When it Comes to First Nations, Trudeau Doesn’t Get it
Consider a so-called environmentalist who supports buying pipelines with taxpayers’ money.
Or reconciliation while ignoring First Nations demanding free prior and informed consent.
This is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it, the-world-is-upside-down Liberal vision, where words have no meaning and they can say anything.
Or at least they think they can, but increasingly, Canadians aren’t buying their fake bill of goods.
At the nomination for a clearly now ex-environmentalist since he’s running for the pro-pipeline Liberals, Steven Guilbeault and Justin Trudeau were protested for their lack of respect of Indigenous rights and their faux progressivism on the environment. Expect plenty more of it until the Liberals change their ways.
“There are Indigenous communities who want to see this move forward,” Trudeau replied to protests. “Why are you delegitimizing the Indigenous communities who support the energy industry?”
But where was this standing up for Indigenous rights when it comes to the mould crisis facing First Nations? Where was the commitment to reconciliation when the people of Grassy Narrows asked for a mercury treatment centre? Or clean drinking water in Attawapiskat?
This government will champion First Nations when it’s convenient and justifies its pro-corporate agenda, but turns its back when it’s hard.
I see it every day as I travel through our riding in Northern Manitoba. I see communities where overwhelmingly, homes are overcrowded and infected with mould. I see communities living in isolation due to the government’s refusal to invest in an all-weather road system and an ice road season that, due to climate change, is increasingly shorter.
Nearly two thirds of the children in our riding live in poverty. Across Canada, on reserve child poverty is more than 50 per cent. Despite the Liberal rhetoric, communities like the ones I represent are being left further behind. Tragically, First Nations aren’t asking for much from this prime minister — they are simply asking him to live up to his promises.
Instead of buying new fridges for billionaires, maybe invest enough money into First Nation housing. When there are at times 20 people living in one home, the current investments aren’t cutting it. The NDP will implement co-developed First Nations, Métis and Inuit housing strategies, to put an end to overcrowding and to make sure the homes are safe and healthy.
Instead of giving billions of dollars to the oil industry, invest that money in First Nation education, which is sorely underfunded. Give children the opportunity to learn their own languages. Allow them the skills they need for a better life because the current lack of investment is keeping them in enforced poverty. An NDP government will ensure that every child is provided a safe place to learn and an opportunity to succeed, whether on or off reserve.
Stand up for First Nation health needs, which are constantly being cut; medical services cuts that make it increasingly difficult to have support for travel, for translation and for adequate support for some of the most marginalized people in Indigenous communities. Examples include dialysis machines in Berens River, emergency health evacuations by LifeFlight, a birthing centre in Flin Flon. When these services that First Nations in our riding depend on were under attack, the government was silent.
The prime minister likes to say that no relationship is more important to him than the one with First Nations. It’s well past time he showed it.
This Opinion originally appeared in The Star on July 22, 2019