Yellowhead Briefs

Yellowhead Briefs provide a platform for perspectives from key thinkers on First Nations issues. 

Our Briefs focus on topical and pressing issues affecting communities on the ground and ideas that challenge the status quo. 


Balancing the Budget at Indigenous People’s Expense

What does the 2022 budget approach mean for Indigenous people, who have been consistently underfunded even when the Canadian government has made its largest investments? 

Residential School Records and Data Governance

In this brief, Ushnish Sengupta analyzes the role of data governance in contributing to discussing the full truth about residential schools, calling on the Government of Canada and institutions to uphold their promises to implement the TRC’s Calls To Action as it relates to residential school records.

Yellowhead Resources for Truth & Restitution

In the last Parliament, the Federal Government passed legislation to recognize September 30 as a statutory holiday to observe and learn. Yellowhead has curated here, a list of our own related resources for learning and education on this day and beyond.

Liberal Red, Conservative Blue, or Something New? A First Nation Voter’s Guide to the 2021 Federal Election

As the Canadian federal election approaches, Brock Pitawanakwat offers a comparison of party platforms and analysis of commitments being made to communities in the 2021 Canadian federal election.

Historic and Underwhelming: An Indigenous Analysis of Budget 2021

While the Federal 2021 budget has boasted of increased investment in Indigenous communities, Riley Yesno argues that it falls short of what is neccesary to transform systems of inequity and fulfill commitments to Indigenous communities.

The “New Normal”: Defending First Nations Jurisdiction During COVID-19

What do the Wet’suwet’en-CGL crisis and COVID-19 have in common? Both ignore Indigenous jurisdiction to devastating effects. Jade Dumoulin examines how Canada ignored international guidance on state pandemic response concerning Indigenous peoples and their rights.

Water is Life: The fatal links between water infrastructure, COVID-19, and First Nations in Canada

Boil water advisories are only the tip of the iceberg. In this brief, Jaida Beaudin reveals more breaking news on the impact of COVID on First Nations related to water issues.

Happy New Year to Everyone but Non-Status Kids: Jordan’s Principle & Canada’s Persistent Discrimination

If federal lawyers are successful in challenging the latest Candian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling on Jordan’s Principle, there are implications for Indigenous jurisdiction over citizenship. If a community recognizes a non-status child as a band member, shouldn’t they be eligible for Jordan’s Principle support? According to Canada, the answer is no. According to Damien Lee, this is ultimately an act of political violence.

Calls To Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update On Reconciliation Executive Summary

December 15, 2020 marks the five year anniversary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. In this in-depth analysis, enhanced by the expert insight of Indigenous leaders from across the country, Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby find that in 2020, Canada has completed no additional Calls to Action.

Jordan’s Principle 5 Years Later: A Band-Aid for Government Neglect?

As the dust continues to settle on the inaugural term of the United Conservative Government, many groups within the private, public and Indigenous sectors are grasping the full scope of ongoing and future harm. This briefs offers an analysis of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC), which was hailed as a “game changer” to allow First Nations in Alberta to participate in self-determination.

What’s at the “Core of Indianness”? Bill-C92, Labour & Indigenous Social Services

What do labour regulations have to do with the First Nation Child and Families Act? In this Brief, a team of researchers finds a gap in the new legislation that places First Nation child welfare workers in regulatory limbo between federal and provincial jurisdiction.

CIRN-ACK! Leaked Government document outlines the Indian Department’s “Indigenous Agenda” and “Accomplishments” for 2019-2020

In February 2019 Anishinaabeg communities in Ontario will vote to ratify a regional self-government agreement. While there are some expanded powers and new resources for communities, the Agreement is founded on outdated federal policies.


No such thing as natural disasters: Infrastructure and the First Nation fight against COVID-19

This Brief examines the recent commitments from the federal government in relation to the existing information about infrastructure deficits in First Nations. Specifically, how do physical distancing/isolation requirements align with housing, water, and health services needs in First Nations? 

Re-Affirming Indigenous Citizenships: Two Spirit Family-Making and the Future of Belonging

In the 35 years since Section 10 band membership codes began allowing First Nations to control their membership lists, an increasing number of people have challenged the ways their communities determine belonging. Authors of this brief show that two-spirit families are ushering in a new era of challenges that bring Section 10 heteropatriachy to the fore.

The Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation: A Critical Analysis

As the dust continues to settle on the inaugural term of the United Conservative Government, many groups within the private, public and Indigenous sectors are grasping the full scope of ongoing and future harm. This briefs offers an analysis of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC), which was hailed as a “game changer” to allow First Nations in Alberta to participate in self-determination.

Calls to Action Accountability: A Status Update on Reconciliation

In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its Executive Summary and 94 Calls to Action. This brief is a report card and analysis of the progress on the calls, assessing the completion of the 2015 Calls to Action. As of December 2019, only 9 of the calls have been completed.

Indigenous in Alberta: Considering the First 100 Days of UCP Rule

It has been a whirlwind 100 days for the United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta following the formal return of conservatism in April. Indigenous individuals and communities will be impacted greatly by the ongoing repeals and impending policy shifts arising from campaign promises. This brief considers what our communities stand to lose and what it will mean to be Indigenous in Alberta into the future.

Making the most out of Canada’s New Department of Indigenous Services Act

On July 15, 2019, two new federal laws came into effect: the Department of Indigenous Services Act (“DISA”) and Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act (“CIRNAA”).Together, these two acts replaced and repealed the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act, RSC 1985, c I-6 (the “DIAND Act”). This brief explains the new laws, and how DISA, particularly, is an improvement over the old DIAND Act.

Legislation Affecting Indigenous People: An Overview of the Liberal Record

At the end of this parliamentary session and the (near) end of the Government’s current four-year mandate, we can now more clearly take stock of the legislation affecting Indigenous peoples that actually made it through the legislative process. This brief provides an overview of the Bills affecting Indigenous people – those that have passed, those that will not move forward, and those in progress.

Reviewing The Fisheries Act: An Indigenous Perspective

Canada’s Fisheries Act has been and continues to be one of the most oppressive and one of the most contentious of these acts. This brief reviews the potential impact of the proposed amendments to the act that are currently being reviewed by the Senate.

A Critical Look at the New Fiscal Relationship and Contribution Funding Agreements with First Nations

As the federal government moves towards new Indigenous self-government and service delivery policies, the central component is a revised fiscal relations regime. However, from a treaty perspective, there remains concerns with the proposed funding model.

Lessons from Aotearoa: The Indigenous “exception” clause in Free Trade Agreements

This latest brief is a warning from Aotearoa about why Indigenous peoples should be concerned about USMCA, the new continental free trade agreement, framing exception clauses as “tools being used to circumvent our participation in the governance of our own territories.”

Straining a gnat but swallowing a camel: Policing First Nation fishers in northern Saskatchewan

Last month, the National Post ran a story titled, “Saskatchewan Launches 16-month undercover sting to catch First Nations man illegally selling $90 worth of fish. Seriously.” This brief contextualizes this instance within a larger context of power relations between government agenda and Indigenous peoples, accountability and surveillance.


UPDATE | The 176 Million Dollar Question: Are the Promised Federal Education Funds for First Nations Actually Flowing?

This brief examines the status of the $2.6 billion in new funding promised by the federal government for First Nation education. Since publishing this brief, the Department of Indigenous Services Canada contacted Yellowhead, providing specific information with respect to expenditures in First Nations elementary and secondary education.


Eliminating the Ontario Child Advocate Threatens the Rights of Indigenous Kids

Last week, the Ontario government announced the elimination of the independent office of the Ontario Child Advocate. This move severs the investigations and advocacy function previously housed in the Advocate’s office, cutting this critical level of oversight. Removing this protections for First Nations, Inuit and Metis children and youth should raise concern for every family and community.

Introducing Yellowhead Institute: Indigenous Strategies for Transformative Change

On October 23, 2018, Yellowhead Institute held an official launch event centred on the pending Indigenous Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework legislation. Here, we share highlights from the event and panel discussion, where three key themes emerged regarding the framework: Regional Contexts, Exclusion of Women, Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit Perspectives and Treaties, Relationship and the Land.


An Indigenous Housing Innovation Challenge? Start with the Foundation

Earlier this year the federal government launched the Indigenous Homes Innovation Challenge, an award of $30 million dollars for a project that improves people’s health, safety and security on reserves. Lost in the critique of this challenge, are any in-depth, community-based responses to the Challenge. This is not the ideal solution. But if there is genuine engagement with community needs, could it offer some relief?

Ewert v Canada: Supreme Court of Canada decides that systemic racism doesn’t make you a riskier offender

From the very first encounter with police, contact with the criminal justice system for Indigenous people is loaded with disproportionate penalties. A recent Supreme Court of Canada decision of R v Ewert finally recognized the critical role played by Correctional Service Canada that may be unjustly keeping Indigenous peoples behind bars for longer, under far worse conditions than their non-Indigenous incarcerated counterparts.

Better Late Than Never? Canada’s Reluctant Recognition of Métis Rights and Self-Government

While the emerging rights framework is certainly limited and based on the flawed presumption of Canadian sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, this new channel of dialogue with the Crown for the Métis National Council, its five governing members, and the Métis Settlement General Council is itself a fairly profound development.

On the Road to the New Reserve: Considering Canada’s Preferred Path to Land Restitution

Since 1987, Additions to Reserve Policy (ATR) has been Canada’s pathway for First Nations to create new reserves. Two years have passed since INAC finalized the most recent ATR policy. This brief reviews the impacts of changes and the challenges that still need to be addressed.

A Brief Assessment of Canada’s Collaborative Process on Indian Registration, Band Membership and First Nation Citizenship

Yellowhead Associate Fellow, Damien Lee considers the impending and dramatic changes to Indian Status rules and the consequences for Indigenous notions of belonging and relationality.

Fraser Institute: Property Rights for Everyone, Just not Indians

Clarifying misconceptions about Specific Claims outlined in Tom Flanagan’s most recent article, “Specific Claims and the Well-being of First Nations”, released recently by the Fraser Institute

The Gaping Holes in Ottawa’s Indigenous Fiscal Policy

Rather than address fundamental issues of land distribution, the federal government is prioritizing “fiscal capacity building” in an effort to prepare bands – not for self-determination – but for compliance with the self-government policy that does not expand the authority of First Nations over their traditional territories.


Can the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girl’s Inquiry be Reclaimed?

Given the challenges the Inquiry has faced to date, a number of issues need to be addressed in order to restore confidence in the Inquiry’s ability to affect change.

Splitting INAC: Coercive Fiscal Federalism in the Disguise of ‘Reconciliation’

Why is the split of INAC in line with the federal government’s neoliberal agenda? How does the restructuring of INAC support Canada to continue avoiding responsibility to First Nations?

Wholesale Rapid Removal of the Indian Act without Alternatives will be Met with Resistance

There is no question that the Indian Act must go. Its assimilation provisions, restrictions on mobility, violating nearly every treaty, aggressive patriarchy, and the dismantling of authentic First Nation governance models is all well documented. So the question becomes which path do we take from here?

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