AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merricks Speaks to Standing Committee on Indigenous Peoples
May 16, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Today, AMC Grand Chief Merrick provided her testimony to the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples on Bill C-29, which will enact the National Council for Reconciliation Act by stating that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs supports actions that will ensure that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action are implemented, monitored and evaluated. However, we are disappointed with the approach taken and call upon the federal government to do better. Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action 53 called upon Parliament in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council as an independent, national oversight body. The AMC is not a rights-holder, but Parliament did not engage or collaborate with the AMC, and the AMC is unaware of the federal government consulting or collaborating with First Nations in Manitoba.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has concerns regarding this Bill and recommends amendments to the bill, the federal government is touting this Council as being “Indigenous-led,” and the AMC believes that the Council should have been developed by way of agreement between Canada and First Nations governments. This Bill and the Council it seeks to establish are pan-Indigenous in scope. The AMC continues to advocate for a distinctions-based approach that rightfully acknowledges the unique position of First Nations as Treaty partners with the Crown and as the original inhabitants of the land that is now called Canada.
Regarding the composition of the board, the AMC is concerned that the Council is at risk of not reflecting regional or diverse differences of First Nations. There is no requirement for a minimum number of First Nations directors, there is no requirement for a First Nations director from Manitoba, nor is there a requirement to reflect the diversity of First Nations in Manitoba, being the Anishinaabe, Nehetho/Ininew, Anishininew, Denesuline, and Dakota Oyate Nations.
While the bill requires at least 2/3 of the directors to be Indigenous persons, Grand Chief Merrick emphasized that there are no safeguards in this bill to ensure that individuals who have self-identified as having Indigenous heritage but have no connection to a First Nation or Indigenous Nation are not included in this requirement. The issue of self-identification continues to affect First Nations interests and the AMC would like assurances that only rights-holders would be considered as directors for the purposes of section 11 of the bill.
The AMC also takes issue with the fact that the Council must table a report in Parliament each year but is not required to table the report with First Nations governments. We are concerned that this Council will not support the distinct interests of First Nations governments in Manitoba.
For the Council on Reconciliation to be successful it must reflect and recognize the distinct needs and requirements of First Nations in Manitoba and report to First Nations governments.
After her testimony, Grand Chief Merrick fielded questions from the Senators.
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