A symposium is taking place on the Membertou First Nation in Sydney, N.S. to examine ways for all levels of government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
The three-day event, which began on Wednesday, was organized by the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum and the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative.
Senator Dan Christmas, who is facilitating the symposium, said the event is a way for the tripartite forum to review the TRC calls to action.
“But the most important thing is for us to come up, as the three parties that involve the Tripartite Forum, is to try to come up with a work plan that all three levels of government agree upon and how to go forward and implement that,” Christmas said on Wednesday.
“So there’s a lot to cover in two and a half days,” he added.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 calls to actions to address the harmful legacy Indian residential schools had on the Indigenous students who attended those schools and their families.
The calls to actions addressed issues surrounding child welfare, education, language, culture, health and justice.
Tripartite Forum created to resolve outstanding issues
The tripartite forum, which includes Mi’kmaw leaders, the Nova Scotia government and the federal government, was created in 1997 so all parties had a place to go to resolve outstanding issues.
The creation of the forum was a recommendation that came out of the Royal Commission inquiry into the wrongful murder conviction of Donald Marshall, Jr. that was held in Nova Scotia in the late 1980s.
The forum has set up several working committees to resolve issues in areas of culture, heritage, economic development, health, justice, social, sports and recreation.
It’s the first time in Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw organizations and government officials have met to discuss ways to implement the TRC calls to actions.
“The Mi’kmaw community in Nova Scotia seems to be taking the lead on this in the country and we’re looking very forward to what’s coming out of this,” Mark Eyking, Liberal MP for the Sydney-Victoria riding, said.
“We can see this, what’s happening here in Nova Scotia’s First Nation communities, (it) could bode well across the country,” he said.
“There’s 400 years of bad agreements and mistreatment. We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go,” Eyking added.
Glooscap Chief Sidney Peters said Mi’kmaw leaders like himself don’t want to rush in implementing the TRC calls to actions but they need a plan in order to move forward.
“We want to ensure that something comes out of this that is tangible. It’s going to be a working document. There’s going to be a workplan,” he said.
Implementing treaty education
One of the topics discussed on Wed. dealt with implementing treaty education into the Nova Scotia school system.
In 2015, Mi’kmaw leaders signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with the Nova Scotia government to implement treaty education in the provincial school system and the public service. That agreement expires on March 31, 2018.
Jaime Battiste, treaty education lead for the Nova Scotia government, explained how his department has worked with Mi’kmaw educators to come up with a framework to implement treaty education for students from kindergarten to Grade 12.
What is needed now, Battiste explained, is a commitment from the provincial and federal governments to continue the work beyond March 2018. One option is to create legislation for treaty education in Nova Scotia.
“We either have to create legislation moving forward or we have to create something moving forward that either has an appendix for the MOU or new legislation,” Battiste said following his presentation on Wed.
“What I’m really looking for is a three-to-five-year commitment on this because we’re not only looking at resource development but we’ve got to make sure that teachers are trained and the professional development is taking place as well as public servants are being trained,” he said.
The TRC Symposium wraps up on Friday.