Tom Mulcair vows 'nation to nation' relationship with Indigenous Peoples
$4.8 billion promised over 8 years for aboriginal education
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair laid out measures Wednesday that a New Democratic government would take to establish a "nation to nation" relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Speaking before representatives of the Assembly of First Nations and the Enoch Cree Nation on the Stony Plain Indian Reserve in Edmonton, Mulcair said if elected his government would make investments to improve the lives of aboriginal people and put an end to the "two Canadas" that currently exist.
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"There is a Canada where clean drinking water is simply taken for granted, it's a fact of life, and families live in the comfort of quality, affordable housing. And there's another Canada, where the basic right to clean drinking water remains out of reach and families live in homes that are overcrowded and unsafe," Mulcair said.
"There's a Canada where children have access to the very best classroom conditions. And there's another Canada where schools are dramatically underfunded and learning conditions are unacceptable by any measure," adding that gaps between the two Canadas "grow wider with every decade of discrimination."
The package of commitments outlined by Mulcair was anchored by a promise to create a cabinet-level committee chaired by Mulcair, with the intention that all government decisions "respect" treaty rights and the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the current Conservative government has not signed.
"I truly believe it is time for a new era based on a nation to nation relationship," Mulcair said before beginning his speech, which was delayed briefly because he met in private with community elders before the event began.
"Ottawa is turning a blind eye to conditions in aboriginal communities — something that is unacceptable in a developed country."
Mulcair laid out a litany of promises that a New Democratic government would fulfil after the Oct. 19 vote. It would:
- Remove the 'punitive' two per cent funding cap imposed and maintained by previous Liberal and Conservative governments.
- Increase investment in First Nations by $1.8 billion over the next four years and $4.8 billion over eight years based on an annual escalator.
- Improve critical infrastructure in indigenous communities, including clean water and sanitation facilities, with $375 million over four years.
- Provide $96 million over four years and long-term funding of $800 million over 20 years to support infrastructure projects.
- Call an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women within 100 days of taking office and provide $50 million to support it.
- Commit $68 million to revitalize indigenous languages.
- Improve health services available for indigenous people living in urban centres with an investment of $120 million.
Mulcair also outlined initiatives he previously announced on the campaign trail that would indirectly affect indigenous people, including billions of dollars for affordable housing initiatives, a $100-million Mental Health and Innovation Fund for Children and Youth, which would include $5 million for a suicide prevention strategy for at-risk populations, of which First Nations, Métis and Inuit are a part.
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The NDP leader also reiterated a pledge he made during a campaign trip to Iqaluit last week, during which he promised that a New Democratic government would invest $32 million to improve and expand Nutrition North, which increases access to healthy and sustainable food for isolated northern communities.
The campaign event ended with a question and answer session with the audience, during which some people shared emotional stories that illustrated challenges indigenous people face in a country that for many years attempted to destroy their traditions and way of life through forced assimilation and infantilizing policies.
Mulcair thanked the speakers for their candour and vowed to usher in a new era of relations with First Nations, Métis and Inuit if the NDP forms government.
Read the NDP's platform for indigenous people below: