Liberal approach needs to change even if Parliament stays the same, say Indigenous leaders

‘We need substantial change moving forward,’ says AFN national chief.

For RoseAnne Archibald, the election of a 44th Canadian federal Parliament basically identical to the previous one indicates voters want stability, at least while the pandemic continues. But that doesn’t mean she’s happy with the status quo.

“The slowness of progress really means it’s costing us lives,” said Archibald, who was elected Assembly of First Nations national chief earlier this summer, in an interview Tuesday with APTN News. 

“It’s costing the suffering of our children. And I think we’ve got to get together and have a meaningful partnership with all parties — because it is a minority government — and figure out that healing path forward.”

The healing path forward is the AFN’s 2021 federal wish list released in the midst of the 36-day campaign that’s expected to tally more than $600 million. The document lays out five policy priorities the AFN hopes to see Parliament tackle now that its makeup is solidified.

Archibald said her first priority will be truth and justice for the victims of residential schools, which she prefers to call “former institutions of assimilation of genocide.” It’s kids who suffered most then and kids who continue to suffer most now, she added.

“It’s our children who are living in houses that are not up to the same standards as everybody else. It’s our children attending schools that don’t have the same funding levels as non-Indigenous schools. It’s our kids who are suffering under the policies of any government. And that has to change,” Archibald said.

“We need significant change moving forward.”

Justin Trudeau won his third straight federal election Monday night, but pundits suggested it may be a loss in the end. Trudeau asked the governor general to dissolve his own Parliament hoping to upgrade his minority to a majority government.

It didn’t happen. Trudeau was constantly under siege for calling an unnecessary snap election as the campaign wore on.

Trudeau promised Indigenous Peoples transformative change when he first won power in 2015. But many — such as former MPs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq as well NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — vigorously criticized his record over recent weeks and months.

David Chartrand, vice president of the Métis National Council, has a different view. He’s pleased with the pace of change. Chartrand told APTN News he’s glad Trudeau is back in power, not because the longtime Métis leader is partisan but because he believes the Liberals had the best platform.

“People always say, ‘David, you’re just a Liberal supporter.’ That’s not true,” Chartrand said. “I support policy. I support policies that are going to be best for my people. And if it was the NDP with the best policies, then I’d have no choice but to support it.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s OK with the status quo either.

Chartrand hopes another Liberal minority government propped up by Singh’s NDP will finally resolve the Métis Nation’s 150-year-old land claims. He pushes back against those panning Trudeau’s record.

“If there’s a prime minister that somebody can prove to me has done more than this prime minister, then I’ll eat crow,” Chartrand said. “But right now, I know for a fact there’s never been a prime minister that has devoted so much time to Indigenous files. He’s not perfect, I’ll tell you that: There’s still things to do. But how do you expect anybody to solve 150-200 years in that four- to five-year span?”

The Native Women’s Association of Canada recently withdrew its support from the federally led group developing an action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The plan was already late by a year, and the organization called the process “toxic and dysfunctional.”

The association congratulated Trudeau on his win Tuesday morning but said his government’s approach to issues affecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis women must change.

“We think they need to start walking the talk because there has been a lot of promises made that have not been kept. Certainly, I can say that Indigenous women have not been brought to the decision-making tables in the way that we should have,” explained chief executive officer Lynne Groulx.

“They’ve made a lot of promises, and they need to keep those promises if there’s going to be trust with us and we’re going to believe anything that they say.”

While the leaders may disagree on the Liberal leader’s track record, they all pledge to keep holding his feet to the fire.

They’ll be watching closely as he appoints a new cabinet and issues them mandate letters in the coming weeks.

Trudeau’s victory tradition

Watch Lindsay Richardson’s story here: 

In his post-election tradition, the Liberal leader greeted supporters at a Metro station in his Montreal riding of Papineau.

It’s an appearance Trudeau made mere hours after giving his victory speech closing out a $600-million election.

“Some of you have talked about division, but that’s not what I see. That’s not what I’ve seen these past weeks across the country,” Trudeau said in his speech in the early morning hours Tuesday. “I see Canadians standing together – standing together in determination to end this pandemic, together for real climate action, for $10 a day child care, for homes that are in reach for middle class families, for our shared journey on our path to reconciliation.”

But in the course of his election, Trudeau lost three cabinet ministers in Monday’s vote including Bernadette Jordan, the former fisheries minister who upset Mi’kmaw harvesters in Nova Scotia for not honouring treaty rights to fish.

But former Indigenous Affairs minister Marc Miller has a stronghold on his riding of Ville-Marie.

“I think we’ve changed the narrative, and Canadians are demanding from their politicians more accountability when it comes to indigenous issues – that’s something that is very hopeful,” Miller told APTN. “I look at the arc of my small political career over the last six years, and the level of sophistication and understanding among non-Indigenous Canadians with respect to Indigenous issues has grown.”

The make up of the House Commons is more or less the same as it was prior to the Aug. 15 election call.

Watch Darrell Stranger’s story here: 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Liberal party won or led in 158 ridings. The Conservatives won or led in 119. The Bloc Québécois will probably retain its seat as third party in the House of Commons with 34 seats.

The New Democratic Party stays in fourth with 25.

Leader Jagmeet Singh says Tuesday he still believes calling an election was unnecessary but will still work with the Liberal party.

“I’m gonna go back and say you messed up but that doesn’t mean we can’t still work to get things done for Canadians and I stand by that,” he told reporters. “Of course we can be counted on for things that are going to help people out, we’ll always be there.

“If it comes from hurting people you know he’ll probably try work with the Conservatives but he’s not going to find support from us when it comes to hurting people.”

The Greens meanwhile picked up two seats, the same number they had when the House was dissolved.

The seat count is almost identical to the 43rd Parliament.

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