THE STORY OF CANADIANS FOR A NEW PARTNERSHIP
Introduction: Rarely in Canada have so many distinguished Canadians with such diverse political, cultural or economic backgrounds joined in a common cause to strengthen Canada through the creation of a new Partnership between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and all Canadians. Former prime ministers, and national Indigenous leaders, former provincial premiers, a former Justice from the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as one of Canada’s most respected Auditor Generals are committed and united in building a better and stronger Canada. Canadians for a New Partnership is built on the principle that Indigenous and other Canadians can together build a strong economy and values-based society that will benefit present and future generations. It is a principle shared by a growing number of other Canadians from all walks of life, including churches, businesses, academia and the public service. The overriding mission is to build a better and stronger Canada, and many are signing their name to a declaration, pledging to do so.
How CFNP Came About: The concept for Canadians for a New Partnership was first advanced by Stephen Kakfwi, a former premier of the Northwest Territories, and President of the NWT Dene Nation, who was inspired by a challenge from his young, adult children. “Following the Idle No More movement I expressed to my adult children the urgent need for a renewed Nation-to-Nation relationship, built upon mutual respect and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and people across Canada. Without any hesitation, they challenged me to take the initiative and I began making calls to former leaders of all political stripes and backgrounds and was surprised and gratified by the very immediate and positive responses”. In the following months an impressive number of prominent Canadians agreed to join in this national initiative. “I know all of us, are excited and determined to make a renewed and positive contribution to Indigenous Peoples and Canada.”
Why We Are Here: It is surely safe to say the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and mainstream Canada has reached a critical turning point. Our Nation is confronting and recognizing the cruel history of assimilation policies while at the same time we can see enormous opportunities for all Indigenous people into the future. Through the work of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Canadians can grasp and acknowledge one of the darkest chapters in our history and endorse the formal apology delivered by the Prime Minister on June 11, 2008 “Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.” But there is however, “a place in our Country” for reconciliation and Canadians For a New Partnership believes this is the time to recognize and support unprecedented opportunities for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, and their efforts and determination to move forward. Presently, from the tiniest Arctic Settlement through most of the First Nation Reserves, in Métis Communities and right into the centres of our big cities and growing suburbs there are tens of thousands indigenous people thriving, creating new businesses and giving hope that a better future is possible.
Achievements and opportunities in our education system have never been stronger. From high schools through colleges and universities, an increasing number of Indigenous students are graduating. Make no mistake, their numbers remain far below the national average, but by working together in a new partnership we can accelerate those numbers. In the trades and service sectors Canadian business and labour organizations have stated there are tens of thousands of potential well paying jobs for a skilled and trained indigenous workforce. Canadians for a New Partnership is not here to bury the past, no matter how harmful it was, but to use it as the foundation upon which the new partnership is built.
Who Are We: We have in our membership many of Canada’s exceptional leaders, both established and emerging, and we will use the collective wisdom, experience, talent and generosity of many others from all walks of life in building a new partnership between Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians. We share a fundamental belief in fairness. We may be First Peoples, or the descendants of First Settlers, to present day arrivals. Our Declaration states, “We must embrace the notion of partnership fully and place it at the very heart of our endeavours. Then, and only then, will we enjoy a foundation of trust sturdy enough to overcome the shame of historic harm and contemporary injustices and realize future possibility. The New Partnership is neither deluded about past challenges nor deflated about present circumstances. We believe that hope must be created with the establishment of new trust and enthusiasm.”
What We Want to Accomplish: We believe that efforts – no matter how well intentioned – to improve the health, education and welfare of indigenous people are destined to the same failures of the past unless we build this new partnership and restore the trust that has been eroded by a litany of historic wrongs. Put simply, Canadians for a New Partnership wants to begin a new dialogue among Canadians about our relationship with Aboriginal Peoples. When terms like the “National Interest” and “Equity” are used by Governments or Corporations, we want them to ask themselves if their actions are in the interests of the marginalized as well as the mainstream and does “equity” apply to those at the bottom as well as those at the top.
Our Approach: Canadians for a New Partnership endorses and commits to basing its work on the nation building principles recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, “mutual recognition, mutual respect, mutual responsibility, and cooperation and sharing”. Our members – all volunteers – will attend speaking events, conferences and lecture series across the country to support these goals. We will launch a website that provides factual information, and opportunities to collaborate and dialogue with other Canadians about reconciliation and practical ways to build trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We will actively demonstrate to governments and industry the growing broad-based desire for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to work together for the sake of building a stronger values based economy. We have each signed a Declaration that sets out our commitment to a new partnership and will actively seek out others, including legislators, corporate leaders, labour and all civil society organizations to add their signatures to ours and to start down a path that will rebuild trust, remedy a broken relationship and a lead to a new partnership.
Our Funding: Canadians for a New Partnership is a registered non-profit organization and its members are all volunteers, as are most of the people who have helped develop the materials and logistics needed to transform an idea into a reality. That said, funding has been needed to bring this to fruition and CFNP’s deepest gratitude goes to The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Government of the Northwest Territories, the Aboriginal Leadership Initiative of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign, NationTalk, The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, First Peoples Group, McGill University and T.E. Wealth, without whose generous initial, and for many, ongoing support, the success of this initiative to date would not have been possible. We will continue to seek sponsors to allow our work to move ahead and grow.
What will CFNP do?: Canadians for a New Partnership will engage in an energetic education campaign across Canada with multiple facets, including an active website and social media initiatives, a national speaker’s bureau and media availability. We will expand our network of individuals and organizations committed to building a genuine new partnership with Indigenous Canadians and a better and stronger Canada. Our members, all volunteers, will attend speaking events, conferences and lecture series across the country to promote our vision and to help offer Canadians a new narrative, a compelling rationale, and opportunities for action with the goal of igniting and sustaining momentum towards reconciliation and partnership; In doing so we will strive to actively demonstrate to governments and industry the growing broad-based desire for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to work together to build a stronger economy and values-based society.