Elders, fellow Indigenous leaders, and Federal and Provincial Ministers. I am the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples’ (CAP) National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin and I am pleased to be here on traditional Mi’kmaq territory in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Our newly elected CAP National Chief Robert Bertrand has asked me to attend this meeting because I have, for my entire adult life, been concerned about Justice and Public Safety issues for Indigenous Peoples.
I live in Saskatoon which has one of the highest Indigenous urban populations in this country. I was a Justice of the Peace for the Province of Saskatchewan for five years. I currently work at “Str8 up”, one of the only Indigenous gang rehabilitation programs in Canada. In addition, I have been the President of the Coalition of Indigenous People of Saskatchewan for the past seven years.
I would like to address the subject of this meeting as listed in the letter sent to our National Chief: “To primarily discuss how you envision engagement between your organization and FPT Minister of Justice and Public Safety table and reflect on shared priorities going forward.”
How the Congress envisions such engagement is to create tables on each agreed agenda item, on a nation to nation relationship with the crown and provinces, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership, on the road to reconciliation. This process has to embrace both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) recommendations and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP). Our National Chief Robert Bertrand will be speaking to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Premiers in the coming months to begin this process.
I would like to cite the Honourable Judge Michael L. Phelan of the Federal Court in regards to Daniels vs. Canada:
“The Metis and non-status Indian people, lacking even the protection of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, are far the more exposed to discrimination and other social disabilities. It is true to say that in the absence of Federal initiative in this field they are the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens.”
I have to state in as strong a language as is possible that “Métis and non-status Indians (MNSI) are the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens.” We must remember it took the Daniels case win at the Supreme Court of Canada to end the judicial limbo of the Métis and non-status Indians stuck in the passing of the buck between the provinces and the federal government. This is a truth. Provinces have been as much responsible as the federal government for the shamefully high number of Indigenous peoples in the justice system and being incarcerated.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is one of five National Aboriginal Representative Organizations recognized by the Government of Canada. Founded in 1971 as the Native Council of Canada (NCC), the organization was originally established to represent the interests of Métis and non-status Indians. Reorganized and renamed in 1993, CAP has extended its constituency to include all off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis and Southern Inuit Aboriginal Peoples, and serves as the national voice for its provincial and territorial affiliate organizations. CAP also holds consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which facilitates its participation on international issues of importance to Indigenous Peoples.
Each of CAP’s affiliated provincial or territorial organizations establishes its own constitution and rules for membership, elected officers, and administration. Affiliates also may act as umbrella organizations for multiple regional and local groups. A President or Chief is elected for each affiliate by delegates at an annual assembly of those organizations.
CAP also has a National Youth Council, with membership from the provincial and territorial affiliates, who select a representative to CAP’s Board of Directors.
CAP’s Board of Directors is composed of the National Chief, the National Vice-Chief, the National Youth Representative, and the President or Chief from each of the affiliated provincial and territorial organizations. The Board meets several times a year to monitor and direct the activity of CAP. The Board is the decision making body of CAP between Annual General Assemblies.
As CAP National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin, I would like to relate some of our priorities going forward:
- Family violence, drug & pill addictions, and alcohol abuse have created a cycle of destruction that is devastating our communities
- Poverty, poor health, educational failure, family violence, addictions, lack of proper housing, personal and community Indigenous cultural alienation; these must be tackled as conditions that need to be addressed together and not separately
- The International Day of the Girl was observed on Tuesday October 11th, 2016; the most significate issue is violence against Women and Girls which must be addressed in every aspect of policy development
- Work with the Justice Review process to reduce the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians
- Legal aid for Indigenous persons
- Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and how this could be targeting our people as environmental terrorists
- Mental health and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in the justice system
- Solitary confinement reform and treatment of those with mental health issues within the criminal justice system and jails
- Indigenous gang rehabilitation
- Family justice reforms for Indigenous women
- Bail reforms that remove barriers to Indigenous persons being granted bail in a timely and fair manner
- Cost of a pardon for a criminal record is going up from $50.00 to $641.00 including the introduction of other complex procedural processes; this is a barrier to our Indigenous population
In order for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples to meaningfully participate on behalf of off-reserve Indigenous People regarding justice and public safety issues, we must have the resources, staff, and community consultation costs necessary. The federal government and province and territory must enter into a process of partnership to effect meaningful results.