First Na­tions chiefs boo Scheer for not say­ing how he’s dif­fer­ent from harper

North Bay Nugget - - OPINION - Jan­ice Dick­son

ot­tawa — hun­dreds of First Na­tions chiefs booed con­ser­va­tive Leader an­drew Scheer on thurs­day when the op­po­si­tion leader told them they will have to wait un­til his plat­form is re­leased to see how he dif­fers from former prime min­is­ter Stephen harper.

he was speak­ing to a meet­ing of as­sem­bly of First Na­tions chiefs in a down­town ot­tawa ho­tel.

dur­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with the op­po­si­tion leader, chiefs asked Scheer how he’s dif­fer­ent from harper, with one ask­ing him to name one pol­icy stance he holds that’s dif­fer­ent from harper’s and an­other ask­ing how he plans to re­build trust with First Na­tions peo­ple that “harper lost.”

chief elaine John­ston of Ser­pent river First Na­tion in north­ern on­tario told Scheer that First Na­tions peo­ple have not had pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing the new on­tario gov­ern­ment.

“my con­cern here is when you’re talk­ing about the spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, what are you go­ing to do in that spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion that is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent than your pre­de­ces­sors in the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment? i need to hear that be­cause i’m not see­ing it. the rhetoric is there, but there has not been pos­i­tive ac­tion,” she said.

Jes­sica Ja­cobs, a coun­cil­lor for ta’an Kwach’an coun­cil in the yukon, asked Scheer flatly how he feels about indige­nous peo­ple and is­sues and how he plans to try to fix the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the con­ser­va­tive party and indige­nous peo­ple in canada.

“First two ques­tions were kind of sim­i­lar ... the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween my­self and the pre­vi­ous con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment specif­i­cally when it comes to pol­icy. So on that i am go­ing to have to ask you to have a lit­tle bit of pa­tience for when our plat­form gets re­leased,” Scheer said, and was hit by the wave of boos.

Scheer quickly added that indige­nous peo­ple will see change. in the last elec­tion the con­ser­va­tives did not win sup­port from a large ma­jor­ity of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple and he wants to fix that, he said. “Part of that is com­ing to these kinds of meet­ings, in a re­spect­ful way.”

but Scheer did sug­gest his party would seek to pro­tect and pro­mote indige­nous lan­guages, say­ing he and afn­na­tion­alchief­per­ry­bel­le­garde have al­ready talked about that.

that will be part of a whole seg­ment of the con­ser­va­tive party’s elec­tion plat­form, said Scheer, which he vowed would not be crafted only by his in­ner cir­cle.

but though he sidestepped a de­tailed ac­count of whether and how he will be dif­fer­ent from harper, Scheer­promised­his­ap­proach­would be dif­fer­ent from the Lib­er­als.

“i’d be happy to come back at a fu­ture­time­an­d­ex­plain­more­de­tailed aspects of what we’ll be cam­paign­ing on, but it will be a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the Lib­er­als. it will be an ap­proach that’s based on get­ting the re­la­tion­ship right, but also get­ting re­sults,” he said. “you talked about what we’re go­ing to do to over­come the re­la­tion­ship chal­lenges that we may have had in the past. it is frus­trat­ing for me as a con­ser­va­tive when i think about the great things that we did do in terms of poli­cies.”

he said it was a con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment that rec­og­nized indige­nous rights and ex­tended the vote to First Na­tions peo­ple and a con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment ap­pointed the first First Na­tions sen­a­tor. he also raised harper’s apol­ogy in the house of com­mon­sthat­ac­knowl­edgedthel­e­gacy of the res­i­den­tial-school sys­tem.

“So we have these lega­cies but clearly when you don’t have the re­la­tion­ship right ... of­ten tan­gi­ble re­sults get over­looked or at least get viewed in a dif­fer­ent way.”

Scheer said the big hur­dle for the con­ser­va­tive party is to get that re­la­tion­ship back on track so the party and indige­nous peo­ple can work more closely to­gether “in that spirit of trust.”

“i view indige­nous cana­di­ans as an in­te­gral part of our so­ci­ety, proud of their con­tri­bu­tion to cana­dian his­tory, great deal of re­spect for all they did pre­con­fed­er­a­tion, the way that they have been part­ners in build­ing this so­ci­ety we have, and i’m very proud to rep­re­sent a dozen First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties in my own rid­ing,” the Saskatchewan mp said.

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