Canada must get out of ‘colo­nial­ist boat, run it ashore, leave it to rot’: Ben­nett


OT­TAWA — Canada has been try­ing to nav­i­gate the wa­ters of re­la­tions with Indige­nous peo­ple in “a big, leaky old colo­nial boat,” says Carolyn Ben­nett.

“For years we’ve tried to patch this old wreck and we’ve been bail­ing it with a thim­ble. We all know that this isn’t go­ing to work,” the min­is­ter for Crown-indige­nous re­la­tions told del­e­gates at the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions’ Spe­cial Chiefs As­sem­bly in Ot­tawa Tues­day.

Ben­nett said Canada needs to keep up with Indige­nous peo­ple, their as­pi­ra­tions and their goals.

“I be­lieve Canada needs to get out of that colo­nial­ist boat, run it ashore, leave it to rot or at least put it up, dry­dock and re­build it. We need a ves­sel that can nav­i­gate the chang­ing wa­ters, one that can keep pace with your vi­sion and as­pi­ra­tion. One that is no longer hold­ing back the prom­ise for your chil­dren and grand­chil­dren and their grand­chil­dren,” Ben­nett said.

Ben­nett said that mov­ing away from the 1876 In­dian Act that largely de­fines re­la­tions be­tween Canada and Indige­nous Peo­ples is a mu­tual goal and re­peated that the fed­eral govern­ment will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion on Indige­nous childand-fam­ily ser­vices in the new year, writ­ten in co-op­er­a­tion with Indige­nous groups.

“We want to work on this new ship and we want to get it in the water be­cause we know the cur­rent is with us.”

As­sem­bly of First Na­tions Na­tional Chief Perry Bel­le­garde told the chiefs that he wants to see a few key pieces of leg­is­la­tion passed be­fore the House of Com­mons rises in June and an elec­tion cam­paign takes over fed­eral pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing the child-wel­fare leg­is­la­tion, the lon­gawaited Indige­nous Lan­guages Act, and NDP MP Romeo Sa­ganash’s pri­vate mem­ber’s bill, which seeks to en­sure Canada’s laws line up with the United Na­tions dec­la­ra­tion on the rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples.

Bel­le­garde also spoke about cli­mate change and asked the chiefs and del­e­gates to sup­port a car­bon tax as one way to head it off.

He talked about putting his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s “Clos­ing the Gap” doc­u­ment in front of each party dur­ing the last fed­eral elec­tion. It out­lined pri­or­i­ties on ev­ery­thing from the en­vi­ron­ment to Indige­nous lan­guages.

Bel­le­garde said First Na­tions vot­ers were re­spon­si­ble for flip­ping 22 rid­ings in the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion.

“You peo­ple run­ning in fed­eral elec­tions, you bet­ter lis­ten to First Na­tions is­sues now if you want to get elected,” he said.

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