Photo: Lily Raphael

Economic Reconciliation

Current State to Future State

January 20, 2021
Reconciliation is a journey from current state to desired state. It is impossible to build a singular conceptual framework. It’s about building wellness in an ecosystem. Cross-sectoral dialogue is good medicine for the eco-system.
-Participant, Economic Reconciliation Convening

Moving through this journey of writing a framework for Economic Reconciliation has raised just as many questions, as we have asked and pondered, and possibly answered.  We started with working through our understanding of our current state, but this is challenging as every First Nation is not on an equal footing in regards to Community Economic Development. We know that some First Nation communities have:

  • Settled specific or comprehensive lands claims, some are in the process and some are still waiting (as the Government of Canada only allows a certain amount at a time);
  • Implement Land Code, custom election codes, Financial Admin. Laws, policies, etc. and some are still under the regime of the Indian Act;
  • Signed Self-Government agreements, Reconciliation agreements, and the like with the Government of Canada and the Province of BC (there are approximately 497 agreements signed to date in BC);
  • Have created community trusts from a variety of settlement agreements but not all communities have one;
  • Implemented Economic Development Corporations but not all;
  • Access to capital, resources, capacity building, etc. but many do not; and
  • Land that is easily developable because of their proximity to large urban centres but the majority of rural and remote communities do not
  • Economic Development plans and strategies that have created opportunities for own source revenue but many communities are still reliant on government monies
  • Enacted laws imposing direct taxes within their reserves or settlement lands but a majority of communities have not

As you can see, the Indian Act with federal government control over almost everything, federal funding regime limitations, unequal access to many things, poses imbalance for many BC First Nation communities concerning community economic development.  In short, this is not an even level playing field and raises the question of what substantive equity is required for this to be changed?

Our past state in Canada included a century of Residential Schools throughout Canada, Indian Agents, the Indian Act, White Paper, more than a decade of the 60’s Scoop as there are more indigenous children in care today than at the height of residential schools, a century and a half of Enfranchisement, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples , Kelowna Accord, an absorbent amount colonial history policies to list here and so much more. In short, it is seen a cultural genocide, racist, discriminatory and the need to assimilate Indigenous People’s in every way possible since contact.

Our current State still includes things from our past, such as Land Claims, Title and Rights, Own Source Revenue, Self-Government, Self-Determination, Crown-Indigenous Relations, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls, UNDRIP, DRIPA, BC Treaty negotiations, and a ton more.

One has to pay complete and full respect to the truth that First Nations have come a very long way in 1-2 generations.  The Indigenous leaders of today are the first generation not to go to residential school, not be governed by the ‘Indian Agent’, to control many of the administrative affairs of their own community, etc. and finally have some financial capacity to seriously play in the economic game dominating our development. However, a question still remains; do First Nations want to play in this Economic System and succeed within it? Or do they want to be a major driving force in transforming the economic engine and system driving each of Communities well-being?


Which brings us to our future state…what is it? This is the million-dollar question being asked, pondered, researched, requires more data collection, etc. Carol Ann Hilton calls it Indigenomics, we call it Economic Reconciliation, First Nation communities call it community economic development, Indigenous Entrepreneurs are socially driven and need procurement opportunities.  Many Non-Indigenous stakeholders want to know what they can do to be a part of the movement going forward. The’s Spotlight on Indigenous Economic Development explores the forces impacting the growth of the Indigenous economy and the changes – in practice and in mindset – that must be implemented to make the future state Canada’s Indigenous economy a reality.

We still have to be mindful of how we do this work. We have to consider the decolonization required at every stage, level, program, etc., acknowledging white privilege, racism, discrimination, power, control, policies, limitations of language, lack of Indigenous culture, epistemology, worldview, lens, values, and dominance of ‘objective’ and colonial views, research, education, etc. in the current system.  Thus, we need to acknowledge that the past decisions on white men created an economic system which no longer serves its purpose, all living creatures, protection of the environment, sustainable land use, and really anything that our great-grandchildren’s grandchildren desire to live in harmony with a thriving eco-system.

Thus, the need to explore the question of ‘what is economic reconciliation’? To understand the work required to develop an economic reconciliation framework for BC.