‘Reconciliation involves all Canadians’
National Chief Bellegarde calls on Canada to make reconciliation real
National Chief Perry Bellegarde is urging First Nations and other Canadians to push for reconciliation at the polls this fall.
In the first keynote address to the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting, Bellegarde said First Nations voters need to make themselves heard on Oct.19.
The advocacy group has identified at least 51 ridings across the country that could be decided by active First Nations participation.
Bellegarde said now is the time to mobilize because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent report has captured the attention of Canadians with its description of the residential school legacy as “cultural genocide.”
“As thousands of brave people shared their experiences and spoke the truth, Canadians woke up to a chapter of their history that must be forever remembered and never forgotten,” Bellegarde told an audience of First Nations leaders from across the country.
This is Bellegarde’s first meeting as national chief.
He is also calling on the government to respect traditional territories and honour its legal duty to accommodate First Nations people.
“Reconciliation means nothing less than keeping the promises the government of Canada first made to our people to share and live together,” Bellegarde said.
“Reconciliation involves all Canadians ... I believe Canadians want their political leaders to do the right thing.”
Bellegarde has been calling for all federal parties to address indigenous issues in their election platforms.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau responded to this call by delivering back-to-back speeches Tuesday afternoon as both parties roll out election promises aimed at aboriginal affairs — although federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was not present.
Mulcair offered a “new era” of nation-to-nation relations with indigenous communities if he becomes prime minister after this fall’s federal election.
The NDP plans to commit to a “government-wide” approach to address aboriginal affairs.
Trudeau spoke after the NDP leader. He announced a series of campaign-style commitments, including a promise to bolster funding for aboriginal education.
Trudeau also addressed the need to overhaul the relationship between First Nations and the federal government, such as targeting the growing socioeconomic gap that exists between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians in areas including employment.