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Dokis member offers thoughts of economic reconciliation at Toronto conference

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Dokis First Nation member Karen Restoule was one of the presenters at the Indigenomics Bay Street conference held in Toronto.

By Sam Laskaris

TORONTO – Karen Restoule believes it is time for change.

Restoule, a member of Dokis First Nation in Northern Ontario, shared her thoughts of what that change could look like at the Indigenomics Bay Street conference, which concluded on Nov. 23 in Toronto.

Restoule, a strategist and communications specialist who is a vice-president with Toronto’s Crestview Strategy, was one of the presenters at the conference held at the Westin Harbour Castle.

Her presentation was titled ‘The intersection between policy and Indigenous business’.

“Indigenous Nations are ready to drive off the Indian Act superhighway,” Restoule said during her presentation.

Restoule said policy alternatives have been developed in recent years and First Nations are able to opt into these laws, making the Indian Act no longer relevant.

These policies include the First Nations Land Management Act, the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, and the First Nations Good and Services Tax Act.

Restoule, however, believes it would be better to modernize all treaties, including ones that are considered “historic.”

“Currently in Canada, there are 25 modern self-governments or modern treaty agreements that include some 40 or so First Nations,” Restoule said. “And they are largely located in British Columbia, across the territories, and into northern part of Quebec. There are more than 630 First Nations across the country. That means that approximately 590 Nations remain under the Indian Act.”

Restoule believes it is time to consider renegotiating “historic treaties” like the other ones that have been modernized.

“Not only does this lead to equitable federal transfers, it gives way to agency and the right of ownership of land,” she said. “And most of all, it gives way to equitable opportunity.”

Restoule thinks the current system is broken, but she also believes what an improved system would look like needs to be sorted out before changes are made.

“In a society where so many are tearing down, we ought to consider what we can do, as citizens of this country, to build that off-ramp (on the Indian Act superhighway),” she said. “And while yes, the Indian Act does in fact need to go, it cannot be abolished in the absence of another solution.”

In large part because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Restoule said members of the Canadian public are familiar with some aspects of the Indian Act, established in 1876.

Restoule believes Canadians are better informed now on topics including the history of Indian Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop.

“But there are many points about the Indian Act that Canadians are less familiar with,” she said.

For example, she mentioned movement restriction, where First Nations people were not allowed to leave the boundaries of their reserve without the permission of an Indian agent stationed there. Business and trade restrictions were also implemented whereby both internal and external business dealings required approval from the Indian agent.

“There is a commonly held stereotype that Indigenous peoples have always lived in small secluded communities, never leaving their patch of land for anything,” Restoule said. “This couldn’t be further from fact. Prior to Indigenous-European contact, Indigenous peoples throughout these lands had expansive and established trade networks that gave way to the movement of goods and the people who moved them.”

Restoule concluded her presentation by issuing a challenge to attendees.

“What are each of you prepared to do to build that off-ramp towards a better Canada for everyone?”

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Indigenous Institutes post-secondary education on the brink of collapse

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FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION (February 27, 2024) – The February 26, 2024, announcement of $1.3 billion over three years for colleges and universities by the Ontario government once again prioritizes […]

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