Liberal MP Marc Serre has high hopes for new Indigenous caucus
Nine-member caucus will have to become more than just a resource from which politicians can get advice
Members of a new Indigenous caucus on Parliament Hill are planning to work directly with First Nations communities to influence legislation, according to member and Nickel Belt MP Marc Serre.
"We should've done this a long time ago," Serre said.
"We need to put our First Nations concerns and people ahead."
Serre said he wants the group to engage elders and youth to improve housing, education, treaties and land claims.
"We've ignored Indigenous people for far too long and it's time that we take some action," he said.
To turn those words into action, the nine-member caucus will have to become more than just a resource from which politicians can get advice.
'Accountable' to Indigenous communities
Assistant professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Sudbury, Brock Pitawanakwat, said the leaders will have to use their influence to advance the issues of First Nations.
"My hope ... is that these MPs will be accountable to their communities and advocate for Indigenous issues — both internally and through the public discourse as well," Pitawanakwat said.
"So if, as a block, they really decided to start advocating for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned on and has emphasized his government intends to implement — that would be a huge step forward."
Caucus chair Don Rusnak said the caucus will not be the final voice on the Indigenous perspective in Canada.
Rather, he said the leaders hope to bring the Indigenous lens to government.
"We, of course, have our experiences as Indigenous people that we can bring to government," Rusnak said.
"It's a conversation that hasn't been had in some time in government, and we're hoping that we can be a positive part of it."
The caucus is planning to meet on a weekly basis.