I was ordained by The United Church of Canada, the same church that administered the Indian residential school my father attended. This reality is not separate from my call to serve a church that, I believe, has a core purpose of speaking truth about inequity and acting for the dignity of all people. Indigenous Peoples understand that all life is connected in a web of relationships. The apostle Paul shared this same understanding with the community of Corinth when he wrote: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”
In July of 2021, I was introduced to a small group of retired and active leaders (five Indigenous and one settler), who, acting on their commitment to concretely build a respectful and just relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada, were developing a paper called the “Concept Proposal towards Transforming Indigenous and Settler Relations.”
The paper provides three steps for Canada to gain traction in transforming Indigenous/settler relations.
- First, it calls on Canada to mandate the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Fund (IPF). The IPF would be resourced by a one percent tax on all real estate sales in Canada.
- Secondly, the IPF would build on the capacity of Indigenous Peoples and their communities by supporting human development initiatives in areas that address existing social and economic gaps.
- Finally, the IPF would be administered by a pan-Canadian Indigenous agency of Indigenous, Inuit and Metis Peoples.
The document offers a brief overview of how 500 years of imposing colonizing tools like the Doctrine of Discovery and the Indian Act of 1876 have impacted Indigenous Peoples, revealing the dire need for change.
The proposed IPF will provide an opportunity for Canadians to become active participants in righting this relationship. While initiatives like land acknowledgments in city and town halls have a role to play in building awareness, they will not bring wellness, clean water and mould-free dwellings and wellness to families and communities. The IPF will advance the acknowledgment of the history of and relationship with the land to an act of justice and reparation.
A public draft of the concept paper was recently circulated to a number of leaders and organizations asking for their reaction. While the feedback was generally supportive, more work is needed to sharpen the focus on the longstanding inequitable relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. This is a relationship that the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples described as one “… built on a foundation of false premises.”
A reworking of the document will refer to other documents and reports that offer solutions to renew this troubling relationship, documents like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Cash Back, A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper. The paper will also require input and support from national Indigenous organizations and leaders. Seeking action from the Parliament of Canada to mandate the creation of an IPF will be no small task. More study and more dialogue is needed. Champions and leaders are also needed to educate and build momentum.
More on Broadview:
- Rebecca Kudloo is fighting for a violence-free future for Inuit families
- Indigenous nations should be seen as experts on false claims of identity
- At 1JustCity, Indigenous peoples — and settlers — come to heal in a safe space
While it may be a time for settler neighbours to listen and learn, there is also an urgency to engage and to act. Debunking ideas that Indigenous Peoples receive free education and are exempt from paying taxes would be a decent start. Even more pressingly, Canadians need to understand that the dreadful statistics that speak to the poverty and social problems endemic to Indigenous communities are not the result of a peoples’ inability to thrive but arise from the tools of subjugation used to colonize them.
The solutions, including the IPF, are there for Canada to enact. The final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are other examples of pathways towards deconstructing this colonial relationship that was formed on false and unsustainable premises.
The time to act beyond word and gesture is now.
Maggie Dieter is an ordained United Church of Canada minister currently serving in New Hamburg, Ont. Maggie is Cree. Her homeland is on the Treaty Four Territory, the Peepeekisis First Nation (Saskatchewan). Maggie has served communities of faith within the Saugeen-Ojibway Nation Territory, the Neyasshingaming and Saugeen First Nations, and has served as the Executive Minister, Indigenous Ministries and Justice at The United Church of Canada’s General Council office. Maggie is a mother, a grandmother and an intergenerational survivor
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