Conservative MP Jamie Schmale speaks before a meeting of the House of Commons Natural Resources committee in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. National protests sparked by the opposition of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to a pipeline project in B.C. are also sparking debate in Conservative circles about the party’s own relationship to Indigenous communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservative MP Jamie Schmale speaks before a meeting of the House of Commons Natural Resources committee in Ottawa, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. National protests sparked by the opposition of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to a pipeline project in B.C. are also sparking debate in Conservative circles about the party’s own relationship to Indigenous communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservatives need to start thinking about approach to Indigenous issues: MP

Some Conservatives have been harsh critics of the Wet’suwet’en blockades

National protests sparked by the opposition of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to a pipeline project in B.C. are also sparking debate in Conservative circles about the party’s own relationship to Indigenous communities.

Though the main focus is on resolving the current conflict, Conservatives need to start thinking about how they’ll lay groundwork for a relationship when their party next comes to power, said Jamie Schmale, the party’s Crown-Indigenous Relations critic.

“For me, and others within the caucus, they do see an opportunity to have a bigger conversation about First Nations and how we can all prosper together,” he said.

Earlier this year, Schmale invited several Indigenous leaders to brief Conservative MPs and senators ahead of the return of the House of Commons for the winter session, as part of a chance to begin a dialogue.

He acknowledged tensions between his party and Indigenous groups have simmered for years. Current leader Andrew Scheer was once booed by First Nations chiefs for failing to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Stephen Harper.

With the Conservative leadership race underway, Schmale said he is looking for what candidates have to offer on the file.

“The next conversation needs to be where do we go from here, how do we provide off ramps to those communities that want to get away from the Indian Act,” he said.

“How do we have a financial conversation with these communities that want to go their own way in certain aspects, with the pipelines or contribution agreements.”

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en chiefs, ministers reach proposed agreement in B.C. pipeline dispute

One candidate, Marilyn Gladu, has already offered up some policy.

So far, Gladu is promising that as prime minister, she’d work with Indigenous leaders to set a timeline to resolve outstanding treaty disputes, and measure the implementation of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

She also promises to eliminate Indigenous child poverty by 2035, and all boil water advisories on reserve by 2025.

The Liberals have promised to end all long-term advisories by next year, one of many pledges they made to First Nations during the 2015 election campaign.

Their commitments followed years of mixed results by the Harper government.

Harper apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the residential school system, and launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But also under his government, frustrations within First Nations communities resulted in the launch of the national protest movement Idle No More, echoes of which continue to be heard in the current national protests.

In the Harper government at the time — Peter MacKay.

Now running for Conservative leadership, he was justice minister when the government refused to hold an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, saying dozens of studies had already been completed. MacKay infamously tried to prove the point by tossing reams of paper onto the floor of the House of Commons.

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink to resume work as tentative deal reached between B.C., feds and Wet’suwet’en

Last week at an event in Thunder Bay, Ont., MacKay was greeted by protesters accusing him of anti-Indigenous rhetoric.

He had suggested on Twitter that people who dismantled a blockade in Alberta set up in support of the Wet’suwet’en had done more for the economy than Trudeau.

MacKay told reporters he stood by his comments, despite having deleted the tweet. He said, however, he is meeting with Indigenous leaders as part of his campaign.

Another candidate, Erin O’Toole, has advanced the idea that those blocking critical infrastructure ought to be deemed terrorists, and treated more harshly by the law.

His tone has been adopted by some Tories in the House of Commons, where current leader Andrew Scheer has been thunderously demanding a stronger police response.

Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist who worked on Indigenous files during his years in government, said such statements don’t help the problem or the party.

“This click bait rhetoric, it’s appalling and it belies a lack of leadership and maturity on the complexity of the issues at hand related to Indigenous-Canadian relations,” he said.

“In the short term it may drive up your poll numbers, but it’s going to do shag all for the country.”

For voters to take the Conservatives seriously, the party will need to do better, Powers said.

One place they could look for ideas is the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, launched in 1991 under Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The final report contains many ideas for how to more positively structure the relationship between the federal government and Indigenous communities, Powers said.

“If resource development and economic development is a priority of the Conservatives, which it is, then that also means you have to have an evolving approach when it comes to Indigenous policy,” he said.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenous

Just Posted

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Kelowna

Clinic at Kelowna Secondary School from June 22 to 24 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Most Read