Liberals have chance to support smart Aboriginal policies

Commentary, Aboriginal Futures, Joseph Quesnel

The Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission is reaching out to Indigenous peoples across Canada in preparation for the next federal election.

The Commission aims to develop some Aboriginal policy positions and influence the direction of the Liberal Party.

This is an historic opportunity for the Liberal Party to adopt some forward-looking Aboriginal policy proposals.

Some suggestions would be first and foremost to endorse a First Nations Property Ownership Act, as developed by Manny Jules of the First Nations Tax Commission.

This Act would transfer underlying title to reserve lands to First Nations governments. If bands choose, they can then transfer land to individuals in fee simple, the strongest and most common form of land ownership in Canada.

The Conservatives have announced their support for this kind of legislation, but improving First Nations communities by allowing them to maximize their assets is a non-partisan issue.

The party should also ensure it fills the education gap on many First Nations. Currently, the Indian Act is silent on educational standards. First Nations need a modern education act that emphasizes accountability for results. The model should also allow for parental choice within the system.

The Liberal  Party should also stand behind policies that emphasize governance reform for First Nations. The data points to a strong connection between good governance and improved economic performance.

On this note, the party should support funds for more First Nations to enter the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA). The FNLMA allows bands to opt out of the land management provisions of the Indian Act. Data shows that bands within the FNLMA perform better economically.

The Liberals should also stand behind First Nations transparency and accountability, as included in the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.

The party needs to move towards proven, results-driven policy and away from the increased funding,  no strings attached model of the past.