A recent workshop in the Niagara region of Ontario helped gather ideas on how the Commission can improve the inclusion and engagement of First Nations, Métis and tribes in its transboundary work.
Participants included indigenous members of some of the IJC’s boards (such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Board and the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board) and representatives from several indigenous groups in basins where the Commission is working.
The group met over two days in May to discuss work that lies ahead for the Commission and First Nations, Métis and tribes which it has relationships with: the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Grand Council Treaty 3, Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point Tribe, Shinnecock Indian Nation, United Tribes of Michigan, Métis Nation of Ontario, Chiefs of Ontario, Mohawk Council of Kahnawa:ke, Grand Council of the Waban Aki Nation and Walpole First Nation.
The workshop was a historic event. It was the first time the Commission organized a gathering of indigenous members from its boards or people involved in current IJC work, and representatives of nations within the IJC’s transboundary watersheds.
This expert group provided valuable insights into how the Commission can improve its current practices to engage “first peoples” in its watersheds and include them in its work, and consider the questions of whether the Commission should have an indigenous peoples engagement policy or advisory group. Some of the main themes touched upon were efforts to continuously improve relationships, opportunities to learn and enhance cultural appreciation, and integrating efforts on joint interests.
The workshop also was the first step and a commitment from the Commission in what will be a continuing relationship between the Commission and the many groups represented at the event.
A workshop report with several recommendations was brought forward to Commissioners for consideration in July. Following the success of this initial workshop, the Commission is considering hosting another in the future to accommodate more westerly First Nations, Métis and tribes interested and involved in the IJC’s work.
Christina Chiasson is a policy analyst for the Canadian Section of the IJC in Ottawa, Ontario.