Moving through the postcolonial door

Canada and Australia are the product of colonialism, with resulting harm to Indigenous culture, but both nations are pursuing a path of reconciliation.
Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Jody Wilson-Raybould QC, spoke about progress in her country on this issue when she delivered the annual ANU Reconciliation Lecture.

Below is an edited extract of her address.

As the late, great Nelson Mandela taught us, beyond the necessary apologies and beyond the emotional work of truth-telling and healing, reconciliation actually requires laws to change and policies to be rewritten. And it is in this regard that

I see my role as Minister of Justice, as ensuring our country’s laws and policies actually do change based on the recognition of rights. And there are numerous policies and laws that need to change and new ones developed. Political and legal reconciliation in furtherance of the nation-to-nation relationship is a national project that requires significant coordination and commitment at the highest level of government.

So you may ask where do we start? What is needed to be done to rebuild Indigenous nations, to actually get back to the original relationship as represented by the wampum belt, both for those nations that have treaties and for those that do not?The good news is that over the last 30 years since Aboriginal and treaty rights were recognized in our Constitution, as Aboriginal title and rights have crystallized in the court, many Indigenous nations in Canada have already begun rebuilding and have demonstrated success, often with little fanfare and little media attention, developing their own institutions of government – of governance, some at the local level, others regional, and sometimes Canada-wide in scope, some as a result of modern treaty-making, others as part of sectoral governance initiatives. There is much that can be learned from this work, and we need to build on that success.

In Canada, we have something called a Community Well-Being Index, and the evidence is clear. Self-governing communities are doing significantly better, both socially and economically than those that are not.