Relationship between indigenous reconciliation and discourse of environmental sustainability in Canada


In order to fully understand Indigenous relations to the government, one must fully comprehend and understand the three distinct ways that Indigenous peoples relate to the Canadian government, and that these ways occur in a historical and chronological order. Firstly, the relationship between Indigenous peoples and government focused on cooperation at the beginning because the Europeans were fairly dependent on First Nations’ knowledge of the land and their limited resources at the time. The second form of relations was revolving around control; through the 1830s until the 1960s, national policy has transitioned, and control was being established. This transition in relations was due to the shift in ideals, countrywide interests, and superior capability to govern the economies and Indigenous culture. The final relationship centralized around the activities of the government within the 1960s with activism, protests and lobbying. This period resulted in a Nation-to-Nation relationship, recognition of damages, and efforts to improve overall quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples.

Poor quality of life on indigenous reserves has been an issue and has experienced increased attention in the government, civil society and the media. Poverty, minimal infrastructure, and inaccessible necessities of life are a few examples of problems that have increased public awareness about on-reserve indigenous people living in pre-industrialized states and experiencing similar qualities of life. It is the Canadian government’s responsibility as a governing body to prepare First Nations communities for the long-lasting effects of unfair land concession agreements, colonialism, and attempts of forced assimilation and cultural genocide. Each of these topics must continue to have discussion and activity in order to have changes come to fruition.

In order for political capital of Indigenous Peoples to increase to create innovative change, actions such as consultation in natural resource exploration, judicial activism, and increased support are needed. Some of the other variables that could be incorporated include political efforts made by indigenous communities and allies, the platforms of political parties in the 2015 Federal election, national/international trends of reparations for indigenous communities, and demographic trends.

The Idle No More movement is a relatively recent example of the struggle faced for establishing a Nation-to-Nation relationship and improvements for Indigenous peoples’ lives. It was a social movement focused on reaffirming a Nation-to-Nation relationship and remains to be so. The Idle No More movement was able to ally with other movements that shared views and values on environmental sustainability, which included important

stakeholders such as Black Lives Matter activists, environmentalists, and feminists/eco-feminists. Together, they have generated greater political capital, attention from media, and allowed the Idle No More message to spread much further. Leading into the 2015 federal election, many of the Idle No More movement contributions were seen on official, national party platforms. For instance, Liberal Party of Canada had promised to implement the objectives set out in the Kelowna Accord, which include improvements to on-reserve school funding, housing, and health services. Paul Martin’s government in 2005 endorsed these promises, however its budget was struck down in the House of Commons before they had been brought to fruition. Later, the government led by Stephen Harper completely ignored the Kelowna Accord.

Research Question

The specific research question is, “Will efforts for environmental protection/sustainability play a substantial role in creating reconciliation for indigenous communities?” To answer this question in the research, I have deduced that “the increase in discourse of indigenous reconciliation has occurred because of mutual interests in protecting the environment, which creates bonding initiatives and have built/shaped the political capital of indigenous political actors.” according to the literature. My dependent variable is discourse of reconciliation for indigenous peoples and the independent variable in my research are efforts in protecting and maintaining the environment. International pressures, mobilized national interest groups, and criticism of the Conservative federal government by the opposition parties are factors that are also likely to add to increased environmental protection from movements. It is important to keep in mind that these factors could also be instrument variables (influence the efforts for environmental sustainability). In addition, these factors may be independent variables alone.

Literature Review

Idle No More

The Idle No More movement was conducted by various indigenous peoples around Canada with the goal of nourishing indigenous independence and the environment. This movement invigorated plentiful amounts of political discourse around indigenous issues and will be a source used to understand up-to-date requests for reconciliation and how they relate to other policies surrounding environmental sustainability and social services.

Idle No More. (2017). Retrieved from I Can Party 2015 Federal Election. The policies of the four major national political parties during the 2015 federal election were stated on this website. It compares and contrasts the policies addressing political issues of the time. This source is vital to understand the similarities and differences in perspectives around indigenous issues. It will aid in understanding the various approaches to reconciliation and how the problem is articulated.

Policy Navigator. (2015). Retrieved April 13, 2019 from Liberal Party of Canada Platform 2015. The Liberal Party of Canada’s policy platform discuss the diverse issues related to indigenous peoples on its numerous site pages. This will be used to comprehend the relationship between Aboriginal and environmental policy put into place by the Liberal Party of Canada.

What Does Real Change Mean to You? (2017). Retrieved April 10, 2019. from Parties Promises in regard to Aboriginal issues This article identifies what three major political parties intend to do for indigenous peoples, if elected in the 2015 federal election. This can be used to better understand the diversity of political rhetoric during the election at the time and identifies those heavily involved in this election.

Smith, J. (2015, September 1). What the parties are promising on Aboriginal issues. Retrieved April 9, 2019 from The Unjust Society. The publication was criticizing the hidden intention to assimilate indigenous people into Anglo-Canadian society from the Liberal government’s white paper on Indian policy. This is valuable to gain knowledge on historical criticisms of indigenous people and can be used for comparing grievances and initiatives being made. It signifies a change in initiatives and expectations by First Nations and was published at the beginning of the confrontation era of Canadian-Indigenous relations. This is useful to understand the development of the movement towards reconciliation.

Cardinal, H. (1969). Legislative and Constitutional Treachery. In The Unjust Society (pp. 128-139). Retrieved April 8 2019. 2015 Conservative Party of Canada Platform. This source discusses the different issues related to indigenous peoples, the relationship between Aboriginal and environmental policy, and its proposed solutions from the Conservative Party perspective. This will be used to understand the Conservative party’s policies compared to previous policy stances. For example, the proposed approach of Conservatives to resolving First Nations destitution and underdevelopment is illustrated as an issue connected to independent economic growth.

Protect our Economy: Our Conservative Plan to Protect the Economy (2015). Conservative Party of Canada. Retrieved from Federal Election Seat Projections. This site has federal election riding projections, riding demographics, important factors for specific ridings, and so on. This source will be useful to reference when looking at other sources that are related to a specific riding during the federal election. In addition, it will give direction to investigate specific ridings that have meaning in political discourse.

Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy. Retrieved April 10, 2019. from Building the country of our dreams. This source discusses the different issues related to indigenous peoples and its proposed solutions as discussed by The New Democratic Party of Canada’s policy platform. It will be used to understand the New Democratic party’s policies compared to previous policy stances. An exemplar would be how the planned approach to resolving First Nations poverty and underdevelopment is framed as a social issue related to poor economic development. This is useful to understand the relationship between Aboriginal and social policy in the Conservative Party of Canada.

Building the country of our dreams Tom Mulcair’s plan to bring change to Ottawa (2015). Conservative Party of Canada. Retrieved from Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. In order for the national government to reconcile the Nation-to-Nation commitment set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the 1982 amendments to the Constitution, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission created a guiding strategy. It has been cited and used by social movements to support efforts for comprising indigenous communities in natural resource development and will be useful for the proposed research here.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Research. Retrieved from Provinces: Canadian Provincial Politics. This is a textbook that presents institutions and government at the provincial level. Moreover, it explains jurisdictions and associations with local political actors in great detail. It is a beneficial resource to clarify the setting of indigenous issues, alterations and regional focuses in the framing of reconciliation. It could also enlighten the social context of indigenous communities in different provinces, as well as their respective political capital.


Sampling Methods

Distinctive sampling methods must be utilized for the proposed research in order to keep a strong focus on reconciliation discourse. With this in mind, the data collected will come from a variety of resources, with different political propensities. I will employ an exhaustive set of criteria for what qualifies as an appropriate source for political discourse of indigenous reconciliation when gathering content for qualitative analysis. The criteria will define what kinds of content are acceptable (i.e. editorials, tweets, newspaper articles) as actual discourse of indigenous reconciliation. These criteria are primarily based on prior knowledge by the researcher, as well as how well the data reflects concepts related to political discourse, indigenous reconciliation or reparations. Of course, the limitations of this sampling method will be discussed in the methodology and findings section of the research.

Qualitative Research Method and Analysis

Firstly, using qualitative methods, I will unveil the connection between indigenous reconciliation and discourse of environmental policy in Canada. The content analysis of news reports that cover indigenous activism/movements related to indigenous communities, as well as political platforms, government reports/policy papers, and social movements will be the main form of data consulted. It is essential to observe the political focus of media coverage to recognize the dynamics of Aboriginal political actors/interests in Canadian politics. These observations will determine how indigenous reconciliation is framed by involved stakeholders. For example, from the literature, the Conservative Party of Canada’s policy platform on indigenous reconciliation frames the issue as a chance for economic growth and natural resource extraction. In addition, it claims indigenous people as potential entrepreneurs as oppose to individuals that have been discriminated or segregated. This propagates in different ways from other political parties and their rhetoric, but nonetheless shows the efforts being made by elected leaders, which the qualitative analysis will show.

A coded system of letters and numbers will be the methodology of this research; the data will be assigned precise values that will be marked on certain words and ideas such as social programming for Indigenous peoples, environmental sustainability, and accommodating economic development. For instance, “W” will be given to the concept of recognition of wrongdoing to indigenous peoples found. If this idea takes place for a certain amount of time, then it can be used for the second stage of coding which assigns different numbers and identifies different factors. An example of this would be the utilization of media denoted “M” and the use of social media denoted “M.1”.

This numbered system will allow for the identification of differences within common features (i.e.: different political demands by the same political actor to different levels of government). This will be used to recognize themes in political discourse which relate to or deviate from specific individuals involved. The manifold layers of code that will be allocated to content will create a clear picture of what the political actors/subjects desire and how their actions/interests relate to the Indigenous communities. With the methodology in place, the relationship between environmental policy and indigenous reconciliation will become clear, and we would be able to answer the research question of how efforts in environmental policy has impacted the indigenous reconciliation in Canada (whether that’s an improvement or not) and will ultimately add to strategies to address the issue in question.

Quantitative Research Method and Analysis

Hand in hand with qualitative analysis, I also plan to examine the quantitative relationship between environmental protection and indigenous reconciliation. In order to do so, I will quantify the coded themes and ideas from the content analysis previously explained and determine the frequency of the various factors that I find (i.e.: education funding for indigenous communities, Indian status, etc.). I will determine what the means and variances of the variables are, as well as conduct a regression analysis to observe whether there is any statistically significant relationship between the independent and dependent variables to make effective conclusions at the end of the research process.

With this in mind, I would be able to determine how well the relationship is explained and potentially pinpoint fresh variables that were not formulated in my initial hypothesis. By conducting a quantitative analysis of the relationship between indigenous reconciliation and discourse of environmental protection, I will also be able to identify potentially omitted variables that can be explored further in the research. Potential omitted variables could be used as an incentive for further study of different kinds of relationships and their intersection with reconciliation, which will ultimately add to creation of new innovative, social change for indigenous reconciliation.

Broader Impact and Justification of the Research

In order to create development with current as well as future efforts with indigenous reconciliation, it is imperative to learn if/how this relationship exists along with its level of significance. Given that my original theory/hypothesis is correct, it will show that there is a significant effect on reconciliation discourse by the interests in protecting the environment. In addition, determining whether or not interest groups concerned for environmental sustainability impact Indigenous political capital is important for understanding how to create successful environmental projects.

Within our national government for the past decade, a major priority has been working on the reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples. The reason why they have been of top importance is due to the fact that they are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, and as a result it becomes extremely vital to address any concerns they may have. Currently, Aboriginal social movements have become increasingly institutionalized, land claims and other related judicial rulings are continuously improving the rights of indigenous peoples, and the general population is becoming more aware of Indigenous issues. Whether or not there is a relationship between environmentally sustainable natural resource development and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples that is statistically significant is crucial for our Canadian government to move forward and create a strong and equitable relationship with Indigenous peoples.

Lastly, it is important to note that exploring a different avenue for reconciliation such as economic development and its impact on discourse creates new areas of study. Traditionally, Indigenous issues in reconciliation focused on the cultural impact of colonialism (i.e.: Residential schools) and what equitable actions must be done in order to restore those afflicted. Perhaps investigating a different avenue will create more meaningful change for First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.

Knowledge Mobilization and Audience

Sociologically, the production of new knowledge and amending priorities in Indigenous social movements can be used as a guide to study other social movements. Presently, Canada is setting new practices for reconciliation, equitable justice, and rights of Natives. For political experts, amended understanding of Aboriginal interests and concerns is useful when studying policy effectiveness, engaging with voters/interest groups, and maintaining stakeholders. With new knowledge of reconciliation discourse, improvements on political messages and deciphering the social impact of institutions in the political process can be completed in order to efficiently address underlying implications of current processes being put into place to improve Indigenous issues.

Useful information on political actors matter when creating policy related to Aboriginals and is imperative to their success in the election process and creating meaningful change. Ergo, the conclusions made in this study will provide new information for policy makers to interpret for their future endeavours to address Indigenous issues. Logically, elected officials will have the most incentive to understand the dynamics of indigenous reconciliation because elected leaders in government have the obligation to act in the interests of their citizens (which include Indigenous communities).

With this in mind, due to the fact that leaders will want their various counterparts in the civil service to deliver on promises that are made, the new knowledge must be accessible to the public. Through the research, it may also become clear of the importance of having Indigenous groups and their allied interest groups involved in the policy making process, which will lead to better outcomes overall. Furthermore, the civil service will have more information to better prioritize its initiatives with Indigenous groups informing choices on where it allocates funding and which programs to renew, change, or terminate.

Of course, Aboriginal stakeholders will benefit from the research proposed here because it would add to the creation of reform for indigenous reconciliation. They can use this knowledge for upcoming social movements, efforts to raise awareness of their disadvantaged position, and political campaigning.

In essence, how and why political capital is generated, and having an understanding of these processes improves the general political procedure to create the eloquent changes necessary for Indigenous reconciliation. With the research proposed in this grant application, we would be able to better enable natural resource development which would create national and local benefits, such as equitable development of impoverished First Nations communities, improved environmental sustainability, and achieving a stronger moral in Canadian government.