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Canada

Reconciliation and Open Government (CA0072)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNA); Statistics Canada (StatCan); Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Marginalized Communities, Open Data, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Reconciliation and open government
Issue to be addressed
The Government of Canada is committed to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with
Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership, open
government activities.
The Government of Canada acknowledges the great harm some of its policies and laws have
caused to Indigenous people and their cultures, heritage, and languages. Government must
strive to ensure this history is not repeated by working to ensure Indigenous perspectives,
values, and lived experiences are included in decisions about the policies, laws, relationships,
and decisions that impact their lives. As expressed in the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), government must also “respect and promote the
inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social
structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories, and philosophies, especially
their rights to their lands, territories, and resources.”
Commitment
Open government is a way to ensure that government decision-making processes represent
and are informed by the voices of the people that will be affected by them. The Government of
Canada will engage directly with First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights holders and stakeholders
to explore an approach to reconciliation and open government, in the spirit of building
relationships of trust and mutual respect.
This commitment has been purposely designed to allow for significant co-creation and
co-implementation, encouraging First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights holders and stakeholders
to define their own approaches to engagement on open government issues. We recognize that,
in contrast to other commitments, government cannot act alone to define an approach.
Instead, we must work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of activities and engagement processes that we could
explore in the coming years to allow us to continue our journey of reconciliation and
relationship-building.
Lead department(s)
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNA); Statistics Canada (StatCan);
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)
Milestones
42
What will we do? How we will know we succeeded? What is our
deadline?
9.1 Work with Indigenous
peoples to advance open
government
(TBS)
Through in-person and online dialogue,
scope is assessed for stronger
collaboration with Indigenous peoples on
open government and data governance
August 2020
All members of the Open Government
team in TBS receive OCAP training
(Ownership, Control, Access and
Possession)
April 2019
Options are explored, in collaboration
with the First Nations Information
Governance Centre (FNIGC) and the
Canada School of Public Service, for
supporting officials in departments across
government to receive OCAP training
June 2020
9.2 Build capacity for
Indigenous communities and
organizations to use data and
research for their own
requirements and needs
(StatCan)
In co-development with Indigenous
organizations and communities,
15 workshops are delivered in Indigenous
communities on the use of open
government data to support improved
social and economic outcomes. Where
possible, remote participation options
will be provided
June 2020
9.3 Work with Indigenous
peoples to identify ways in
which transparency around
consultation and engagement
activities can be enhanced
(CIRNA)
Systems supporting consultation and
engagement are updated to enhance
transparency
August 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

9. Reconciliation and Open Government

Open government is a way to ensure that government decision-making processes represent and are informed by the voices of the people that will be affected by them. The Government of Canada will engage directly with First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights holders and stakeholders to explore an approach to reconciliation and open government, in the spirit of building relationships of trust and mutual respect.

This commitment has been purposely designed to allow for significant co-creation and co-implementation, encouraging First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights holders and stakeholders to define their own approaches to engagement on open government issues. We recognize that, in contrast to other commitments, government cannot act alone to define an approach. Instead, we must work in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of activities and engagement processes that we could explore in the coming years to allow us to continue our journey of reconciliation and relationship-building.

Milestones

9.1 Work with Indigenous peoples to advance open government (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat)

9.2 Build capacity for Indigenous communities and organizations to use data and research for their own requirements and needs (Statistics Canada)

9.3 Work with Indigenous peoples to identify ways in which transparency around consultation and engagement activities can be enhanced (Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada)

For more details about the commitment text, milestones, self-identified success criteria, and estimated completion dates see, https://open.canada.ca/en/content/canadas-2018-2020-national-action-plan-open-government#toc3-4

Start Date: August 2019

End Date: Varies according to milestone

Commitment Overview

Verifiability

OGP Value Relevance (as written)

Potential Impact

Completion

Did It Open Government?

Not specific enough to be verifiable

Specific enough to be verifiable

Access to Information

Civic Participation

Public Accountability

Technology & Innovation for Transparency & Accountability

None

Minor

Moderate

Transformative

Not Started

Limited

Substantial

Completed

Worsened

Did Not Change

Marginal

Major

Outstanding

1. Overall

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Context and Objectives

This commitment grows out of one of the 5 Key Recommendations advanced in the IRM’s Canada Progress Report 2016-2017, [68] and the current government’s commitment to reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. In this instance, the absence of a pre-specified challenge/problem and benchmarks for the commitment and its milestones is methodologically appropriate precisely because the commitment is,

purposely designed to allow for significant co-creation and co-implementation, encouraging First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights holders and stakeholders to define their own approaches to engagement on open government issues.

The strategy to exploring opportunities for reconciliation and open government set out in this commitment is built around three milestones that propose a number of activities and engagement processes. This non-exhaustive list of actions seeks to create spaces for dialogue and collaboration about open government and data governance, build capacity for Indigenous communities and organizations in the use of data, and to update systems supporting consultation and engagement to enhance transparency.

The three milestones and the respective government-identified criteria for assessing success align most closely with the OGP value of Civic Participation insofar as they are all oriented toward the GoC working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. This said, it is important to acknowledge that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples do not consider themselves members of Canadian civil society as commonly understood within the OGP context, nor as stakeholders in the federal government’s OGP-related activities. [69] As stated by a contributor to the July-August 2018 draft commitment, [70]

Our desire is to be functional, transparent effective governments again, ourselves. We are not just Indigenous peoples; we are citizens of Indigenous Nations.

When combined with the success criteria identified in the action plan, each of the three milestones are sufficiently specific so as to be verifiable by exercising a degree of interpretation in terms of measurability.

The cornerstone of meaningful dialogue that seeks to build “relationships of trust and mutual respect” within the context of reconciliation and open government is Nation-to-Nation engagement, “with Indigenous Nations setting the terms of the ownership and stewardship of their data as it best reflects the aspirations and needs of their peoples and communities.” [71] To this end, the issue of Indigenous data sovereignty has, and remains, central to the process of reconciliation and trust building. [72] The scale and scope of Commitment 9 is limited precisely because it does not directly address or otherwise engage with this issue. As stated in Resolution 57/2016 passed at the 2016 Annual General Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations, the starting point on the journey of reconciliation and relationship-building with Indigenous Peoples with regard to open government is the need for the Government of Canada to commit itself [73] to meaningful Nation-to-Nation dialogue about data sovereignty, [74] and the repatriation of First Nations’ data. [75] The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s (2018: 32) National Inuit Strategy on Research likewise specifies that, “Ensuring Inuit access, ownership, and control over data and information gathered on our population, wildlife, and environment is a key pillar of achieving Inuit self-determination in research.[76] Similar tenets are also evident in the OCAS Principles set out by the Manitoba Métis Federation. [77]

The opinions expressed during the discussions with leaders in First Nations’ data governance, civil society representatives, and government stakeholders diverged about the need for, and the appropriateness of, including this commitment in the action plan. Some government representatives believed it to be important to include, at minimum, a non-comprehensive commitment oriented toward initiating dialogue about open government between the GoC and Indigenous Nations. Leaders in First Nations’ data governance, and some members of civil society, on the other hand averred that Indigenous Nations are not stakeholders in Canada’s OGP activities, and that inclusion of the commitment in the action plan should not have proceeded without prior agreement from Indigenous leaders and communities about its content. This view was aptly summed up by one of the leaders in First Nations’ data governance who stated:

We should have set the bar; the indicator. Then, we would be holding Canada to account. Right now, what is the recourse if Canada lets us down?

Representatives of Indigenous Nations have long made it clear that in order to be meaningful, discussions about reconciliation and open government need to take place on a Nation-to-Nation basis working toward decolonizing of data. This entails engaging from the start with such issues as:

  • Data sovereignty;
  • The repatriation of Indigenous Nations’ data;
  • Navigating intersections between OCAP Principles, Inuit principles for ensuring Inuit access, ownership, and control over Inuit-specific data and information, [78] Métis OCAS Principles, [79] and Crown Law; and
  • Navigating between culturally specific differences in the meaning of ‘openness.’

In the absence of any direct engagement with the above concerns, it is unclear how the spaces for dialogue and exploration set out in Commitment 9 substantively differ from previous efforts of engagement between the GoC and Indigenous Nations regarding issues of data exchange and governance, and/or how they would directly contribute to changing the status quo. As such, the commitment is it deemed as having no potential impact.

Next steps

There are clear and necessary grounds for the GoC to engage in dialogue with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nations about open government especially if it wishes to ensure “government decision-making processes represent and are informed by the voices of the people that will be affected by them.” The existing data governance relationship between Indigenous Nations and the GoC is not working nearly as well as it could and should. First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and Canada as a whole stand to benefit by changing the existing relationship.

Working to decolonize data within the Canadian context could fall within the auspices of an OGP action plan insofar as it entails the Canadian government making accessible information it holds about Indigenous Peoples and in so doing increasing its accountability to them. Such actions could be guided by Nation-to-Nation conversations resembling, but distinct from, the type of civil society–government dialogue championed by the OGP.

The co-development journey taken between 2016 and 2018 by officials from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Indigenous Services (IS) to create a shared vision for a new fiscal relationship for First Nations and the GoC may offer some lessons for moving forward with reconciliation and open government. Of particular salience is the learning this journey offers about the creation of an advisory committee to provide further guidance on, in this instance, the development a new data governance relationship. [80] With this in mind, the IRM researcher recommends that the GoC consider committing itself to engaging in Nation-to-Nation dialogue that is oriented toward articulating a new shared vision for a new data governance relationship. Once a shared vision has been agreed upon, the parties could then collaboratively decide how best to put it in practice.

[69] There are some 50 unique Nations and Indigenous languages spanning 630 First Nation communities across Canada with territories extending across provincial and territorial boundaries. There is approximately 65,000 Inuit living in Canada, many of whom live in 53 communities spanning the northern regions of Canada (Inuvialuit (NWT and Yukon); Nunavik (Northern Quebec); Nunatsiavut (Labrador); and Nunavut. Some 500,000 Canadian self-identify as Métis and reside throughout Canada’s provinces and territories. See, Government of Canada (2017). Indigenous Peoples and Communities. https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100013785/1529102490303
[71] Open North and the British Columbia First Nations Data Governance Initiative (BCFNDGI) (2017). Decolonizing Data: Indigenous Data Sovereignty Primer. https://www.bcfndgi.com/s/Decolonizing-Data-FN_DATA_SOVEREIGNTY_PAPER.docx
[72] The First Nations Information Governance Centre (2019). First Nations data sovereignty in Canada, Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 35(1): 47-69.; First Nations Information Governance Centre (2016). 8 Pathways to First Nations’ data and information sovereignty. In, Kukutai, Tahu, and John Taylor, (Eds.). Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward An Agenda. (Pp. 139-156). Canberra: Australian National University Press; Trevethan, Shelley (2019). Strengthening the Availability of First Nations Data. Report prepared for Indigenous Services Canada & The Assembly of First Nations. (January 30). https://www.afn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/NCR-11176060-v1-STRENGTHENING_THE_AVAILABILITY_OF_FIRST_NATIONS_DATA-MAR_25_2019-FINAL_E.pdf
[73] The Nations present at the 2016 Annual General Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations passed Resolution 57/2016, recognizing “Indigenous data sovereignty as a cornerstone of nation rebuilding,” calling upon the federal government to fund:
  1. Engagement on data governance between First Nations leadership within each respective region.
  2. The establishment of a First Nation data governance champion in each region, identified by First Nations regions themselves.
  3. The development of fully functional regional First Nations information government centres.
  4. Coordination of First Nations regions, data governance champions and national partners to establish a national First Nations data governance strategy
See, Assembly of First Nations (2016). Resolution 57/2016. Annual General Meeting. Niagara Falls. https://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/2016_aga_resolutions_1-69_fe2.pdf.pdf
[74] The concept of data sovereignty refers to Indigenous peoples’ “right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as their right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over these” (p.xxii). Kukutai, Tahu, and John Taylor, (Eds.) (2016). Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward An Agenda. (p. xxii) Canberra: Australian National University Press.
[75] Nickerson, Marcia (2017, May). First Nations’ Data Governance: Measuring the Nation-to-Nation Relationship. Discussion Paper Prepared for the British Columbia First Nations’ Data Governance Initiative. https://www.bcfndgi.com/s/NATION-TO-NATION_FN_DATA_GOVERNANCE_-_FINAL_-_EN.DOCX
[76] See, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (2018). National Inuit Strategy on Research. https://www.itk.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ITK_NISR-Report_English_low_res.pdf. The Manitoba Inuit Association is committed to Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ). As specified in the University of Manitoba Framework for Research Engagement with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples (p. 14), the latter is “an Inuktitut phrase that is often translated as “Inuit traditional knowledge”, “Inuit traditional institutions” or even “Inuit traditional technology”. It is often abbreviated as “IQ”. It comes from the verb root “qaujima-” meaning “to know” and could be literally translated as “that which has long been known by Inuit”, and used to mean the integration of traditional culture of the Inuit more into their modern governance structure in order to combat disempowerment.” See, University of Manitoba. (2016). University of Manitoba Framework for Research Engagement with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples. https://umanitoba.ca/faculties/health_sciences/medicine/media/UofM_Framework_Report_web.pdf
[77] OCAS is an acronym for Ownership, Control, Access and Stewardship. Ownership refers to the legal possession of something. Control refers to the power to make decisions about something and decide what should happen. Access refers to the right or opportunity to use something that will bring benefits. Stewardship speaks to issues of responsible planning and management of resources. See, University of Manitoba. (2016). University of Manitoba Framework for Research Engagement with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples. https://umanitoba.ca/faculties/health_sciences/medicine/media/UofM_Framework_Report_web.pdf
[78] See, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (2018). National Inuit Strategy on Research. https://www.itk.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ITK_NISR-Report_English_low_res.pdf.
[79] See, University of Manitoba. (2016). University of Manitoba Framework for Research Engagement with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Peoples. https://umanitoba.ca/faculties/health_sciences/medicine/media/UofM_Framework_Report_web.pdf
[80] See, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (2018). A new approach: Co-development of a new fiscal relationship between Canada and First Nations. https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1516389497863/1516389603336. See also, https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1499805218096/1521125536314.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership