Reflecting on Historical Indigenous-Canada Relations; Building New, Healthy Relationships for the Future

June 4, 2021
Valerie Leow, J.D. Candidate, University of Alberta

Congress 2021 blog edition

Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future,” was an open event hosted by the University of Manitoba Press and moderated by their Sales and Marketing Supervisor, David Larsen. It celebrated the upcoming launch on June 8, 2021 of co-editors Katherine Graham and David Newhouse’s book by the same name, Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future, which examines the influence of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), a report published in 1996, on Indigenous-Canada relations. With the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples laying the foundational work for subsequent milestones in Indigenous-Canada relations, Graham and Newhouse considered avenues by which we may “establish a new relationship, build healthy and powerful communities, engage citizens, and move to action.”

Professor Emeritus at Trent University Marlene Brant Castellano opened by providing context on the book – “its genesis and intent.” She talked about the federal government’s initial dismissal of the recommendations in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples as being “too difficult to implement.” Yet, the federal government’s “evident attempts to deflect public discussion” would not last as public discourse on the topic “continued to move like an underground river, nurturing life and hope for fundamental change.” Castellano expressed support for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ comprehensive and holistic examination of history, colonialist assumptions, policy failures, and future prospects regarding relations between diverse Indigenous peoples and Canadian society. “Everything is related, and policy must address interdependent complexities.”

The book is divided into four main sections.

The first section, “Setting the Scene for a New Nation-to-Nation Relationship,” sets the scene by evaluating where we currently stand in terms of “completing Confederation,” in the words of Graham, Professor Emerita of Urban Policy, Aboriginal and Northern Development Policy, and International Development in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University. It also defines what a ‘nation-to-nation relationship’ looks like, and suggests potential governance models that will allow us to move forward towards healthier Indigenous-Canada relations.

The second section, “Creating the Vision for a New Nation-to-Nation Relationship,” contains the summarized and reviewed transcripts of the talks given at the Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future National Forum that was held from November 2-4, 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“Powerful Communities, Healthy Communities,” the third section, focuses on the essence of what is needed to create powerful and healthy communities, both within Indigenous nations and also within communities that “see themselves as having an appropriate recognition and place within Canada,” said Graham. This section touches on topics such as health, economic development, child and family wellness, healing, and the role of the arts.

The final section, “Moving to Action,” centers around comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous understandings of history and Indigenous-Canada relations, the concept of ‘allyship,’ and includes a commentary on the state of public opinion about the nature of Indigenous affairs in Canada and the nature and support for Indigenous self-determination in Canada. Different measures have to be taken for each individual in order to get them to the same outcome, argued Graham. “The word is equity, not just equality.”

Newhouse, Professor and Chair of Indigenous Studies in the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies at Trent University, spoke on mutual recognition. “We recognize each other – that we’re here to stay, and that we have to live together. We recognize that we are sharing the land, that we have to treat each other with respect and mutual regard, that we have to begin to share the bounty, as the Royal Commission said, and that we have to take responsibility for our actions and our relationship.” He stressed the importance of leadership – not just that of Indigenous leaders, but also leaders in all territories and provinces. In the words of Newhouse: “creating a new relationship is not just the responsibility of the people working in Ottawa, or people working in additional organizations. It is the responsibility of all of us.” The theme of education was also highlighted, as it is necessary to ensure that both Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples are educated about Indigenous histories, culture, languages, and contributions.

Interested in reading Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future? Pre-order it through the following link: