In recent months, the Trudeau government has wrapped itself in enigma on its approach to native affairs. So it's welcome that the Prime Minister has now set up a working group of six cabinet ministers to review "laws and policies related to Indigenous Peoples."
Jody Wilson-Raybould will lead the group. That makes sense, not only because she's the Minister of Justice but also because she has a depth of knowledge and experience on this file, being an Indigenous leader herself.
Mr. Trudeau said in his announcement, "We are working on a complete renewal of Canada's nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples" – though of course there are many such nations and peoples in Canada, not just two big categories.
Given his controversial approval of Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain pipeline, the Prime Minister may be trying to refurbish his pro-Indigenous credentials by forming this working group.
In any case, the working group quite properly includes Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, so there are genuine grounds to hope that the upshot will show some real balance between the overambitious-sounding "complete renewal" of the nation-to-nation relationship and Canada's need to develop its natural resources.
When the Conservatives were in power, the Liberals and the NDP criticized the government for not enacting into Canadian law the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But among many other problems, UNDRIP purports to grant indigenous peoples the right to declare unilateral independence.
UNDRIP seems to say that every Indigenous community has the right to decide how the lands they use are developed – or left undeveloped. That's quite different from Canadian law, which may recognize a duty to consult others on the lands' use, but not an overriding priority for Indigenous peoples.
Last year, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said that UNDRIP couldn't be inserted "word for word" into Canadian law, and that "simplistic approaches" are "unworkable."
Fair enough. But the public is left with little hint on any non-simplistic approach. While the creation of this working group is welcome, we have no clue about what it will find workable.