North

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says he's pushing to fix issues that affect northerners

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh spoke with host of CBC North's The Trailbreaker Loren McGinnis on Friday about issues that affect northerners.

'One of the things we can do is we can clearly and expressly prohibit racial profiling,' says Singh

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is seen during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 3. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal NDP leader says he wasn't surprised by the auditor general's report on Thursday which slammed the federal government for not doing enough to ensure Indigenous communities have access to clean drinking water.

"It definitely makes me sad," Jagmeet Singh said of the report's findings.

"The auditor general's report points out that there were many Band-Aid solutions and that things are no better now after six years of being in power when it comes to communities being able to access clean drinking water."

While Singh has pledged not to trigger an election while the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic, he said during an interview with host of CBC North's The Trailbreaker Loren McGinnis on Friday that he's pushing to fix issues that affect northerners.

Singh touched on social justice when it comes to policing, nation-wide medication coverage and access to clean drinking water.

Here's a breakdown of the conversation:

Pharmacare

An act to bring nationwide pharmacare, brought forward by the NDP, was voted down by the Liberal government. Singh says the bill would be a "bold" step toward establishing medication coverage in Canada.

"It's something all provinces and territories agree with. We put that forward in the Pharmacare Act that we presented, which is exactly what the government should have done," he said.

"It is exactly what their own report recommended … and they said no. So I'm deeply concerned."

He added the NDP are also wanting to expand health care to cover dental.

Singh proposes having the country's wealthiest help shoulder those costs.

"If you don't increase revenue what's going to happen is either the Liberals are going to cut services or increase taxes on working people, and that would be the wrong thing to do," he said. "Let's tax the ultra rich to pay for the recovery and the pandemic."

Drinking water

In an audit report tabled in Parliament Thursday, Auditor General Karen Hogan said many First Nations will continue to live without access to clean water without long-term solutions and it says the federal government has not done enough fix the problem.

Singh says it points to a failure of Justin Trudeau's government, as it is set to miss its March 31 deadline to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories on public water systems on First Nations reserves.

"In this age, in 2021, with the resources we have, as wealthy as we are as a nation, [with] one of the world's largest economies, I do not accept any excuses that this could not have been done," Singh said.

"It looks like they often use Band-Aid solutions to temporarily remove that community from a list of troubled communities when it comes to drinking water, only for those communities to go back on that list not very long afterwards because the solution wasn't permanent."

Justice

"There are clear, clear problems in policing, we've seen total examples of violence against Indigenous people, racialized people," Singh said.

"One of the things we can do is we can clearly and expressly prohibit racial profiling."

He says while the charter protects against it, it doesn't expressly prohibit it.

"Many police forces are stopping people just because they're Indigenous or they're racialized. And it's happened in all major cities," Singh said. He says there also needs to be better responses to people facing mental health emergencies.

"Police show up with weapons, aggressive voice commands, and they are not the right response to someone going through a health-care crisis," he said.

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