Indigenous Community Development National Strategy
The purpose of the Indigenous Community Development National Strategy is to guide Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) in building and investing in effective and sustainable Indigenous communities, government and services.
"Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions."
Table of contents
Community development is a process for building and investing in effective and sustainable Indigenous communities, government and services. The Government of Canada has traditionally supported communities through targeted programs with inflexible requirements. Not all Indigenous communities have benefited from this approach. In order to move forward, the impact of government programs and policy on Indigenous communities must be acknowledged and a true nation-to-nation partnership must be pursued.
The Indigenous Community Development National Strategy will empower Indigenous communities to set objectives and measure their own progress and performance toward meeting those goals. ISC and CIRNAC will facilitate the collection of relevant and mutually beneficial data and metrics to ensure that government decisions at all levels are informed by accurate information. Relevant data and agreed-upon performance metrics will be collected to assist in measuring system performance through the implementation of this strategy.
The strategy supports community development through a holistic, strength-based, and community-led process with the principles of cultural competence and respect for Indigenous knowledge at its core. The strategy is designed to guide the Government of Canada in supporting Indigenous peoples and communities according to their self-determined priorities. It can be applied in a flexible way to meet unique and diverse regional needs.
ISC and CIRNAC commit to the implementation of the strategy through four pillars.
Pillar 1: Support community-driven, nation-based planning initiatives and capacity building through:
- dedicated multi-year funding for planning initiatives, such as comprehensive community planning
- funding for capacity building, as requested by Indigenous communities
Pillar 2: Support Indigenous community-to-community learning by identifying:
- funding to bring Indigenous communities of practice together to share knowledge one-on-one, in small groups and in regional and national workshops
- funding for tools and the development of resources that can be shared across communities, such as handbooks and websites
- opportunities to facilitate connections and provide learning opportunities between Indigenous communities and ISC and CIRNAC officials
- support the implementation of community plans and the alignment of programs and initiatives
- opportunities for more funding to remain in Indigenous communities in order to build capacity
Pillar 3: Build and strengthen collaboration and partnerships within and across government departments to implement priorities identified by Indigenous communities through:
- developing integrated support teams and interdepartmental committees with strong community and partner participation
- engaging other regions, departments, governments and relevant partners
- developing and sharing national and regional tools, such as a planning repository and resource compendium
- aligning funding with community planning objectives and engaging governments and relevant partners to consider existing planning documents as applications for funding to invest in community-identified priorities and remove administrative burden
Pillar 4: Strengthen government's awareness of cultural diversity through:
- making Indigenous community development training available to all federal public servants
- hosting information sessions to showcase Indigenous success stories
Indigenous communities were stable and successful civilizations for thousands of years. Many now are still rebuilding and restabilising their traditions and culture after the impacts of colonization and residential schools. Generations of inherited traditional knowledge is deeply rooted in Indigenous cultures and languages. Many Indigenous nations share a common philosophy of planning for the future generations by bringing forward teachings from the past.
The Government of Canada has traditionally supported communities through targeted programs that had inflexible requirements. Some Indigenous communities have faced challenges and barriers as a result of this approach. In order to move forward, this impact on Indigenous communities must be acknowledged and a true nation-to-nation partnership must be supported.
Community development is a process for rebuilding and investing in effective and sustainable Indigenous government and services, making it is a fundamental aspect of nation rebuilding.
The strategy supports community development through a holistic, strength-based, and community-led process, which holds, at its core, the principles of cultural diversity and respect for Indigenous knowledge. The strategy is designed to bring together best practices in community development to assist in building a nationally sustainable model that serves all Indigenous peoples in Canada. It can be applied in a flexible way to meet the unique and diverse needs of the nations from each region.
Indigenous communities have indicated that:
- change must start within the community
- governments need to move away from program-oriented approaches and instead provide coordinated, streamlined support in response to a community's priorities
- community development requires a long-term commitment from the federal government
This national strategy was made possible by the hard work of the National Indigenous Community Development Working Group, which was established with representatives from First Nations, Indigenous organizations, ISC and CIRNAC.
To ensure that the strategy is informed by the Indigenous communities it proposes to serve, the strategy includes an ongoing engagement process with Indigenous community advisors in each region of the country that have experience in Indigenous community development.
Coordination with other government departments and non-government organizations is essential in advancing Indigenous community development. ISC and CIRNAC officials will foster partnerships and new relationships with Indigenous communities and other federal and regional partners, honouring diversity and building upon innovation and creativity.
In the spirit of reconciliation, ISC and CIRNAC will partner with Indigenous peoples to support and implement community-driven, nation-based community development and planning initiatives that engage Indigenous peoples in expressing their own strengths and visions for the future.
The vision of the national strategy is to support healthy, vibrant and self-determining Indigenous peoples and communities by improving their social well-being and sustaining economic prosperity.
Indigenous community development can be effective and sustainable by ensuring:
- initiatives are community-driven and nation-based
- recognition and respect is given for diverse Indigenous cultures, languages and values
- Indigenous community-to-community learning is promoted
- investments are made in capacity building, planning and implementation
- government and partners are flexible, integrated and responsive to the diverse needs and priorities expressed by Indigenous communities
Pillars of the strategy
Four pillars form the foundation of the strategy:
Pillar 1: Support community-driven, nation-based planning initiatives and capacity building
ISC and CIRNAC commits to support community-driven, nation-based planning processes and related initiatives, such as comprehensive community planning, to reflect inclusive engagement of Indigenous communities that wish to develop their own vision and priorities.
Comprehensive community planning includes the development of goals, objectives and a plan of action to work towards fulfilling the community's vision, including elements of social, economic and physical community environments. Planning will support communities as they develop their short, medium or long-term plans that will identify key priorities in the areas of:
- family and education
- land and environment
- infrastructure and housing
Planning will benefit communities by creating positive change in a proactive way. Once in place, effective plans can:
- empower the community
- The community becomes more self-aware, creates its own future, and has the tools to respond to change in an effective manner. The community also has ownership of the plan and consequently, its future.
- improve performance
- Planning supports will inform decision-making, combine fragmented efforts, decrease duplication, enable efficient use of resources, and identify and address organizational problems.
- build teamwork and expertise
- Planning improves communication within the community, builds employment skills and supports capacity-building efforts.
Planning renewal is based on community needs, identified priorities and available funding support. Each community will determine how to approach its planning. Short-term and achievable goals will be the immediate focus and will become the foundation for future success. It is the community's vision of development that is important.
ISC and CIRNAC commit to support community-driven, nation-based planning initiatives and capacity building by identifying:
- dedicated, flexible, multi-year funding for planning initiatives such as comprehensive community planning
- funding for capacity building as requested by Indigenous communities
Pillar 2: Support Indigenous community-to-community learning
Indigenous peoples have consistently stated that one of the greatest capacity investments government can make is facilitating Indigenous community-to-community learning.
Learning from the experiences and best practices of other communities and building supportive relationships will increase the likelihood of success for all involved. There is a growing national network of community planning mentors from Indigenous communities. The mentorship approach supports the transfer of capacity from one Indigenous community to another in the areas of training, planning, community engagement and communications. The goal of this approach is to increase the likelihood that community initiatives are developed from within the communities.
There is also an opportunity to build on the success of the comprehensive community planning mentorship initiative by supporting the expansion of community-to-community learning into other sectors such as housing and economic and social development. For example, in communities, clusters of experienced and less experienced social development employees have expressed interest in coming together as a community of practice to learn from one another. ISC and CIRNAC has provided funding to support First Nation employees to meet and identify ways in which they feel they will best learn from each other, through group training sessions and one to one coaching. ISC and CIRNAC will continue to support the expansion of other sector-based community-to-community learning by providing the necessary tools and resources to bring interested communities of practice together to determine how they would best learn from each other.
ISC and CIRNAC commit to support Indigenous community-to-community learning by identifying:
- funding to bring Indigenous communities of practice together to share knowledge one-on-one, in small groups, and in regional and national workshops
- funding for tools and resource development, such as handbooks and websites
- opportunities to facilitate connections and provide learning opportunities between Indigenous communities and ISC and CIRNAC officials to support implementation of plans
- opportunities for more funding to remain in Indigenous communities to build capacity
Pillar 3: Build and strengthen collaboration and partnerships within and across government departments to implement priorities identified by indigenous communities
Building partnerships between Indigenous communities, all levels of government, and other key partners is important to the success of the strategy. Diverse partnerships will be required to suit the priorities of each Indigenous community. Partners within federal, provincial, and municipal governments, as well as private industry, may be invited by the communities to participate in community development processes so the organizations can be well positioned to support the implementation of priorities identified by Indigenous communities.
ISC and CIRNAC regions have developed or are developing new committee structures and mechanisms that support collaboration across sectors, government departments, and with external partners in support of sustainable, community-led development. Regional committees, for example, bring together representatives from other government departments which, in collaboration with communities, support capacity building or programming in priority areas. The strategy encourages the building of stronger relationships with communities by strengthening collaboration, support and communication.
A primary focus of ISC and CIRNAC collaboration is integration of services and programs across portfolios in every region. Regional ISC and CIRNAC coordination committees, working in collaboration with communities, are able to affect positive change by providing support to communities in areas of governance, financial management, and administration. These interdepartmental committees work alongside communities and can help to identify community development strategies, best practices, and implementation opportunities or challenges. The committees can also recommend solutions and enhancements to service delivery. Cross-functional government committees will facilitate and connect Indigenous communities to appropriate sector resources and tools.
Silos within government departments and sectors are consistently identified as a barrier for Indigenous communities. Improved internal communication and a streamlined funding application process is required to improve the relationship between Indigenous communities and ISC and CIRNAC. The departments will collate available resources to support community-based outcomes and make these documents available to staff and partners.
ISC and CIRNAC commit to collaboration and integration within and across government departments by:
- developing integrated support teams and cross-directorate committees with strong community and partner participation
- engaging other regions, departments, governments and relevant partners in community development
- developing and sharing national and regional tools, such as a planning repository and resource compendium
- aligning funding with community planning objectives and engaging governments and relevant partners to consider existing planning documents as initial applications for funding to remove administrative burden
Pillar 4: Strengthen government's awareness of cultural diversity
In order for federal employees to effectively support sustainable community development in Indigenous communities, it is essential that the department fosters a learning environment in the public service that recognizes a responsibility to engage in reconciliation. This renewal of the relationship with Indigenous peoples needs to be community-driven with nation-based relationships that are respectful of Indigenous languages and cultures.
The diversity of Indigenous cultures and communities in Canada results in unique approaches to community development. The Government of Canada supports the right of Indigenous peoples to practice self-determination in the planning and development of their own communities.
Indigenous community development training sessions are designed for federal employees to enhance their knowledge of community development processes. These intensive, interactive two-day workshops focus on building respect for cultural diversity as a key skill in fostering effective relationships with Indigenous communities.
ISC and CIRNAC will continue to promote a strong learning environment by offering information sessions to showcase Indigenous success stories and completed comprehensive community plans. This is also an opportunity to increase employee knowledge of a community's development priorities. These events can be opened up to all federal departments and partners. ISC and CIRNAC will support the capacity development of employees from other government levels and departments, as well as non-government organizations that are involved in community development, by offering:
- access to Indigenous community development training
- information sessions in interdepartmental committees and community support team meetings.
ISC and CIRNAC commit to strengthening government awareness of cultural diversity by:
- making Indigenous community development training available to all federal public servants
- this training will be experiential, reflection-based, relational and conducted in Indigenous communities as often as possible
- hosting information sessions to showcase Indigenous success stories, completed comprehensive community plans and other community developments
Real world indicators selected by Indigenous communities that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative measures are best used in measuring the progress of community development. Socio-economic indicators that relate to local priorities provide a more accurate accounting for outcomes achieved by investments, ensuring that funding is spent effectively to achieve the community's goals.
Indigenous communities should be empowered to manage their own data and measure their own progress and performance. In 2007, the Assembly of First Nations produced the OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access and Possession) principles to affirm the inherent right of First Nations to govern their own data. First Nations have expressed challenges in accessing data, as it is housed across several government departments with separate contacts and processes to access it. Some indicators of community wellbeing are also not currently measured, or several competing sources and inconsistent methodologies are used to measure a single indicator.
The strategy highlights the further work required to make relevant data and metrics available to Indigenous communities and partners to ensure government decisions at all levels are informed by proper data and information. Consideration must also be given to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
As the principles of community development become embedded across ISC and CIRNAC, reporting requirements for Indigenous communities will be revised to decrease the reporting burden, increase local relevancy and demonstrate a partnership-based approach. This will further allow Indigenous communities to focus their time and resources on improving social wellbeing and economic prosperity.
Considerations and future direction
Community development is a values-based approach meant to support sustainable Indigenous communities. The Indigenous Community Development National Strategy principles must be embedded in everything the Government of Canada does, with the support of partners, to effect long-term change. Indigenous communities must be supported to successfully and meaningfully contribute to their long-term social wellbeing and economic prosperity.
Many recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report were considered in the development of this strategy. As ISC and CIRNAC progress with implementing the strategy, it will be important to identify best practices and lessons learned, as well as to support Indigenous communities in developing common approaches for tracking progress and measuring results.
As the nation-to-nation relationship continues to advance, the strategy will also advance, further enabling planning for community development, nation rebuilding and the health and wellbeing of Indigenous citizens. The national strategy will be updated as required, allowing the outcomes and measurements to reflect new best practices and success stories from across the country. Noting that planning is only one part of the governance process, it is critical that the investment, management and reporting functions within ISC and CIRNAC, Indigenous communities, Indigenous organizations and across all governments, are transformed as well.
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