I am not trying to be skeptical, I really am. But does anyone know what was accomplished at this most important occasion? From what I was able to see from the live webcast, there were some truly excellent speeches and from what I have read, a fair amount of closed door meetings.
Its different this time...Right?
I was glad to hear many First Nation leaders demanding a future without the Indian Act, as well as a new relationship based on implementing treaty based protocols, more self determination etc. But again, I am not sure these are new messages. It was also nice to hear the government highlight its support of the “Aspirational” UN declaration of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although, this merely appears to translate into a series of sound bites and zero guiding principles in the context of government policy and law making.
Based on the closing remarks of the AFN National Chief, we are assured that “the real work is just beginning” and from what I can glean from this unusually sparse document, Canada has agreed to:
· Set up an economic development task force
· To work to reform comprehensive claims and;
· Remove barriers to self determination and support FN governance
What does this mean?
Having a bit of experience in dealing with government types, in the course of discussions, there are usually requirements for specified goals, milestones and deliverables. It would be nice to know that there is a detailed plan somewhere. Maybe it already exists? Or maybe this is the “yet to be” completed work that is being referred to?...Maybe there is another “Gathering Strength” Royal Commission report in the works that won’t just be a gatherer of dust.
Regardless of the possibilities, this gathering if nothing else, without question did succeed in getting a lot of attention in the media and a lot of discussion on aboriginal issues going. I really hope that this discussion and attention will last more than the proverbial 15 minutes. I also hope that there will be less talk and more concrete change that has been requested and driven by First Nation communities. The “we know what’s best for you” paternalism has got to end and that really doesn’t cost anything. Who knows, it might actually save valuable resources if there wasn’t a role for Indian Act bureaucratic overlords to decide what is best for First Nations.
The only other thing that I am sure of at this point is that whatever comes of this gathering is likely going to be spectacular political fodder for the AFN National chief elections this summer. I’m on the edge of my seat!