Miles Richardson speaks at the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

On May 31, 2017, Miles Richardson, Director, National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development (NCIED), and a citizen of the Haida Nation, spoke at the Senate of Canada’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

In a detailed presentation, Richardson explores the history and present state of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown in Canada, and describes the three historic phases of that relationship: 1) the period of colonial assertion, 2) the “dark period” of denial of fundamental rights, and 3) the present phase of reconciliation and treaty negotiation. From there, he moves on to a discussion of the present state of relations, stating that the “mutual recognition” of co‑existence is a necessary step in constructive relations between the government and Indigenous Peoples. Richardson then lays out a strong argument for the need to immediately implement the Federal Government’s recent policy commitment to a renewed Nation-to-Nation relationship between Indigenous Nations and Canada.

Richardson also shares insight into the methods by which Indigenous Nations and Canada could move forward in this effort, calling on his experience both with the British Columbia Treaty Commission, and as a leader of the Haida Nation. Specifically, Richardson illustrates the problems arising from a divided sovereignty within the framework of Canada—with the overlapping jurisdictional concerns of the provincial and federal government leading to ongoing treaty issues. He describes the experience of the Haida Nation, which developed and implemented its own constitution and asserted its ancient jurisdiction with modern legislation, and how functional indigenous governance can emerge from the creation of heritage sites. The act of “accepting responsibility for your nationhood” becomes an important component in the assertion of nationhood, and stewardship of the land and water are crucially important to that process. He goes on to detail how the resolution of modern treaties can lead to economic prosperity, not just for the Indigenous Peoples, but also their neighbours in surrounding communities.

The presentation ends with a discussion on the role of women in indigenous governance, and how their disenfranchisement has led to an imbalance in “the body politic”. Richardson asserts that the inclusion of women in governance is a crucial step in the restoration of that balance. Finally, he ends with an interesting commentary on the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada. Richardson sees the anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing survival of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, and their continued existence in their homelands.