Building Better in 2021
Panelists: Perry Bellegarde, Margaret MacMillan, Moderator: The Hon. Jean Augustine
June 29, 2021
As Canadians begin their long-awaited summer, they have much to cherish, much to mourn and much to confront and reflect upon. Over the past year, those living in Canada have come together across the land and around the world to survive the first waves of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic that has killed and harmed too many, but brought out the best in so many in different ways. As we honour their lives and our frontline health heroes, we highlight the contributions of those behind the scenes who have “had our backs” during the crisis and are leading our current effort to “build better” as we create the many opportunities that await. Yet we equally must address the many inequalities that the pandemic has intensified, the tragedies from our past that have now come to light, and the other shortcomings we still must repair. Inspired by over a century of hard won success in overcoming costly pandemics, economic recessions and foreign conflicts, we draw strength from the committed, creative contemporaries from the First Nations, academic and other communities who now lead the way in building a better, fairer, more inclusive and just community at home and abroad.
The Hon. Jean Augustine, First Black Woman elected to the Parliament of Canada & former Cabinet Minister of Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Jean Augustine made history as the first Black Woman elected to Canada’s Parliament and served from 1993-2006.
Her tenure included distinguished service as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; Minister of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women; Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
Her legislative successes include the historic Black History Month Motion; and the ground-breaking Famous Five Motion, which authorized the first and still the only statues on Parliament Hill depicting women – – other than Queen Elizabeth.
From 2007 to 2015, she served as Ontario’s first-ever Fairness Commissioner.
In 2008, the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora was launched at York University to help advance education, equity and inclusiveness.
Also in her name are a Girls’ Leadership Academy in Scarborough; a Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment and a municipal park in Etobicoke; a Secondary School in Brampton, and a multi-purpose complex and district park in Vaughan.
A member of the Order of Canada, Order of Ontario and Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Jean Augustine holds honourary doctorates from the universities of McGill, Toronto, York, Windsor, Guelph, Trent and Ryerson; is a senior fellow at Centennial and Massey College; and supports scholarships at George Brown, Centennial and Humber College.
Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
Perry Bellegarde was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. He holds a wealth of leadership experience, having spent the past three decades putting into practice his strong beliefs in the laws and traditions instilled in him by the many Chiefs and Elders he has known over the years. At the community, national and international levels, Chief Bellegarde is recognized for sound fiscal management and skillfully navigating highly complex policy, political and legal matters to achieve meaningful change, while strengthening relationships along the way.
Originally from Little Black Bear First Nation in Treaty 4 Territory, Chief Bellegarde served as Tribal Council Representative for the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Saskatchewan Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), as well as Chief and Councillor for the Little Black Bear First Nation. In 2014, the Chiefs-in-Assembly elected Perry as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and re-elected him in 2018.
Since 2015, National Chief Bellegarde has engaged in regular diplomacy with the Office of the Papal Nuncio in Ottawa, as well as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops with whom he meets at least twice year to advocate for concrete steps to advance reconciliation and healing from the trauma of colonialism, including the Indian Residential School System in which the Church played a significant role.
Since his election in 2014, Chief Bellegarde has fostered an era of highly productive dialogue between AFN leadership and federal ministers. His first national platform and agenda, Closing the Gap, directly influenced the federal government’s planning and priorities, and his current platform, Honouring Promises, continues this momentum. After a 20-year-long federal funding cap, Closing the Gap resulted in investments over the last four budgets of more than $21 billion, which is four times what the 2006 Kelowna Accord was to have committed. Of this, $3.3 billion is committed to on-reserve education, and $1.4 billion to child welfare.
Chief Bellegarde’s focused approach has also resulted in:
- The passage of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, which will support the reclamation, revitalization, maintaining and strengthening of Indigenous languages in Canada;
- The passage of Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families;
- Upholding the right of First Nations to define our own paths to self-determination; and
- A new fiscal relationship with the Crown that treats First Nations as governments in fiscal matters.
Chief Bellegarde, an oskâpêwis or helper, uses his life to advance First Nations priorities. As the first Treaty Indian to graduate from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Administration, he led Little Black Bear First Nation out of third-party management within eight months of being elected Chief and facilitated Little Black Bear’s re-qualification for CMHC housing after a 13-year period with no new houses. At the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, Chief Bellegarde worked to restore the original Treaty 4 grounds to reserve status in the town of Fort Qu’Appelle. He also facilitated the transfer of the hospital to First Nations control leading the way to a new multi-million-dollar hospital—the All Nations Healing Hospital.
At FSIN, he negotiated a 25-year gaming agreement with the provincial government, stabilizing the Saskatchewan First Nations gaming industry which employs more than 2,000 people. As a Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, he worked alongside the National First Nations Veterans Association to spearhead the national compensation package for First Nations Veterans and their spouses.
In 2012, Chief Bellegarde graduated from the Certified Corporate Board Training through The Directors College sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada and McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business. He is an active champion of First Nations inclusion, and he has since served on a wide range of boards: Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, YMCA Canada, YMCA Regina, the Globe Theatre, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority and many more. `
Chief Bellegarde’s strategic diplomacy has built relationships, advanced understanding, and inspired action on the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples. He is always a willing partner in the global struggle to advance the enjoyment of human rights and ending all forms of discrimination. He has also raised the international profile of First Nations expertise on the climate crisis and sustainable development from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to the recently announced World Economic Forum’s initiative, The Great Reset, to promote meaningful sustainable development initiatives.
Recently, his sustained leadership has led to:
- Canada finally expressing unqualified support for the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
- a federal litigation directive requiring Justice Canada to adopt an approach to litigation that more fully respects the inherent rights of First Nations
- historic advances in ending racial discrimination in federal funding of child and family services for First Nations.
- Inclusion of an Indigenous Chapter in the final Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), as a result of his advocacy as a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Advisory Council
Chief Bellegarde has been named the Stapleford Lecturer at the University of Regina, and has been awarded the Confederation Medal, the Saskatchewan Medal and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal on two separate occasions. In 2019, he was recognized with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and was awarded an Honourary Doctorate of Law from Queen’s University.
Chief Bellegarde remains committed to leading and building consensus to resolve issues that benefit First Nations and inspire unity. Throughout his life, working within a variety of political processes, he remains grateful for the strength and vision he has gained from the Elders. He vows to always place great importance on respecting their teachings. Their guidance has made him a man of foresight and a leader for generations.
Margaret MacMillan, Professor of History, University of Toronto and Oxford University
Margaret MacMillan (Toronto and Oxford) is a professor of History at the University of Toronto and an emeritus professor of International History at Oxford University. She was Provost of Trinity College, Toronto from 2002-2007 and Warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford from 2007-2017. She is currently a trustee of the Central European University and the Imperial War Museum. Her research specializes in British imperial history and the international history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Publications include War: How Conflict Shaped Us, Paris, 1919, and The War that Ended Peace. She gave the CBC’s Massey lectures in 2015 and the BBC’s Reith Lectures in 2018. Awards include the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction and the Governor-General’s literary award. She has honorary degrees from several universities and is an honorary Fellow of the British Academy. She is also a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Companion of Honour (UK).