In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde was asked to rate the relationship between the current Conservative government and Canada’s aboriginal people on a scale of one to 10.
While the AFN nation chief said it would not be a 10 or a one, he added the score would be pretty low.
The main parties running in this federal election are all looking to raise that number should they form the next government.
As a result, while aboriginal issue platform policies have not been fully released by the parties, promises of support for the country’s aboriginal population have already been made.
The Conservatives, in the most recent federal budget, included $200 million over five years to help First Nations, $215 million over five years to provide skills and development training for aboriginal people, and $34 million over five years to help the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency support consultations with indigenous peoples over resource management issues.
An earlier commitment by the government pledged $500 million over seven years to improve on-reserve school infrastructure.
Meanwhile, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, prior to releasing his party’s aboriginal platform, has vowed to set up a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women within the first 100 days of an NDP government taking power and creation of a cabinet-level committee to make sure treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada’s international obligations to its First Nations are met when government decisions are made.
The party’s aboriginal platform is expected to include promises of more money for First Nations’ education and infrastructure on reserves.
As government, the Greens say they will restore the $5.1 billion commitment and the specifics of the Kelowna Accord, which was reached between federal and provincial, territorial and First Nations governments in Canada in November 2005.
The Greens propose to increase access for First Nations education by removing the two per cent funding cap and fully funding the program back log at a cost of $424 million
They’d also ensure that Canada upholds the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and launch a full inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women;
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has already promised $2.6 billion in spending on First Nations issues, including $515 million per year in core funding for kindergarten to Grade 12 education on reserves.
That figure would rise to $750 million per year by the end of the Liberals’ first term in office.
Another $500 million over three years has been promised for school infrastructure on reserves and $50 million more per year in financial assistance for aboriginal students attending post-secondary education.
Trudeau has also pledged to implement all the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and call a national public inquiry into the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women.
Speaking at an all-candidates forum at UBC Okanagan on Wednesday, Kelowna-Lake-Country Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr said for him the issue of dealing with aboriginal issues goes beyond simply dollar and cents. It is a moral one.
“(The federal government) made agreements and (it) has to live up to them,” he said.
“We have a constitutional responsibility here, but it is also the right thing to do.”
Conservative candidate Ron Cannan told the Kelowna Capital News as the MP for the last nine years, he has developed a good working relationship with leaders of both the Westbank First Nation and the Okanagan Indian Band, one that has seen results, such as more money for skills training for aboriginal students at both Okanagan College and UBCO and on-reserve infrastructure for the Okanagan Indian Band.
He said while concerns voiced elsewhere about federal changes made to voting identification requirements that some feel will adversely affect aboriginal people voting in this election have never been raised with him, he expects issues concerning more assistance for Canada’s First Nations will be a focus if the Conservatives are re-elected to government.
The NDP candidate running in the Kelowna-Lake Country riding, Norah Bowman told the all-candidates gathering at UBCO she was proud her party would immediately launch a national public inquiry into the issue of murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada if it forms the next government.