‘Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in­volves all Cana­di­ans’

Na­tional Chief Bel­le­garde calls on Canada to make rec­on­cil­i­a­tion real

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

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 so­cio-eco­nomic gap that ex­ists be­tween abo­rig­i­nal and non-abo­rig­i­nal Cana­di­ans in ar­eas in­clud­ing em­ploy­ment.


Assem­bly of First Na­tions na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde gives the key­note speech at the AFN’s an­nual con­fer­ence in Mon­treal Tues­day.

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