Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Yellowhead Institute launches today

The Yellowhead Institute, which declares itself to be the first fully indigenous think tank in Canada, launches today in Toronto.
The Institute is a First Nation-led research centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario.
Outside of First Nation political organizations, activists, or academics, there is no national entity bringing an evidence-based, non-partisan, and community-first perspectives to the discussions. This is a glaring absence in First Nations ability to organize and mobilize to protect their rights and jurisdiction. The Yellowhead Institute aims to address this gap.
The Institute takes its name from William Yellowhead, an 18th and 19th century Ojibwa leader in what is now Ontario (DCB biography here), but it proposes to have national reach. Indeed, one of the talking points of executive director Hayden King is how commentary on indigenous matters in Canada continues to be dominated by non-indigenous experts.  Calling up a think tank from the list of resources is a reflex action for journalists and producers looking for a quick comment. Clearly the Yellowhead aims to put its people on those contact lists.

The Institute intends to offer "critical and accessible resources for communities in their pursuit of self-determination." and it launches with a flurry of reports and research papers. The key one may be today's special report Canada’s Emerging Indigenous Rights Framework: A Critical AnalysisFrom the overview:
Justin Trudeau ran on an election platform of changing the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples in Canada. Trudeau promised a new nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition of Indigenous rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Over halfway into his mandate as Prime Minister, some clarity is emerging on the scope of that nation-to-nation relationship. In February 2018, Trudeau announced the development of a new and transformational Indigenous Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework.
Since then, a suite of legislation and policy has been rapidly deployed. It includes fiscal policy, omnibus legislation, changes in negotiations for land and self-government, two new ministries of Indian Affairs and dozens of tables, working groups, MOUs, and related government initiatives. 
Yet, there is scarce comprehensive analysis on the meaning and trajectory of Canada’s approach.
Our report finds that the Rights Framework expresses a clear and coherent set of goals, which revolve around domesticating Indigenous self-determination within Canadian Confederation. These goals have been ordered into legislation and policy in a manner that guides First Nations towards a narrow model of “self-government” outside of the Indian Act. [emphasis in original]
Good luck to the Yellowhead Institute and its focus on "policies related to land and governance."  Is it significant that it launches within Ryerson University rather than one of Toronto's larger and older and richer universities? If some philanthropist has a million bucks ready to give to a worthy institute, this could be the one.

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