Canada has committed to pursuing new relationships with Indigenous peoples based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
In 2018, the First Nations Financial Management Board examined the characteristics of First Nations governance and intergovernmental relationships to support their transition out from under the Indian Act to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.
To support their work, the FMB established a partnership with the Institute on Governance and received input from a national advisory group of Indigenous and governance leaders.
The advisory group provided valuable insight in four distinct areas.
While good governance is important to transitioning out of the Indian Act, equally important is the advancement of a nation-to-nation relationship based on effective and meaningful Indigenous-Crown engagement principles.
A transition away from the Indian Act must be grounded in the self-determination principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, and be informed by an understanding of the history of the Indigenous-Crown relationship from contact, to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, treaty making, and past efforts aimed at repairing the relationship, such as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
To support communities transitioning from the Indian Act, a comprehensive and holistic approach is required that recognizes the interaction between governance, community capability, fiscal and government autonomy, and other principles that guide First Nations as relationships, internally with other communities and with other levels of government.
To be effective, all First Nations must be able to see themselves, including their unique cultural, historic, and regional situations, in any self-determination and governance recommendations.
With this advice, FMB and IOG developed the self-determination and governance framework as a potential path towards First Nations achieving UNDRIP rights in Canada.
First and foremost, this construct places the nation and the community - not the crown nor government policy - at the center of a comprehensive and holistic analytical self-determination and governance framework, acting as both the impetus for and the result of the core components of self-determination.
Self-determination for an individual or a community can be defined as a free choice of one's own acts or States without external compulsion.
This is reflected in three core components of self-determination: autonomy, capability, and relationships. These components begin to outline how a nation could move towards a UNDRIP inspired self-determined future that is centered on a nation's unique culture, traditional values, and worldview.
Through the three components of self-determination, the elements of Indigenous nationhood can be added including jurisdiction, fiscal autonomy, government relationships (both internal and external), effective governance and community well-being.
The core self-determination components and nation elements are further refined by functions, many of which are already delivered by First Nations in manners that suit their specific situation.
Each First Nation will have different programs and services, some offered by individual communities, others in conjunction with shared service First Nations organizations, other communities or tribal councils, or other parties.
Each First Nation is unique and will define its own path out of the Indian Act. Some First Nations will choose to pursue their way for their community alone, others may decide that existing organizations better reflect their aspirations and needs, while some will conclude that a reconstituted vision of membership and jurisdiction is the best way forward.
The self-determination and governance framework recognize this diversity and provides possible mechanisms, principles, community planning, and institutional support for nations seeking to achieving UNDRIP responsive self-determination and governance rights.
The objective of UNDRIP is the protection of individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right to self-determination as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education, and others.
UNDRIP also emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to develop, maintain, and strengthen their own institutions, cultures, and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping their own needs and aspirations.
From a governance perspective, the UNDRIP articles begin to frame a set of rights recognition principles that have implications for both Government of Canada commitments and First Nations aspirations.
As Canada moves to implement UNDRIP, First Nations are starting to consider how the self-determination rights contained in the declaration could enable their communities to gain greater autonomy and rebuild their Nations, and which path they may wish to take to do so.
This invariably requires a re-examination of existing approaches to governance.
For more information about the self-determination and governance framework, and the full text of the First Nations Governance Report Phase 1, please visit www.fnfmb.com. To learn more about the IOG's work on Indigenous governance or to view more videos in the IOG Gov Talk series, follow us on Twitter at IOGca or visit our website at www.iog.ca.