Canada's political parties need to offer up clear steps for how they'd address poverty among the country's aboriginal citizens, Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine urged Monday.
In a statement to the media in Ottawa, Fontaine said all parties had expressed a desire to ameliorate the enduring marginalization of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples back in June, when the federal government issues a historic apology for the forced relocation, during more than a century, of native children to residential schools.
"We are calling on all federal parties to put their words into action," Fontaine said. "We've witnessed a growing awareness among all Canadians about the level of poverty in our communities."
Fontaine cited figures from Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report in May that shed light on a vast underfunding of aboriginal schools and child-welfare services.
"First Nations schools receive $2,000 less per child than children in provincial schools. As the auditor general pointed out, inequitable funding leads to inequitable care."
The Assembly of First Nations is urging aboriginal voters, and youth voters in particular, to broach these and related issues during the campaign leading up to the Oct. 14 vote. It has designated Monday as National Day of Political Action to raise awareness.
"I think the word is spreading slowly, but definitely, that the First Nations youth across Canada will have a meaningful impact on this election now more than ever before," said Nicole Minde, the assembly's national youth co-chair.
"Last election, more than 50 ridings resulted in a candidate coming down to a very narrow margin of votes. There are more than 115,000 First Nations youth of voting age who can affect the outcome of this election," Minde added, suggesting that aboriginal youth call candidates in their riding, go to debates and ask questions.
The assembly's appeal comes a day after an international campaign called Make Poverty History outed Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as the only federal major party chief who wouldn't answer a series of specific questions about his party's policies on poverty.