Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday emphasized the importance of listening and meeting with First Nations leaders in order to build better relationships that will benefit the entire country.
- Trudeau on Canada's history of colonialism
- Trudeau vows money for hard-hit First Nations to flow
- Liberals not closing First Nations funding gap: Blackstock
Trudeau made the comments in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask., on Tuesday night when he met with a group from the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council and several Saskatchewan chiefs.
"We had a good, respectful, and productive conversation," Trudeau said. "I think it's critically important that politicians take the time to listen. I don't want to pretend that any of us have the answers to the challenges facing Indigenous peoples in Canada. But what I will tell you is that as a country, we can build those answers."
Edmund Bellegarde, tribal chairman and president at File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council, said actions speak louder than words.
"The very action of the prime minister coming here meeting with our leaders and our elders. He didn't talk. He listened. "This is action. This is a respect. This is history in the making."
Trudeau highlighted several promises his government has made Indigenous communities in Canada.
"Over the next five years, our government will invest $8.4 billion on improving the lives of Indigenous peoples right across this country," he said. "That includes $2.6 billion to improve primary and secondary education on reserve, and nearly $970 million to repair, build and maintain new schools on reserve."
The prime minister also said his government will focus on "improving social infrastructure" over the next two years, which includes "more housing, and better health-care facilities on reserve."
"It's not enough to be outraged by the headlines," Trudeau said. "The stories of heartbreak and hopelessness that come out of communities like La Loche, Attawapiskat, Natuashish, and so many more — these are stories we need to hear."
No stop in Sask.'s struggling energy sector
When asked why he didn't schedule a visit to meet with people from Saskatchewan's slumping oil and gas sector, Trudeau did not directly answer. He did, however, say it's time to start thinking differently about how to stimulate economic growth.
"That is what the previous government for 10 years refused to understand," he said. "We cannot build a strong economy if we are not respecting the environment, if we are not consulting communities affected by economic growth, if we are not building them around a partnership with Indigenous communities on how we move forward together.
The topic will certainly come up again on Wednesday when Trudeau is scheduled to meet with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
Trudeau and Wall last met in person in La Loche following the tragic shooting in the northern Saskatchewan community in January.
CBC's Adam Hunter tweeted some of the reactions to Trudeau's visit in Fort Qu'Appelle: