Remarks by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Following Meeting with National Indigenous Leaders in Ottawa
December 15, 2016
Before I begin, I’d like to recognize the Algonquin Nation on whose traditional territory we are gathering. I just wrapped up a very productive meeting with leaders from three of the national indigenous organizations: National Chief Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations; Vice President Chartrand of the Métis National Council; and President Obed of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. It is fitting that we should meet today because it was exactly one year ago that the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was released, and reconciliation was very much the focus of today’s meeting.
As you know, our government supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action. To date, we have begun implementing 41 of the 45 calls to action that come under federal or shared jurisdiction. This includes the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls currently underway. It also includes the measures taken to eliminate persistent gaps in education and employment between indigenous peoples and the rest of the Canadian population.
We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re making progress. For example, this fall nearly 2 000 indigenous students began the school year in six brand new schools. And it includes tabling a bill on indigenous languages.
This legislation will be developed with the indigenous peoples with a view to preserving, protecting and revitalizing First Nations, Métis and Inuit languages across the country. At the same time, we recognize that true reconciliation goes beyond a list of action items. What is needed is a national strategy to advance long-term reconciliation. And so coming out of today’s meeting, I’m happy to announce three new steps that we will be taking together as we continue to renew the relationship between the Crown and indigenous peoples in Canada.
First, to ensure that the unique and distinct needs of indigenous communities are taken into account, we will establish permanent bilateral forums with the AFN and First Nations, with the ITK and the four Inuit Nunangat regions, and with the MNC and its governing members. I will meet with leaders of these groups every year to develop policy on shared priorities and monitor our progress going forward. Similar meetings with key cabinet ministers will take place at least twice a year. We’re making this commitment because we believe that the best decisions and the best outcomes can only come about when we are fully engaged with all our indigenous partners. This new permanent Kelowna-like process for engaging with indigenous peoples will help get us there.
Second, we will move forward with the creation of a National Council for Reconciliation, starting with the creation of an interim board of directors. The interim board will begin an engagement process to develop recommendations on the scope and mandate of the National Council. This National Council addresses additional TRC calls to action. I have often talked about the need for renewed nation-to-nation relationships with indigenous peoples. A National Council on Reconciliation can help to guide that broader process.
Third, the government has agreed to contribute 10 million dollars to support the important work being done by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, located at the University of Manitoba. This grant will help ensure that the history and legacy of Canada’s residential schools will never be forgotten. We must remember them not just for the next few years, but forever.
As I said earlier, today’s meeting was productive and very respectful. Everyone in the room recognizes that the reconciliation process is underway, but will take time; and we also agree that reconciliation is not just an indigenous issue but a Canadian one.
Working together in the spirit of respect and partnership, we have taken some positive steps along the road to true reconciliation. I look forward and we look forward to continuing this important work.