Trudeau wants new relationship with Indigenous people to be his legacy as PM

Canada needs to keep up with Indigenous people, their aspirations and their goals, Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said

Rebuilding Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people is part of the legacy Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to leave, he told chiefs gathered at a major Assembly of First Nations meeting in Ottawa Tuesday afternoon.

“We have to help demonstrate with you that everything we do starts from recognizing the rights you already have that you shouldn’t have to take us to court to prove that you have,” said Trudeau, answering a question from Chief Wayne Christian of Splatsin First Nation in the B.C. Interior.

Trudeau said if his government is able to accomplish that, all future Canadian governments will have to follow suit.

“We will start from a place of partnership — the place we started all those centuries ago and unfortunately lost our way from. That is the legacy that I look forward to building with all of you in the coming years,” he said.

Christian had told Trudeau, in a question-and-answer session, that he had confronted Trudeau’s father Pierre in 1980 and accused him of lying to the world about what was happening in Canada to Indigenous people. The younger Trudeau’s account of Indigenous people’s experience of “humiliation, neglect and abuse” in a United Nations speech in 2017 was welcome, he said.

“I’m grateful that you actually corrected that when you went to the UN and made your statements,” Christian told him. “You let the world know the issues going on in Canada. So we really need to think about this and where are we going to go from here.”

The chiefs received Trudeau warmly, presenting him with a buckskin vest, and National Chief Perry Bellegarde shook his hand after he spoke.

Trudeau followed his own minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, Carolyn Bennett, who’d spoken earlier in the day and compared Canada’s formal way of relating to Indigenous people to “a big, leaky old colonial boat.”

“For years we’ve tried to patch this old wreck and we’ve been bailing it with a thimble. We all know that this isn’t going to work,” Bennett said.

Bennett said Canada needs to keep up with Indigenous people, their aspirations and their goals.

“I believe Canada needs to get out of that colonialist boat, run it ashore, leave it to rot or at least put it up, drydock and rebuild it. We need a vessel that can navigate the changing waters, one that can keep pace with your vision and aspiration. One that is no longer holding back the promise for your children and grandchildren and their grandchildren,” Bennett said.

Moving away from the 1876 Indian Act that largely defines relations between Canada and Indigenous Peoples is a mutual goal and repeated that the federal government will introduce legislation on Indigenous child-and-family services in the new year, written in co-operation with Indigenous groups.

“We want to work on this new ship and we want to get it in the water because we know the current is with us.”

Bellegarde told the chiefs that he wants to see a few key pieces of legislation passed before the House of Commons rises in June and an election campaign takes over federal politics, including the child-welfare legislation, the long-awaited Indigenous Languages Act, and NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s bill, which seeks to ensure Canada’s laws line up with the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bellegarde also spoke about climate change and asked the chiefs and delegates to support a carbon tax as one way to head it off.

He talked about putting his organization’s “Closing the Gap” document in front of each party during the last federal election. It outlined priorities on everything from the environment to Indigenous languages.

Bellegarde said First Nations voters were responsible for flipping 22 ridings in the 2015 federal election.

“You people running in federal elections, you better listen to First Nations issues now if you want to get elected,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May are all on the program for the third day of the chiefs’ assembly, on Thursday.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Busking in Burns Lake

Rodney Plasway plays his violin on the corner of Francois Lake Drive… Continue reading

Raine Hamilton Trio plays Burns Lake

The Raine Hamilton Trio performed their acoustic chamber folk tunes for the… Continue reading

Northwest mobile unit to help those at heart of mental health, addiction crisis

Province, Northern Health unveils new unit in Terrace to bridge gaps in services

Dust advisory from Smithers to Burns Lake

Smithers, Houston and Burns Lake dusty enough to warrant an air quality advisory.

Bumpy ride through town

The recently warming temperatures have seen melt water pool in the potholes… Continue reading

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Father-son duo at B.C. Children’s Hospital helps new dads fight depression

The pair teamed up to introduce the only known research-based mindfulness workshop for new dads

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

Most Read