In the News
Trudeau Government’s Indigenous Relations
Minister of Indigenous Services’ Disingenuous Mandate
Patty Hajdu is now Minister of Indigenous Services as well as Minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario. Hajdu previously served in the Trudeau government as Minister for the Status of Women, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and, most recently, Minister of Health. The Minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor) portfolio was created on August 10, 2021, a few weeks before the federal election. Northern Ontario is where the Ring of Fire is located, the name given to a massive planned chromite mining and smelting development project in the mineral-rich James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario. An internet search reveals the significance of chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire: “Prior to its discovery, Canada and the United States were compelled to rely on offshore sources for chromite, principally from South Africa.”
A report as recent as November 2021 on what is at stake in Ontario’s Ring of Fire says: “Wyloo Metals and BHP are facing off to gain control of Canadian junior mining firm Noront Resources. At stake are the nickel deposits in the Ring of Fire that Noront controls — a key component of electric vehicle batteries, and a resource miners are rushing to secure ahead of a forecasted burst of demand.” So much for any illusions that the mandate of the Minister is the well-being of the many Indigenous peoples who live in Northern Ontario and have been fighting for their right to decide over their lands and for their right to be for decades, forced into legal battles generation after generation.
In this regard, an aim of Indigenous Services is to subordinate not just Indian bands to the federal and provincial levels of government but also provincial levels of government to the federal power. The mandate letter speaks of limiting Indigenous right to self-governance to “authority over matters related to the good government and welfare of Aboriginal peoples and their territories” (citing the 1991 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples) but this is all covered up in pledges that pretend that is not happening and completely hide who is the ultimate decision-maker on everything.
The Minister’s mandate therefore includes direction to “support communities looking to implement their jurisdiction for child and family services;” “support the implementation of the 2021 MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan;” address the legacy of residential schools and support communities who wish to continue the work of burial searches; “fair and equitable compensation for those harmed” by the racist Indigenous child welfare practices of the Canadian state; “support ongoing work to close the infrastructure gap;” and “advance self-determination through strong economic recovery and growth, including ensuring accessibility of Indigenous business supports.”
The actual practice of the Canadian government on any of these responsibilities speaks volumes about the content of the good government and Aboriginal welfare the Trudeau government has in mind.
The shameless reference to implementation of the 2021 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls “National Action Plan” is an example. The Trudeau Liberals completely ignore the fact that Native Women’s Association of Canada walked away from that table in disgust saying they were shut out of major decision-making processes during the creation of the federal plan and were subjected to lateral violence and hostility in committees that they were permitted to sit at.
It mandates the Minister to ensure “fair and equitable compensation for those harmed” by the racist Indigenous child welfare practices. It must be some kind of cruel inside joke in the PMO. Seeking “fair and equitable compensation” is the pretext the Canadian government has used to file legal appeals against the settlement it has long been ordered to pay!
And what of the instruction to “advance self-determination through strong economic recovery and growth, including ensuring accessibility of Indigenous business supports?” This is precisely what is in operation when the federal government facilitates arrangements between governance bodies to its liking imposed under the Indian Act and corporate entities like Coastal GasLink in order to attack the sovereign authority of the hereditary chiefs and traditional governance bodies of the Wet’suwet’en.
The mandate of the Minister of Indigenous Services is not only disingenuous. It is also disgusting and unacceptable.
The Trudeau Liberals clearly do not work with the hereditary chiefs and traditional forms of Indigenous government.
Indigenous nations would still not be sovereign on their own land, would not have jurisdiction over resource extraction and so on. Those are provincial jurisdictions. They would simply be a lower level of the existing Canadian state structures administering policing, judicial, child welfare and other social services. The mandate letters instruct the Ministers to set up these structures.
Recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in these letters is of the same nature. Canada only signed onto UNDRIP after succeeding, together with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, in amending the original 1994 version as proposed by the Working Group for Indigenous People. Once UNDRIP was amended so recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and independence would not “impair totally or in part the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States,” Canada signed.
Canada now implements UNDRIP in ways that retain authority and control over decisions to do with the sovereignty and independence of Indigenous peoples, as a matter of colonial power and authority. Canadians are duty-bound to step up the fight to uphold hereditary rights, beginning with the Indigenous peoples’ right to be.
1. “Miners competing over Ontario’s Ring of Fire have contentious relationships with Indigenous communities in Australia,” Emma McIntosh, The Narwhal, November 13, 2021.
2. APTN, June 1, 2021
(Renewal Update, posted January 20, 2022. Photos: TML, M. Lehan)