The Off-Reserve Voice Matters
Canadian Senators have chosen to play partisan politics on legislation meant to create a National Council for Reconciliation (Bill C-29), by leaving out one of five National Indigenous Organizations. On Tuesday, Senators voted against an amendment to include the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) on the Council, despite the hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples living in urban and rural area. On the Council, CAP would have played a critical role in helping to ensure the voices of these peoples are heard.
“I’m not sure how Senators expect to achieve reconciliation when they start the process with exclusion,” says CAP National Chief Elmer St. Pierre. “Rather than listening to the voices of all Indigenous Peoples, Senators are effectively hand picking who will make up the Council, despite the fact Canada recognizes five National Indigenous Organizations including CAP (est. 1971).”
Senators have failed to explain what criteria was used when choosing designated seats on the Council. That failure is compounded by the addition of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, who were not on the original list of seat holders. Nonetheless, CAP believes all five National Indigenous Organizations, including NWAC should be at the table. The National Council for Reconciliation was one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Commissioner Marie Wilson is on the record stating that all five NIO’s should be a part of the Council.
The National Council for Reconciliation is a product of Bill C-29, which the Liberals introduced last year in response to Calls 53-55. Under the proposed legislation, a not-for-profit corporation comprised of 9 to 13 directors, will monitor the progress of reconciliation across the country. Earlier this year, recognizing a concerning gap in representation of this council, opposition members in the House of Commons put forward an amendment to include CAP, but Liberal and NDP MP’s heartlessly voted against the change.
“These political games from both MP’s and Senators go against the spirit of reconciliation,” says CAP National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin. “It’s disheartening to see such an important endeavour fall victim to partisan politics and continue the same old colonial games of divide and conquer. CAP has always stood up for those that are overlooked and forgotten, and will continue to fight for a seat to serve our community members”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status and non-status Indians, and Southern Inuit Indigenous People living off-reserve. Today, over 80% of Indigenous people live off-reserve.