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CBSA marks the one-year anniversary of the Indigenous Affairs Secretariat

James Marchand performing a smudging ceremony at the CBSA training college in Rigaud, Quebec for Indigenous Day 2018

CBSA is committed to improving its relationship with Indigenous Peoples, which is why just over one year ago it launched the Indigenous Affairs Secretariat (IAS). The IAS collaborates with colleagues across the Agency to build a culture where Indigenous affairs are at the forefront of CBSA considerations, both as a workplace and as a border enforcement agency. The Secretariat leads work to guide the relationship between the Agency and Indigenous communities and travellers so that respect for Indigenous Peoples as well as for the mandate of the CBSA are at equal play.

The past year has seen the Secretariat establish itself as the hub for Indigenous matters within the Agency while also working with external stakeholders, performing strengthened outreach and cooperation with Indigenous communities across Canada. A focus for the IAS continues to be the development of a strategy to recruit more Indigenous border services officers and to make the CBSA an employer of choice for Indigenous Peoples throughout their careers. As well, to support the CBSA's commitment to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission's recommendations (Calls To Action), namely that all government departments provide ongoing education and awareness to public servants with regards to Indigenous cultural competency and Indigenous Peoples' inherent rights, the Secretariat has been supporting work on enhanced training on Indigenous cultures for CBSA staff.

On behalf of CBSA, the Secretariat is working in partnership with First Nations communities to address long-standing Canada-United States border-crossing concerns. The CBSA recognizes that the border can present challenges to the mobility, traditional practices, economic opportunities, and family and cultural ties of First Nations Peoples. Specific concerns and measures to address these challenges were outlined in the 2017 Report on First Nation border crossing issues by the Minister's Special Representative. In December 2018, Minister Ralph Goodale, along with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, announced the implementation of specific short-term measures designed to begin the work of addressing long-standing border-crossing issues for First Nations. In one example of the measures announced, CBSA is working with the Mohawks of Akwesasne First Nation on a Design Thinking Initiative (DTI), an innovative approach to solving complex and long-standing border-crossing issues.

As well, in late 2018, CBSA, in partnership with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, unveiled signage adding the Mohawk language at the Cornwall port of entry. The trilingual signage is intended to acknowledge members of the Mohawk community.

Finally, the IAS is actively engaging with colleagues across the Government of Canada on Indigenous matters. It has been providing input, on behalf of CBSA, into Global Affairs Canada's work leading the Arctic Policy Framework. This framework seeks to enable the Government of Canada to support long-term opportunities to build strong communities, robust economies, and sustainable environmental practices.

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