Trudeau commits to 'necessary funding' for kids in Indigenous communities during Saskatoon town hall

Justin Trudeau was asked several questions related to Indigenous issues during a town hall in Saskatoon.

PM also asked about investments in Indigenous communities, Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school settlement

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mingles with supporters after taking an hour of audience questions at a town hall event in Saskatoon Thursday night. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau was questioned about several issues during his town hall in Saskatoon on Thursday, with Indigenous issues being brought up on a few occasions.

The event was originally planned as a Liberal campaign rally, but then switched to a town-hall-style meeting that attracted around 500 people. 

FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt asked Trudeau about Bill C-92, which is aimed at tackling the overrepresentation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in foster care by handing over control of services to Indigenous governments. Pratt asked Trudeau to commit to statutory funding for the bill.

"[The Liberal government] will ensure that Indigenous communities have the necessary funding and financing in a stable and predictable way to be able to offer the care and support for their kids when they need it, to ensure they are raised in their language, in their culture, in their identity " Trudeau said of work to be done, if the Liberals are re-elected.

He also committed to working with Indigenous communities to settle certain land claims "in the coming years" but did not specify which land claims or a specific timeline.

Investments for Indigenous communities

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand asked Trudeau about investment plans for Indigenous communities.

"Far too many Indigenous communities across this country have been under long-term boil water advisories," Trudeau said.

Since taking office, Trudeau said his party has lifted 15 long-term boil water advisories in Saskatchewan and they are "on track to eliminating the seven that remain on target before the spring of 2021."

"It's just a start. There's a lot more to do, but we will do it together," he said.

However, Trudeau did not go into detail about future investment plans for Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan if the Liberals win the election.

 Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school

Trudeau was asked if there's a "settlement on the horizon" for the boarding school in Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask.
The school housed children from across northern Saskatchewan from the 1860s until it shut down in the mid-1970s.

People who attended those school described abuse and separation from their families, similar to what survivors of residential schools went through.

But Île-à-la-Crosse students were denied the Indian Residential School settlements that others received, on the basis that the school was run by the Roman Catholic Church with no federal funding.

In May, a group of survivors from the Île-à-la-Crosse boarding school said that they will sign an agreement formalizing the process to negotiate for compensation for abuse suffered at the school

Trudeau said his government would "continue to work on it, if we are re-elected, in partnership with the affected communities."

The same person asked how the federal government would help communities in Saskatchewan that are dealing with addiction, primarily crystal meth addiction.

"We are also going to continue to invest in fighting both the opiate challenge that is devastating so many families, and the crystal meth challenge that is particularly acute in Manitoba and Saskatchewan," Trudeau said.

With files from Chelsea Laskowski