh Chief Leah George-Wilson. “What I can tell you today is that this not the end of the story.”

Over a period of months, the federal government held additional consultations with First Nations and again approved the expansion. First Nations appealed the decision and lost when the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal in February 2020. That decision underscored the point that senior governments have a duty to properly consult First Nations, but that that duty has its limits and does not confer upon First Nations veto powers over projects in their traditional claimed territories to which they object. “While the parties challenging cabinet’s decision are fully entitled to oppose the Project, reconciliation and the duty to consult do not provide them with a veto over projects such as this one,” the Federal Court of Appeal wrote in its February decision.

Call for independent investigation in the shooting deaths of two Indigenous people in New Brunswick

June 15, 2020 – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said “The only way to overcome racism in Canada’s policing agencies is to impose systemic change and a zero-tolerance policy aimed at eliminating the excessive use of force”. The killings of two Indigenous people in New Brunswick – 26 year-old Chantal Moore in Edmundston during a “wellness check” and Rodney Levi near the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation – has raised questions about excessive use of force when it comes to Indigenous people that too often results in death.

The shootings have prompted calls for a separate, independent inquiry and an overhaul of policing in the province, where the minister of Aboriginal affairs has already said there is a problem with systemic racism. As well, the shootings have become part of a broader international discussion about police brutality and racism

July 9, 2020 – Proposed terms of reference for an independent inquiry into systemic racism against Indigenous people were released today by the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick. “For hundreds of years, a regime of systemic racism has been built up in this province and this country against its Indigenous peoples,” said Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation), speaking on behalf of the six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick.

The Wolastoqey Chiefs have prepared draft terms of reference for an independent inquiry which would:

  • Examine the relationship and state of conditions between Indigenous people and the justice system in New Brunswick and suggest ways to improve;
  • Be led by Indigenous people with terms of reference developed by Indigenous Nations;
  • Review previous recommendations and provide an interim report within 60 days recommending what recommendations from these other reports can be implemented immediately; and
  • Provide a final report within six months with implementation-ready recommendations.

An inquiry has the same powers as a judge and can compel the government to provide witnesses and testimony, and any documents necessary to fully investigate systemic racism. A task force or other lesser body does not have these powers.

Alberta’s Bill 1 “The Critical Infrastructure Defense Act” violates Indigenous and treaty rights by making protests illegal

June 11, 2020: HuffPost – “Bill 1 – The The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act” bans protests at critical infrastructure such as “pipelines, oilsands sites, mining sites as well as utilities, streets, highways, railways, and telecom towers and equipment. Violators who protest, trespass, interfere with operations, or cause damage around that kind of infrastructure will face fines as high as $10,000 or six months in jail or both. Further offences will garner fines of up to $25,000 and jail time.” The Bill was introduced specifically as a response to the Wetsu’wet’en Coastal GasLink protests in BC. and significantly impacts Indigenous rights and title especially given the governments lack of consultation on major projects that negatively impact Indigenous communities and lives.

Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, said the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act violates Indigenous and treaty rights, calling it a “racialized bill,” and one that will aggravate tensions between police and Indigenous people.

“We have a human right to voice our concerns. In our case, we have a treaty right and that’s not being respected,” explained Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Alberta, Marlene Poitras,  “You’re going to criminalize the First Peoples of this land who agreed to share the lands with foreigners that came in. This impacts our way of life. There’s no chance of reconciliation with the UCP government with this.”

Overrepresentation of Indigenous people and Indigenous women in particular by random police checks in the City of Vancouver

June 10, 2020 – The BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Hogan’s Alley Society are calling on Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is also the Vancouver Police Board Chair and Board Spokesperson, to immediately put a stop to police street checks in Vancouver. A recent review of VPD street checks provided clear evidence that the VPD has been arbitrarily stopping people without lawful authority, including people who were walking in the rain or walking a dog on a church lawn. VPD must put an end to this blatantly arbitrary, illegal, and discriminatory practice” further states Latoya Farrell of BC Civil Liberties Association.

  • Indigenous and Black people are significantly over-represented in the numbers of street checks conducted by the VPD. In 2017:
  • Indigenous people accounted for over 16% of street checks despite making up 2% of the population, and
  • Black people accounted for 5% of street checks despite making up 1% of the population.
  • In 2016, Indigenous women, who comprise 2% of Vancouver’s women population, accounted for 21% of women who were street checked

June 25, 2020 – BCCLA and UBCIC have released a letter to the Vancouver Police Board calling into question the objectivity, methodology, and findings of the Pyxis-authored Vancouver Police Board Street Check Review, and requesting the disclosure of any and all draft reviews, field notes, or ancillary materials from Pyxis. They identified a discrepancy between the final report as released and the absence of details about an incident involving two Vancouver police officers

Excessive use of force in the RCMP arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Chief Allan Adam

June 11, 2020: Toronto Star – A day after the Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner denied there is systemic racism in policing in Canada, new video of the arrest of a high-profile First Nation chief threw fuel on the fire of what is quickly becoming a roaring issue in this country. Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations Chief Allan Adam was arrested for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest after being questioned over an expired licence plate. The video indicates an argument taking place but also seems to validate an unacceptable use of force during the arrest here Adams is tacked, punched and placed in a chokehold.

Adam is well known in Alberta as an advocate for environmental protection amidst the oilsands development that surrounds his community. He has raised concerns around the since cancelled Tecj resources mining project. “Because we are a minority and nobody speaks up for us, every time our people do wrong and the RCMP go and make their call, they always seem to use excessive force,” he said Saturday. “And that has to stop. And enough is enough.”

Systemic racial discrimination within the City of Montreal Police department

June 10, 2020 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL), Quebec Native Women (QNW), Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Resilience Montreal have joined voices to condemn acts of police violence against Indigenous people and women in particular. The latest incident – the dispatch of 17 police officers in multiple cars along with a K-9 unit to confront a lone Indigenous woman who was suffering from psychological distress. They also point to the police shooting of an Indigenous woman, Chantal Moore, 5 times in Edmundson, New Brunswick on what was supposed to be a “wellness check”.

The Quebec government instigated a provincial Inquiry the “Viens Commission” or CERP. The Inquiry also heard testimonies of inappropriate and excessive interventions of police forces towards Indigenous people in different cities of Quebec, including the Montreal SPVM. However, the report of the CERP Inquiry was received with much deception and anger, as no redress recommendations were addressed to the provincial police forces of Quebec.

Invited Marc Miller, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services to invite governments of different jurisdictions to a national discussion on the accountability of police forces towards Indigenous peoples. The Government of Canada and its provinces have international obligations towards the security of Indigenous peoples, and more specifically towards women and children. The Quebec Native Women’s brief filed before the MMIWG Inquiry specifically addressed the abuses of police forces of Quebec and the actions that are needed to redress the broken relationship between police forces and Indigenous women and address the police abuses towards our women.

Lack of women’s shelters in Inuit Nunangat where Inuit women are 14 times more likely to face violence as women elsewhere in Canada

June 2, 2020 – Historically, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs has only had authority to provide funding for shelters on First Nations reserves, resulting in a glaring policy and program gap for vulnerable Inuit women and children. Inuit women face violence at a rate 14 times greater than other women in Canada. Of the 51 communities in Inuit Nunangat, 37 of them (73%) do not have safe places for Inuit women and girls fleeing violence.

Entrenched systemic racism against the Inuit by the RCMP in Nunavut

June 5, 2020 – The Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) echoes the voices of Inuit across Nunavut to call for an end to systemic violence at the hands of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). We are disappointed to see that discriminatory attitudes and practices captured in the Qikiqtani Truth Commission report continue to plague our communities today. QIA joins Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) to call for the establishment of an independent, alternative civil oversight body. The RCMP cannot be tasked with investigating themselves

Since 1999, there have been at least 15 deaths in Nunavut at the hands of the RCMP. Since January 1, 2020 the Ottawa Police Service has been asked to investigate five incidents involving the Nunavut RCMP including two shootings resulting in death. Nunavut incidents of police violence are nine times higher than Ontario. The latest incidence involved a young inebriated Inuit man who was deliberately struck by a moving RCMP truck, forcibly arrested by 5 RCMP officers and who later suffered multiple injuries while in custody. He had to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment.

July 7, 2020: Nunatsiaq News – Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson convened a roundtable meeting on June 19 to discuss the issue with more than 30 others. Among those in attendance were representatives of both the federal and territorial governments, Inuit organizations, Nunavut’s RCMP Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones and numerous other RCMP and regional police representatives. The meeting was to discuss support for the deployment of body-worn cameras in Nunavut. The meeting was not open to the public but they did release a detailed “Summary Roundtable document” of the meetings.

June 10, 2020: Native Alberta News – The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is urging Canada to take action to address systemic racism, particularly between First Nations and the RCMP and is calling to reform and remodel training for the RCMP to include better First Nation awareness. The RCMP seem to:

  • lack an understanding of Indigenous peoples
  • fail to understand our Indigenous rights and authority
  • fail to understand the sensitivity of communicating in such a manner given our people’s history with residential schools.
  • don’t understand indigenous people and how the institutions in this country have been created in a way that is implicitly biased.

Training within the RCMP is needed so that we can better identify all the underlying issues, make recommendations and improvements and, from there, begin healing.

June 10, 2020 – The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is urging Canada to take action to address systemic racism, particularly between First Nations and the RCMP and is calling to reform and remodel training for the RCMP to include better First Nation awareness. The RCMP seem to:

  • lack an understanding of Indigenous peoples
  • fail to understand our Indigenous rights and authority
  • fail to understand the sensitivity of communicating in such a manner given our people’s history with residential schools.
  • don’t understand indigenous people and how the institutions in this country have been created in a way that is implicitly biased.

Training within the RCMP is needed so that we can better identify all the underlying issues, make recommendations and improvements and, from there, begin healing.

Death of Indigenous – Black woman in Toronto leads to call for independent investigation

May 28 – CBC – What began as a 911 call for help for Regis Korchinski-Paquet ended in her death. What happened inside the apartment is still unclear. Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is looking into the death. 

June 10, 2020: CBCJune 10, 2020: CBC – Knia Singh, the lawyer for the family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet is calling for the provincial police watchdog investigating her fall from a Toronto balcony to either turn over its probe to an outside agency or share the evidence gathered so far, saying the process as it stands now “limits transparency.”

Defence lawyer Knia Singh also pointed to the high clearance rate for officers in SIU investigations, arguing the process “is heavily weighted in favour of police officers being cleared of any wrongdoing.” In the last two years, the SIU said, it has laid criminal charges in 3.6 per cent of cases. In 2018, criminal charges were laid against 17 officers in 15 out of a total 416 cases closed that year. In 2019, criminal charges were laid against 15 officers in 13 out of 363 cases closed that year.  

July 10, 2020 – Toronto Star – The Campaign Research survey for the Toronto Star revealed 68% of respondents believed “Black people and/or Indigenous people and/or other people from racialized communities are treated worse by police than other citizens and 90 per cent want mandatory body cameras for all officers. Campaign Research principal Nick Kouvalis said the findings should be concerning to police forces across the province. “The major takeaway is the police have a big problem — they have lost the support of the super majority of the public and they need to work hard to get it back,” Kouvalis said Friday.


Protecting incarcerated people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

April 20, 2020 – First Nations leadership across BC is united in calling for immediate action to protect incarcerated peoples amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak at the Mission Institution is now the third largest outbreak in the Province of BC, with the first inmate tragically passing away on April 15, 2020. Senior health and corrections officials have verified that almost 40% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Mission Institution are among Indigenous inmates despite Indigenous people making up just 5% of the population in BC.

Doug White, Chairperson of the BC First Nations Justice Council calls the situation an urgent crisis and a ‘ticking time bomb.’ “Indigenous people are vastly over-represented in prisons and carry more than our share of the burden of health issues and chronic disease. These men were sentenced to a term of years, not to death. The duty of care that is upon the Institution in the midst of this crisis requires immediate and comprehensive action to avoid further tragedy. This situation requires extra-ordinary efforts and collaboration.”  

The BC First Nations Justice Council, BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), the Union of BC Indian Chief (UBCIC), and the First Nations Summit (FNS) call on the Government of Canada and the Province of BC to urgently implement the following safety measures:

  • Immediately test all inmates and staff at the Mission Institution;
  • Increase safety and screening measures for workers entering and exiting the facility;
  • Enhance medical surge capacity onsite via mobile medical units to effectively treat emerging cases;
  • Enact isolation protocols which ensure that inmates who test positive are isolated in health facilities with regular monitoring and as much comfort as any other individual, along with meaningful human contact compliant with social distancing;
  • Increase access to counselling and mental health resources in every federal facility in order to mitigate the psychological and emotional consequences of isolation measures and reduced social contact;
  • Develop release plans for as many people as possible, prioritizing those with pre-existing health conditions who are at increased risk due to COVID-19, and immediately release anyone classified low risk with a home in community where they will be able to self- isolation;
  • Include among release criteria a plan for secure housing, financial aid, and community safety, and provide support in meeting these criteria; and
  • Test and isolate all individuals for 14 days before re-entering community.
Ongoing institutional racism against Indigenous people within Winnipeg Police Services

April 16, 2020 – Despite numerous calls by local Indigenous and human rights groups to address deep-seated institutional racism, WPS members continue to display problematic and oppressive behaviours. Dubbed “Canada’s most racist city” by Maclean’s magazine in 2015, the WPS has provided insufficient training to their members to effectively de-escalate situations, specifically those involving Indigenous youth. This killing – of a 16-year old Indigenous girl – comes less than 5 months from an incident at a Winnipeg convenience store where the WPS shot a 16-year-old Indigenous boy nine times.

The Indigenous Bar Association calls upon the government of Manitoba to call for an independent inquiry into the death of Eishia Hudson under section 7.1(1)(i) and (m) of the Manitoba Fatality Inquiries Act (CCSM. c. F52). The IBA further recommends that an inquest be considered to deal with potential biases within the WPS.   Both an inquiry and inquest into Eisha Hudson’s death must be completed in a timely manner, and should ensure that the officers involved face appropriate sanctions. In preparing for this inquiry, the Indigenous Bar Association urges the government of Manitoba to review section 9 of the Calls for Justice issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and ensure any steps taken follow the guidance provided therein.

Nunatsiavut government calls for an independent police investigation into RCMP

Nov. 19, 2019 – The Nunatsiavut Government is calling for an independent police investigation into the death of a 23-year-old Inuk woman whose body was removed from a makeshift tent in a wooded area of Happy Valley-Goose Bay during the early morning hours of November 15.
 “We have reason to believe the RCMP made assumptions as to the cause of death before carrying out a thorough investigation,” says Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe.

“Concerns have been raised that police neglected to interview key witnesses before issuing a public statement that the woman’s death was not suspicious,” notes President Lampe. “Questions have also been raised as to whether the police properly secured the scene, and may have also left potential evidence behind.” 
Has the RCMP learned anything from the national inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, which denounced decades of police indifference and systemic racism and which called for fundamental policing reforms?

Excessive increase in the number of Indigenous people and Indigenous women in particular being stopped by Montreal police

Oct. 8, 2019 – Indigenous Peoples were two times more likely to be stopped in 2014, the report shows, they became six times more likely in 2017. The likelihood of an Indigenous woman being checked by officers was also found to be 11 times higher than a white woman. (Montreal Gazette). The researchers behind the report, mandated by the City of Montreal last year, studied police interceptions (“street checks” or “information stops” that didn’t result in charges or tickets) the SPVM carried out between 2014 and 2017. The report found the number of street checks carried out by officers skyrocketed during the four years studied, going from fewer than 19,000 per year to more than 45,000 per year.

Montreal Police Chief Sylvain Caron announced a series of measures it will implement within the next year, matching the report’s five recommendations. They include drafting a clear policy for street checks, mandating an external firm to survey minority communities on race relations, launching a similar study on racial profiling in February and implementing a focus on racial biases into all of its practices and training, with an emphasis placed on Indigenous issues.

Government of Saskatchewan for attempting to shut down First Nations cannabis dispensaries

July 9, 2019 – Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan urged the federal government to shut down cannabis dispensaries opened in Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation and Muscowpetung First Nation because they do not have provincial licences. Morgan’s comments reflect a deeply held belief in a hierarchy of laws that devalues and delegitimizes the law-making capacity of Indigenous groups. What’s more, he argued that the First Nations’ dispensaries represented an unwelcome source of competition. 
Instead, federal and provincial governments must create a legislative and regulatory atmosphere that fosters cannabis-related economic development within Indigenous communities.

Today, cannabis presents a new and legitimate economic opportunity. Penalizing Indigenous communities for pursuing it would be unconscionable. Doing so would be repeating the wrongs of the past. For example, by the early 1880s, First Nations had developed innovative farming techniques and successfully planted new test crops. These achievements drew the ire of settlers who bristled at the potential for competition. Canada responded to their concerns by enacting a series of oppressive rules and regulations that suffocated agricultural development on reserves.
Policy Options. Jesse Donovan

Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (Viens Commission Recommendations

Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec: listening, reconciliation and progress: Final Report” (the Viens Commission) whose mandate was to investigate, ascertain the facts and make analyses with a view to making recommendations as to the concrete, effective and sustainable measures to be implemented by the Gouvernement du Québec and by the Aboriginal authorities to prevent or eliminate, regardless of their origin or cause, any form of violence or discriminatory practices or differential treatments in the provision of the following public services to the Aboriginals of Québec: police services, correctional services, justice services, health and social services and youth protection services.

The 142 Calls for Action are spread across the following themes:

  • Police Services = 13
  • Justice Services = 16
  • Correctional Services = 18
  • Health and Social Services = 34
  • Youth Protection Services = 30
  • Tracking Mechanism  5
  • Other = 26

The first two Calls to Action of the Viens Commission Final Report are:


Make a public apology to members of First Nations and Québec’s Inuit for the harm caused by laws, policies, standards and the practices of public service providers.

CALL FOR ACTION No. 2 – To National Assembly

Adopt a motion to recognize and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Québec.

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issues Final report with 242 Calls to Justice

June 3, 2019 – “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl Final Report (MMIWG)” states:

  • Indigenous women and girls are 2.7 times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women.
  • Homicide rates for Indigenous women were nearly seven times higher than for non- Indigenous women.
  • One quarter of all female homicide victims in Canada in 2015 were Indigenous, up from nine per cent in 1980. (CBC June 6, 2017)

Over the last ten years, the number of Aboriginal women inmates doubled (2005-2015). At the end of March 2018, 40.0% of incarcerated women were of Aboriginal ancestry. (Auditor-General Report 2018).

A permanent commitment to ending the genocide requires addressing the four pathways explored within this report, namely:

  • historical, multigenerational, and intergenerational trauma;
  • social and economic marginalization;
  • maintaining the status quo and institutional lack of will; and
  • ignoring the agency and expertise of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

Indigenous women make up less than 5% of the population in Canada

It must be understood that these recommendations, which we frame as “Calls for Justice,” are legal imperatives – they are not optional. The Calls for Justice arise from international and domestic human and Indigenous rights laws, including the Charter ̧ the Constitution, and the Honour of the Crown. As such, Canada has a legal obligation to fully implement these Calls for Justice and to ensure Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people live in dignity. We demand a world within which First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families can raise their children with the same safety, security, and human rights that non-Indigenous families do, along with full respect for the Indigenous and human rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families. “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls”. Volume 1b Calls for Justice”

Government of Ontario slashing funding for Legal Aid by 30%

April 12, 2019 – The provincial government is cutting funding to Legal Aid Ontario by 30% that negatively impacts the Indigenous population who are one of the most disadvantaged and impoverished in Ontario and one of the most over-represented in the criminal justice system.

June 13, 2019 – Cuts to Legal Aid Ontario are “mean-spirited” and will push the province closer to a two-tiered legal system, where Indigenous people, the poor and refugees will be at an even greater disadvantage, Ottawa lawyers warn. (Ottawa Citizen)

Defeat of “Bill S-215, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)”

April 10, 2019 –Defeat of “Bill S-215, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sentencing for Violent Offences Against Aboriginal Women)” in the House of Commons during the second reading on April 10, 2019. The Bill would have required a court to take Indigenous female identity into account during the sentencing of offenders.

Those “in favour” of Bill S-215:

NDP = 35; Green = 1; Bloc Québécois = 7 Liberals = 2; Conservatives = 0

This legislative defeat occurs at the same time as the imminent release of the MMIWG Final Report on the overrepresentation of Indigenous Women and Girls as victims of violent crimes. A 2016 report by Amnesty International found that “Indigenous women and girls suffer the highest rates of violence in Canada”

April 12, 2019 – As a supporter of this bill, Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) hoped it would be an important step forward with respect to the urgent issues Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people face today such as heightened likelihood of disappearance, human trafficking, violent crimes, and forced and coerced sterilization. NWAC hoped the House of Commons would see Bill S-215 as a step towards justice for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people who face so much discrimination in Canada’s legal system.

Dec. 4, 2018 – When there’s a large-scale industrial development, when there’s construction camps that are co-located, we have documented increases in the rates of sexual assault, the rates of sexualized violence, the rates of prostitution, the rates of sexually transmitted infections,” said Ginger Gibson, director of the Firelight Group, which does research in Indigenous and local communities in Canada. Firelight’s 2017 report cites a 38 per cent increase in sexual assaults reported to RCMP during the first year of construction on an industrial project in Fort St. James, British Columbia. (Toronto Star)

Lack of civilian oversight of police complaints in Nunavut

Oct. 22, 2018 – Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are the only places in Canada that don’t have civilian oversight of police complaints. “The Department of Justice in Nunavut has requested that the Legal Services Board document and share concerns … relating to the allegation that instances of excessive use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police appear to be on the rise in Nunavut,” 2015 letter from the territory’s legal-aid service to then-justice minister Paul Okalik. (CP)

Adam Arreak Lightstone, a member of the legislature from Iqaluit, says he’ll use the legislative sitting that begins Tuesday to demand Nunavut reconsider its police oversight. “It’s really important to ensure there’s accountability in the investigation process,” he said. “There’s a reason why most jurisdictions in Canada have a civilian oversight body to prevent police from investigating police.”

The Ottawa and Calgary police forces currently investigate complaints against Nunavut RCMP.

Supreme Court ruling on the application of the Duty to Consult doctrine and if it can be applied to the federal legislation-making process

Oct. 11, 2018 – Mikisew Cree First Nation v. Canada Supreme Court Decision ruling on the application of the Duty to Consult doctrine and if it can be applied to the federal legislation-making process. The case originates from Mikisew Cree First Nation’s challenge of the 2012 Omnibus bills introduced under the previous federal government that made significant changes to environmental, fisheries and waters protection.

The decision negated any meaningful involvement of First Nations in the legislative process, a process that can have deep and lasting impacts on First Nation peoples, lands, waters, and Treaty and Inherent Rights. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, saying that including the duty to consult in the legislative process offends the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principle of parliamentary privilege.

Recognizing that the 1764 Treaty of Niagara that had more than 2,000 representatives from Indigenous nations gathered over a month to deliberate how they could share the land with European settlers is a foundational “legal” document. Treaties are also part of the law. Section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act affirms the recognition of this and other Aboriginal and treaty rights. Internationally, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, which Canada has adopted, acknowledges the rights of Indigenous nations to have treaties and other agreements recognized by settler governments. If the Treaty of Niagara process had been used as a guide, Indigenous governments would be fully informed of proposed changes in law, with time set aside for representatives to come together in order to discuss, deliberate, debate and decide on the merits of these proposed changes. Indigenous legal orders would be recognized as a foundational source of land-use law.

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