lost their languages through the Sixties Scoop, as well as programs to
train and accredit fluent speakers as teachers so that they can pass on
what they know without having to go through years of university credits.
We need immersion programs, too.
In a reconciled Canada there would be a new relationship between
First Nations people and Canada, one without racism, so that there is
peace, harmony and understanding. It is possible, but the relationship
will not be rebuilt unless we mean it. Only then will we both accept each
other. There has to be commitment.
Janet Smylie, associate professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University
of Toronto and holder of the CIHR Applied Public Health Chair in Indigenous
health knowledge and information. Métis, with kin ties to Manitoba, Alberta
In a reconciled Canada, every Indigenous infant would be born into a
family, community and society where all of their needs and gifts would
be met and nurtured. Relationships between adults, children and youth
would be strong so that Indigenous knowledge and practice could be
This means there would no longer be inequities between Indigenous
and non-Indigenous in the distribution of health and social resources.
The mortality rate among Indigenous infants in Canada is two to four
times higher than for non-Indigenous infants. That is an important indicator of health and well-being and it’s tragic. There would be a serious
redistribution of wealth – our work shows more than 80 percent of Indigenous people in Canadian cities are living below the poverty line.
Land claims would be settled. Since the majority of Indigenous people now live in cities, we would see them reclaiming beautiful Indigenous spaces there too. This would not preclude non-Indigenous people
from using them, but these spaces would be self-determined and Indigenous-led. The Toronto Birth Centre is an example. All people in Toronto
are welcomed but it was an Indigenous-focused group of midwives who
led its development, and it is governed by an Indigenous-majority board.
Universities would partner with Indigenous communities and orga-
nizations to help create Indigenous-led centres of learning and training
– in health or the arts, for example – where at least 50 percent of the
curriculum is based on Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. Indige-
nous languages would flourish among our children. Adults would have
access to language recovery programs designed for their learning style
and busy schedules.
For all this to happen, non-Indigenous Canadians must recognize
that they’re our kin on this land – we are like stepbrothers and stepsisters.
It will require rewiring the individual and collective Canadian psyche,
recognizing that we are really cool siblings and have a lot to offer. Every
Indigenous infant is an opportunity to make that change.
Bob Kayseas, professor of business and associate vice-president, academic, First
Nations University of Canada. Nahkawe (Saulteaux), from Fishing Lake First
I understand the sentiments of people who feel that celebrating the
150th anniversary of Confederation is an affront and a slap in the face.
On the other side of the coin, there’s a shared history on this land. It
hasn’t always been good and the relationship is still very challenged. But
if you look at how Canada is today, we have opportunity; it is a great
place to live. We should celebrate it but with recognition that we still
have work to do.
In a reconciled Canada we would see companies involved in resource extraction around First Nations communities reaching out in
a sincere way at the beginning of a project and actively engaging with
the community about it at a higher level than happens now, even giving
them an equity position. Businesses would have relationships with Indigenous businesses in the same way they have relationships with other
businesses. The Canadian government would publicly show its support
and champion Indigenous business deals the same as it does for other
companies. At the moment, it’s as if we have to succeed in spite of everybody else. Our success should be seen as Canada’s success.
In order to grow those businesses and investment, the federal government needs to settle land claims. Unsettled land claims create uncertainty,
settled claims create opportunities. In Saskatchewan we had the Treaty
Land and Entitlements process in 1992, which saw nearly half-a-billion
dollars transferred to First Nations so that they could buy land and mineral rights [to settle a Crown land debt]. This led to economic growth for
First Nations and the province.
There would be more active involvement of Indigenous people in
the labour market and entrepreneurship. This requires educational support as well as understanding, not judgment, of where Indigenous people
“Non-Indigenous Canadians must
recognize that they’re our kin on this land –
we are like stepbrothers and stepsisters.”