Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says to get reconciliation right, Canada needs to listen to Indigenous voices but he adds that doing it right is going to take some time.
“Everything will be a lot quicker if Ottawa just decided ‘Ok! We’re going to put a few more houses here! We’re going to put this here! We’re going put that there!’ but it would be the wrong things,” Trudeau told the Assembly of First Nations chiefs assembled online for the December meeting.
Trudeau said he wants the particular needs of First Nations peoples to be the driving force behind change that’s needed.
COVID-19 prevented the assembly to take place in the summer so the assembly is being held now remotely.
Among his priorities, Trudeau said his government will accelerate work on First Nations policing including legislating it as an essential service, he wants to continue implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and he re-affirmed his commitment from the fall economic statement for more money to battle systemic discrimination and violence.
Trudeau also said Canada will accelerate work on the national action plan in response to the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and pointed out that they have already invested into new shelters for Indigenous women.
After his statement Trudeau took questions from chiefs.
When asked about the archaic Indian Act bureaucratic system, Trudeau said his government is working with communities to put needed resources into their hands.
Trudeau said he understands Indigenous Services and Crown Indigenous Relations are “big machines” and their processes are sometimes hard to deal with.
“Everyone is working extremely hard to get beyond the Indian Act to get to a place where you are in control of your own finances and communities and nations get to direct their own futures,” Trudeau said. “That is the goal of reconciliation and that is what we’re working on.”
Trudeau was specifically asked about the small fly-in community of Shamattawa. The Manitoba community with a population of 1,300 now has nearly 200 cases of COVID-19.
Trudeau said he is very concerned about Shamattawa and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has been in direct contact with Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead.
The prime minister said they will continue to engage with the hard hit community including hearing their concerns around evacuating elders.
Among other things Trudeau said he is looking forward to furthering Indigenous authority over kids in care where they can move away from the provincial systems currently in place and he wants to move quicker many issues.
“Our government is committed to not just moving forward, but moving faster on ending the unacceptable injustices that too many people still face,” he said.