Trudeau government's Throne Speech risks neglecting Indigenous communities with "Distinctions Based" policies
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
On September 23rd 2020, Governor General Julie Payette delivered the Speech from the Throne on behalf of Justin Trudeau's Liberal government. The speech detailed the priorities of the government as Parliament resumes for the fall. The speech touched on a number of areas, including COVID-19 response measures and Indigenous reconciliation.
On the topic of Indigenous Reconciliation, the government highlighted its "Distinctions-Based" approach, citing examples such as supporting Indigenous communities during COVID-19 and co-development of health legislation.
"This government needs to take a second look at their own record before bragging about it. The COVID response left out a majority of Indigenous people, favoring three well-connected organizations and their membership over the communities who were suffering," said Robert Bertrand, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief. "What they cite as a record of success looks like a record of colonialism, paternalism, and neglect to the off-reserve and non-Status Indigenous community."
The Government of Canada Indigenous Community Support Fund allocated an initial $305 million in support for Indigenous communities. Of that amount, only $15 million was set aside for "Urban and off-Reserve Indigenous people" outside of the three "Distinctions-Based" organizations and their membership.
This has since been expanded to $680 million total. The majority of Indigenous Community Support Funding announced so far continues to flow to the 3 "Distinctions-Based" Indigenous organizations and their membership, rather than the majority of Indigenous people who are not affiliated with those organizations.
"This government's distinctions-based approach has been a barrier to accessing programs, funding and recognition for off-reserve and non-Status Indigenous communities for years," said Robert Bertrand. "Real progress would be to overhaul that approach and start again, to include all Indigenous people in Canada."
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status and non-status Indians, and Southern Inuit Indigenous People living off-reserve. Today, over 70% of Indigenous people live off-reserve.