By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The president of a nationwide association representing the urban Indigenous population called for provincial justice ministers to boycott upcoming meetings that his association has been excluded from. He also can’t figure out why he’s being excluded from the meeting.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief Elmer St-Pierre, as to why his group has been shut out of high-level justice meetings with provincial and federal justice ministers. “If the provincial justice ministers were serious about supporting CAP what they could do is boycott the meetings and then there wouldn’t actually be a meeting.”
St-Pierre said being excluded from high-level justice meetings is not only “disappointing, given we are one of five major nationwide Indigenous associations,” he said, but is also impractical, given the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the prison system an on parole.
“We are over-represented in terms of incarceration and in terms of those who go out on parole, and so, it makes absolutely no sense we are on the outside looking in,” St-Pierre added.
St-Pierre said there is a disconnect between the message coming from the Prime Minister’s office and the actions he sees on the ground.
“It’s ridiculous. The Prime Minister talks about reconciliation but we keep talking to (Crown-Indigenous Relations minister) Marc Miller and (Indigenous Services minister) Patty Hajdu, but we don’t see concrete action. Those people have got to wake up,” St-Pierre said. “What does the Prime Minister want? If he’s the boss, then we should be at that meeting.”
The meetings began yesterday in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and are scheduled to run through Friday.
St-Pierre said his association is often forced to justify their own existence, despite their dedication to providing funding to the oft-marginalized urban Indigenous population in Canada.
“We are a huge resource for urban Indigenous people and off-reserve status Indians,” he said, adding that during the
COVID-19 lockdown his group provided emergency cash for those who couldn’t work and laptops for elders to consult with doctors virtually at the same time.
In addition to excluding the voices of urban Indigenous people, St-Pierre lamented the government has also decided to omit the Native Women’s Association of Canada from the meeting, the same group spearheading the issue of MMIWG in Canada.
“CAP and NWAC both offer invaluable insight and advice when it comes to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s justice system and why our people are over-represented in courtrooms and prisons,” CAP national vice-Chief Kim Beaudin said. “For decades, CAP has been exposing injustices against Indigenous people and supporting those wrongfully caught up in the system, it’s a shame our voices won’t be at the table.”
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.