Column: Is Canada working toward “reconciliation” or complicating it?

Reconciliation is happening, and Canada needs to know it

Steven Lin has been interning with Black Press throughout the summer. From Taiwan, and currently studying at UBC Okanagan, Steven has wanted to take on some day to day Canadian newsroom work so he could further his understanding of the place he currently calls home. Througout the summer we’ve had him interview everyone from athletes to politicians, all the while exercising his writing skills. This is his final piece for the Capital News.

— Steven Lin

Despite being born an Aboriginal man in Canada, Grayson Piluje is unable to apply for an Indian Status card.

His band isn’t Canadian — it’s the Navajo tribe located in Arizona, U.S.A— which makes him ineligible under the Indian Act for the services and benefits inherant to being an Aboriginal Canadian.

“I don’t have any benefits in Canada. I don’t get to buy cheaper smokes and cheaper gas, because my band is not from Canada,” said Piluje.

Piluje said his personal misfortune is, in fact, linked to a bigger problem in Canada.

On May 10, 2016, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP is a document that describes both the individual and the collective rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. It was created to offer guidance on co-operative relationships with Indigenous peoples to states, the United Nations, and other international organizations based on the principles of equality, partnership, good faith and mutual respect.

Adopting the UNDRIP was a important step for Canada to reconcile the relationship with the First Nations.

However, adopting UNDRIP also means that the legal framework, protocols, and structure, which are used to regulate and govern the First Nations, will be changed completely.

This is set to be a long process that will take decades to accomplish.

But, this declaration is a document expressing political commitment on matters of global significance, it is not legally binding, unlike a treaty or a covenant — as declarations are not signed or ratified by states.

In B.C, there are more than 150 Indigenous bands.

Engaging with each Indigenous band will be a difficult task, because each has its own distinct language, customs, and traditions.

Dealing with a different band is like dealing a different nation. It’s a time-consuming process, but Piluje said it’s important to engage with each band in order to create a better relationship with stronger, amicable bonds.

So far in 2018, not a lot has changed.

For example, a woman named Mique’l Dangeli was straddled between Alaska and British Columbia border.

Related: Indigenous woman fights to stay in Canada, saying traditional territory is B.C.

She was facing the possibility of deportation because Canada won’t recognize her right to live and work in B.C. because she was born across the US border.

In this case, the border issue has caused a huge problem for Dangeli to be possibly deported from her own nation.

According to article 3 of UNDRIP, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination.”

The border issue could have been solved with the involvement of indigenous representatives on deciding on the issue of status, not just be determined by the government.

This shows that the Indigenous people are still lacking self-determination even when Canada claimed to adopt the UNDRIP.

Another example UNDRIP not being appropriately addressed is that of the case of three Indigenous First Nations who were excluded by the federal government in the negotiation between Canada and United States over the Columbia River Treaty talk.

Related: First Nations excluded from Columbia River Treaty talks

Despite all the negative news, the government does show sign of implementing policies from the UNDRIP on an important issue.

As the Kinder Morgan pipeline debate goes on, the federal government has discussed transforming the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC) from advising to co-managing with the government.

Related: Nation-to-nation approach is goal of Indigenous caucus after meeting with PM in B.C.

These talks about transforming the IAMC to a co-management sector coincides with the implementation of UNDRIP.

From the pipeline incident to Dangeli’s borderline dilemma, to the exclusion of Indigenous leaders from the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, to Piluje’s status, these key issues related back to the implementation of UNDRIP.

Despite Canada’s commitment to the UN declaration, our nation has barely began creating a “national action plan” to ensure implementation across jurisdictions.

If Canada is to fully implement UNDRIP then for Aboriginals such as Piluje, his status issue fall under Indiginous self-determination by local Indian bands.

John Kruger, a former chief of Penticton Indian band is aware of about Piluje’s status issue.

“I do acknowledge the Indigenous right, but we still have to follow the protocol,” said Kruger.

“General Canadians need to read UNDRIP. That’s everything we want. It might take decades to achieve, but a lot of things will be solved.”

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