Capital News and Lake Country Calendar editor Kevin Parnell.

Parnell: Indigenous principles a move towards hope

Kelowna editor Kevin Parnell says there is hope, but a need for real action on First Nations’ issues

There was a lot of talk around Canada 150 from the politicians, who all said the right thing about First Nations protests that took place around the festivities celebrating our nation’s birthday.

Indigenous groups took the opportunity of Canada 150 to remind people that the past 150 years for them has been horrific. On Parliament Hill, groups protested as did the Rethink 150: Indigenous Truth Collective right here in Kelowna, holding Rethink 150 events, asking people to remember the un-glorified history of our nation.

That history includes our governments’ attempts to eradicate Indigenous groups from the lands that we love. Not pretty and not worth celebrating.

So after decade upon decade of more lip service than action, it now appears there is movement by the federal government with regard to dealing with Indigenous groups.

Earlier this month the federal government announced a new set of guiding principles that will form the basis of how they move forward and reconcile the past wrongs that the Canadian government perpetrated on our First Nations.

These principles are being welcomed with some caution by Indigenous groups around the country. Here in our part of the world, the Okanagan Nation Alliance welcomed the new principles (story page A4). But in welcoming the news from the government the ONA also said actions speak louder than words.

So now what we need is action to properly settle land claims. And with the public’s reaction to a $10.5 million settlement handed to child soldier Omar Khadr, it could be a tough sell. If Khadr was treated poorly by our government, well, what can you say about our Indigenous people. It wasn’t Guantanomo; it was worse.

So we hope that these latest principles are more than just lip service and that this federal government will act to deal with Canada’s Indigenous groups. And let’s hope other levels of government follow suit in making this a priority, for there are still examples of First Nations being ignored right here in our back yard.

According to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, a letter he sent to the City of Kelowna to be involved in talks over the proposed water plan for the future was ignored. That they weren’t invited to the table to discuss water issues is just another example of our governments moving in the wrong direction.

It’s high time to turn it around.