In his first year as prime minister, Justin Trudeau stated that “No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples.” It’s a statement that he’s repeated many times over his term in government. Six years into his tenure, however, 50 long-term boil water advisories still remain in 31 First Nations, and only 13 of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s 94 calls to action have been implemented. He’s also fighting survivors of the Sixties Scoop in court at the same time that he’s ordering flags to be flown at half mast after the discovery of unmarked children's graves at former Indian residential facilities. While Justin Trudeau may say that he believes Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples is its most important one, the actions--and inaction-- of his government say otherwise.
Despite a settlement being reached in 2017, many Survivors of the Sixties Scoop are still waiting for a decision on their application. Sadly, some have committed suicide as a result of the trauma and revictimization of this process, and Survivors and their families are still without healing resources promised by the government. Metis and non-Status Survivors were excluded entirely at no fault of their own; they continue to wait for a settlement promised in 2018 by Minister Carolyn Bennett. Trudeau continues to fight First Nations children in the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal,and ignores their call for a National Inquiry. First Nations people currently wait years for Status applications to be processed, and continue to live in substandard and crowded housing. The Liberal government has failed Indigenous peoples locally and across the nation.
Guelph Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield has shown a lack of commitment and interest in issues important to Indigenous families and communities. When NDP MP Niki Ashton, in a Parliamentary committee online meeting, called out the Liberal government’s failure to get safe water to First Nations, Longfield rudelyinterrupted to complain that Ashton was “too loud” (as if laptops and headphones don’t have volume buttons). Sadly, this has been his most memorable moment in parliament during his six years as MP. In a response to questions from Indigenous activists on his Twitter account on Wednesday, Longfield stated that “Funding for Anishinabek Outreach Centre, working with Rotary and Water First, as well as Community Health Centre on housing and services” were his priorities for working with local Indigenous people. His answer demonstrates a lack of understanding of the needs of local Indigenous families in his own riding. The CHC and the outreach centre are already operational. As for the Rotary, while it does great work in many areas, it is hardly the most suitable organization to deal with such an important and basic human right as having clean drinking water in Canada.
Guelph and all families deserve better than an MP who lacks the interest and understanding of issues that affect Indigenous people. Canada, and Indigenous families who have suffered greatly at the hands of the government, deserve better than a prime minister who speaks pretty words but only makes half-hearted efforts at true reconciliation.
Since her nomination as the NDP candidate for Guelph, Aisha Jahangir has met regularly with local families, Indigenous leadership, and held a town hall on safe drinking water in June. Jahangir fully supports the NDP’s platform commitments to implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action and to provide safe drinking water to Indigenous families NOW. As NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has said repeatedly, "It is a matter of priorities...there’s no excuse...with the wealth we have as a nation, with the technology we have as a country, that we cannot clean this water, and ensure that all communities have clean drinking water.”
All Guelphites and Canadians deserve MPs who will listen to and work in partnership with Indigenous leadership, and fully commit to reconciliation including righting the wrongs of the past. Aisha Jahangir and the NDP are determined to make this happen.
Lloyd Longfield’s twitter account (August 18, 2021).
Niki Ashton’s twitter account (May 3, 2021).