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

By Janice Dickson

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.

Crown and Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett

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 child-and-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 long-awaited 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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