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Nation-to-Nation Complacency

The AFN and the PMO just concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities on June 12 in the runup to National Aboriginal Day (just renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day). But the MOU makes no mention of any of the issues that I track: resource gridlock, pipeline impasse, native legal winning streak in the resources sector (now at 240); not to mention the blunt reality that natives have a de facto veto over resource development and have been busy redrawing the map of Canada as a direct result. (With no less than five more rulings pending before the Supreme Court of Canada: re Duty to Consult, NEB mandate, pipeline approvals. 

Here are the eight go-forward priorities attached to the MOU:
1. policing and community safety issues affecting First Nations;
2. co-development of an Indigenous Languages Act to support the preservation, revitalization and strengthening of Indigenous Languages;
3. work in partnership on measures to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including co-development of a national action plan and discussion of proposals for a federal legislative framework on implementation;
4. implementation of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada;
5. ongoing work to develop options for consideration by Chiefs-in-Assembly and federal decision-makers for a new fiscal relationship to ensure sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for First Nations governments;
6. work jointly to decolonize and align federal laws and policies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and First Nations? inherent and Treaty rights;
7. dialogue and planning to identify priorities and measure progress to close the socio-economic gap between First Nations and other Canadians; and 
8. such other priorities as may be jointly agreed to.

I?m wondering if the parties to this list read the dailies or watch the nightly news. Because this has process (as in busy work) stamped all over it. Point #5 is of course the main issue for the AFN, as its always been its mission to secure 'predictable and sustained funding'.

While languages are a priority, if First nations were to succeed in gaining resource revenue sharing, they could then fund that as they see fit. As it stands, the initiative to draft an Indigenous Languages Act is 100% a no-cost concession by the PMO. In fact, there's nothing in here - apart from the funding request - that will cost Canada.

I'm asking the reader to decide "Is this progress? Or is this complacency on a massive scale? I'm tending to the latter conclusion, in spite of a raft of constructive political soundbites that led me to believe that something profound was happening.

The AFN National Chief recently referred to the Harper Government's legacy (which definitely had not delivered on the native file) as "ten years of a dark cloud". Instead, I called it a decade of  'systemic stagnation' wherein really all that resulted was the native legal winning streak, pipeline gridlock, and landlocked resources. Making the common denominator right across the country: the rise of native empowerment. And it?s a major business story that remarkably remains massively under-reported.

So it's logical to expect the AFN and the PMO would do something "big" about this; but I don't see the new political forces and actors at work to break the impasse on any front. There's not even a hint in this schedule that the new political order will address all those native legal wins beyond convening conferences and workshops.

Instead all I see is more Nation-to-Nation complacency.

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