2017: National Year of Dialogue


NOVEMBER 20, 2016

Municipalities, provincial governments, federal departments, universities and others are mobilizing across the country in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and the commitments of political leaders to enter into new and better relationships with Indigenous peoples: relationships built on recognition, respect and partnership.

IPAC will contribute to the development of these relationships with a year-long focus on dialogue and learning in 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The nation-wide project consists of a series of regional dialogues between public servants, administrators and leaders of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit government and institutions, focussed on one key question: How can we, as a public administration community, transform ourselves and in the spirit of reconciliation, support better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and people?

The goal is not simply to have an event, but to create the foundation for ongoing relationships through shared learning, collaboration and partnership.

In particular, the National Year of Dialogue aims to achieve or make substantial progress toward:

  • Greater awareness by public servants across all governments about the issues and challenges facing Indigenous peoples, and why
  • Better understanding by non-Indigenous public servants about their professional roles and responsibilities in regards to Indigenous peoples
  • Greater awareness within the Indigenous community of IPAC and the role it can play in helping build relationships and networks, and in sharing expertise
  • Opportunities for future projects and partnerships.

The aim is to have one dialogue session in every province and territory organized and hosted by IPAC Regional Groups, their local universities and private sector partners, as well as a national event held in association with IPAC’s National Conference in August 2017 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

The IPAC Saskatchewan Regional Group will be participating in this initiative throughout 2017.  ImPACt Sask will be publishing articles, interviews, and stories of interest throughout 2017 that will shed more light on this important year of dialogue.


NOVEMBER 20, 2016


In July 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report.  The following link is to a summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action

Public servants, administrators, and leaders throughout Canada who are interested in better understanding the history of residential schools, the impact that these schools had on Indigenous peoples, the ongoing legacy of this history, and what should be done for our collective future should take the time to familiarize themselves with the content of this report summary.

Together, Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practice reconciliation in our everyday lives — within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, places of worship, schools, and workplaces.  To do so constructively, Canadians must remain committed to the ongoing work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.  – Truth and Reconciliation Final Report


NOVEMBER 20, 2016

On November 17, 2016, the Institute for Research on Public Policy released a report by David Newhouse entitled Indigenous Peoples, Canada and the Possibility of Reconciliation.  The report highlights an independent view of progress that has been achieved since the 1970’s, what will be required for true reconciliation to occur, and the importance of Canada’s public leaders to spearhead reconciliation efforts.

Reconciliation is now a Canadian political project that is moving from words to action. Its origins are in the 1998 Statement of Reconciliation, delivered by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The statement framed reconciliation as an “ongoing process” and “a process of renewal.” It has taken almost two decades — from the 1998 Statement of Reconciliation, to the 2008 Statement of Apology for Indian Residential Schools, to the December 2015 release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) — for this project to become an important part of the Canadian public policy landscape.

The framing of the recommendations of the TRC as calls to action was a brilliant move that created a policy frame for Canadians, their governments and their institutions to use to guide concrete efforts toward reconciliation. A large number of governments, agencies and organizations are now taking steps to address particular calls to action within their mandates.

Should we be optimistic? I believe that, more than at any other time in Canadian history, we should. Of course, huge challenges lie ahead. Tackling them means we will have to confront our history, our governance processes and our understandings of Indigenous peoples and their capacity to govern themselves. The challenge rests with public policy-makers and educators, in particular.

— David Newhouse from “Indigenous Peoples, Canada and the possibility of Reconciliation”

The following infographic summarizes the main pillars of reconciliation (Source: irpp.org/research-studies/insight-no11/):


DECEMBER 28, 2016

On December 12, 2016, Vianne Timmons (President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Regina and Peter Stoicheff (President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan) published a policy brief titled “Post-Secondary Education in Canada: A Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada”through the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

The brief outlines what universities across Canada (in particular the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan) are doing to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action dealing with post-secondary issues facing Aboriginal people:

  • “We call upon the federal government to develop with Aboriginal groups a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”
  • “We call upon the federal government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.”
  • “Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.”
  • “We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.”


On June 2, 2015, Justice Murray Sinclair released the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action.  It was a landmark moment in truth telling and reconciliation between Aboriginal1 and non-Aboriginal people in our country, and one at which many Canadians joined those who had already been mobilized around supporting Aboriginal peoples in Canada.   

Many universities responded to the Calls to Action by making public statements and looking inward at their institutions.  This introspection was necessary and needs to continue. But most importantly, there needs to be action taken on multiple fronts in universities across Canada.

Simply put, one cannot dispute the post-secondary educational gap that exists between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal youth – a gap that has been caused in many cases by funding deficiencies as well as deeply rooted social and economic issues within Aboriginal communities resulting from Canada’s treatment of Aboriginal people over the past 150 years.  According to the 2006 Census, a significant difference in university completion rates was noted between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults.  This had not changed much by the 2011 Census. It reported less than half (48%) of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 had a post-secondary qualification. By comparison, about two thirds (65%) of non-Aboriginal people in the same age group had a postsecondary qualification, a difference of 17 percentage points. The policy issue is how universities in Canada can become part of the solution that addresses the deeply rooted social and economic challenges faced by many Aboriginal people.

— Introduction to “Post-Secondary Education in Canada: A Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada”


DECEMBER 28, 2016


On March 7, 2017, the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy will be holding a public workshop on The Relationship Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous People at the University of Regina campus.  In the spirit of 2017: IPAC’s National Year of Dialogue, we proud to promote this workshop to all IPAC Saskatchewan members interested in learning more about the past, present, and future relationships between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada made the following Call to Action which this workshop supports:

“We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations.  This will require skills-based training and intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”


MARCH 3, 2017

Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples has emerged – at long last – as a national priority. The Government of Canada under Prime Minster Trudeau has made improving relations with Aboriginal Canadians a “whole of government” commitment. The underlying issues are numerous and substantial, ranging from widespread poverty, housing crises in many communities, cultural loss, to local economic development and major issues with local infrastructure.  For federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments there is a substantial list of urgent needs and conflicting priorities.  For Indigenous governments, many with growing administrative responsibilities and increased financial resources, the challenges are even more pressing.

The national commitment to reconciliation places major responsibilities on the backs of the country’s civil servants. Indeed, substantial and sustained reconciliation is impossible without the deep engagement of the civil service with the rebuilding of relationships with Indigenous peoples. Given the fundamental importance of government social service programs, community infrastructure development, policing, environmental assessment, fire protection and safety, education and health services, and other areas of engagement, civil servants clearly play a significant role in working with Indigenous communities and enhancing quality of life outcomes.  At this point, where many civil servants have limited engagement with Indigenous issues, the basic reality is that the profession needs to learn how to learn about Indigenous peoples, communities and public policy issues.

In many governments, particularly those (like the Government of Canada) that have adopted a “whole of government” approach to Indigenous affairs, many civil servants have some responsibility for Indigenous issues. These are important obligations.  Successful civil servants contribute substantially to the resolution and management of vital issues that range from health care provision and road construction to resource development and constitutional affairs. At the same time, civil servants who are poorly prepared for work with communities, who do not understand cultural protocols or appreciate the nature and responsibilities of Indigenous governments, add to inter-governmental difficulties and slow development projects.

Civil servants, many finding their work intersecting with numerous Indigenous communities, face the challenge of developing cross-cultural skills, an understanding of the affected Indigenous peoples and the managerial abilities needed to engage effectively with diverse communities. They need to be alert to the fast changing political and legal developments in Indigenous affairs while also being aware of the legacy of generations of paternalism and colonialism that shapes Indigenous understanding of the role and values of the Canadian civil service.  Working successfully with Indigenous organizations, in other words, can be difficult and professionally risky, particularly if a particular government unit involved does not have a history of successful collaboration and outreach.

Canadians look to their governments to provide role models for the effective application of national and sub-national policy priorities. This was the case with bilingualism, with the federal civil service setting the standard for the development of inclusive French-language services.  Federal and provincial governments showed the way on Canadian multiculturalism, both by hiring employees from diverse backgrounds, building awareness of cultural differences into their service delivery models, and promoting multi-cultural engagement generally.  The civil service should be, but is not in the main, using government innovation with information technology to pave the way for greater technology application across the country as a whole.  The civil service can shape the national character, but it is not inevitable that they will do so.

The country will – and should – look to the Canadian civil service for leadership on reconciliation. The political arm of government can address most of the ceremonial and high profile elements of rebuilding relations with Indigenous peoples. The civil service is called to convert promises and commitments into core government actions.  This will necessitate greater employment of Indigenous workers, new styles of collaboration and consultation with Indigenous communities, widespread integration of Indigenous issues into program and departmental activities, and outreach to Indigenous organizations.  Staff training and professional development should involve much more engagement with Indigenous governments and communities and not just conversations about Indigenous issues.  Civil servants need to visit Indigenous settlements or urban facilities so that they get a personal sense of the achievements and challenges facing the communities.

There is a test for the civil service and it is one, sadly, where progress has been slow. For more than a generation, Indigenous leaders have argued that they should be recognized as an additional level of government.  Many Indigenous communities are functioning as governments. Indigenous administrations, typically reporting to a Chief and Council, manage government funds, hire and train staff members, develop policies, raise income (including taxes in some instances), supervise the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, and provide a variety of community-level services.  Their work shares a fair bit in common with municipal or regional governments, but also with elements of provincial/territorial and even federal responsibilities.  In other words, Indigenous administrations look like governments, act like governments, and have civil service employees, like all governments.

The Canadian civil service, through its professional associations, conferences, and organizations, has to reach out to their Indigenous colleagues, to share resources, to learn from each other, and to improve collective understanding of Canadian governance issues.   Some organizations have reached out and broadened their understanding of government and the civil service to incorporate Indigenous communities, although the engagement has typically been through the discussion of Indigenous issues more than active participation with Indigenous civil servants and governments.  This is, for the Canadian civil service, an early and obvious test of their openness to real reconciliation.  Treating Indigenous governments and their employees as part of the Canadian civil service community – not coopting them culturally or institutionally – but as professional colleagues whose work intersects and whose presence in the country is a force for good and effective governance.  Civil services cannot encourage reconciliation between Indigenous and other Canadians unless it takes the first step and reaches out to Indigenous governments in an effort to find and expand common ground.

Little real cross-cultural learning will take place if civil services deal with Indigenous peoples and communities as a “problem” or interact with Indigenous governments only at a conceptual and policy-level. Working at the policy level with Indigenous issues is categorically different than interacting with Indigenous colleagues, visiting their communities, and partnering on policy development.   The Canadian civil service can lead reconciliation in Canada, but it will require a commitment to learning from Indigenous Canadians and an acceptance of Indigenous governments as being integral to the governance system in Canada.

Dr. Ken Coates is the Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan and is a Munk Senior Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute