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PM Trudeau delivers remarks at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa

PM Trudeau delivers remarks at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa


THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime
Minister of Canada): Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, National Chief Bellegarde, for
that kind introduction. Let me begin by recognizing we are on the traditional land of the Algonquin
people. We acknowledge them as past, present and future caretakers of this land. This afternoon,
let me also join the AFN in honouring of the Last Mohawk Code Talker, from the Second World
War, Veteran Louis Levi Oakes. I had the opportunity to sit with him earlier.
(Applause) And I know that today we are meeting without
Elder Elmer Courchesne, a truly tireless leader and advocate, as he battles sickness in Manitoba.
Let me offer my deepest well wishes to him and to his family.
Elders, youth, veterans, National Chief Bellegarde, members of the AFN executive, Chiefs and assembly,
thank you for your welcome. It’s always a pleasure to meet with you, and I appreciate
the invitation to once again address you today. In 2015, just after being sworn in as Prime
Minister, I came to you with a clear promise. I gave you my word that we would chart a new
path forward and renew the relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples.
That we would work as partners to address the legacies of colonialism, racism and paternalism
that, for far too long, have held your communities back.
Well, three… well three years later… we’re making true progress and walking forward on
our journey of reconciliation. But I know that words aren’t enough, because reconciliation
isn’t just about me standing up here and saying that these issues matter, reconciliation
is about action. It’s about closing the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous
people. Gaps in housing, in clean water, in education, in good jobs, in child welfare.
To achieve true reconciliation, we need real results. And when I say concrete results,
I’m talking about making sure people no longer have to sleep in shifts because there
isn’t enough good housing. By investing in communities to help build new homes on
reserves, we are making progress. More than 14,000 homes are under construction right
now or have already been built. That includes new homes for elders in Kanaka Bar First Nation,
and affordable housing for families in Mishkeegogamang Ojibway First Nation.… It includes new triplexes for the growing community in Shoal Lake First Nation. Because everyone, no matter they live,
should have a safe and affordable place to call home.
Getting a roof over people’s heads is a critically important priority, but it isn’t
the only issue we’re addressing. What about the parent who has never been able to bathe
their eight-year old in clean, safe water? When I spent the day at Shoal Lake First Nation,
I rode on a truck that delivers water to homes and listened to people talk about what life
is like when you can’t drink from the tap. It was heartbreaking, and as a dad, I can’t
imagine trying to explain to my kids that they can’t trust the water that comes out
of their taps. It’s stories like Shoal Lake’s that reaffirm
to me our immediate need to act. And we’ve been hard at work addressing this unacceptable
reality for far too many people across the country. Working in partnership with Indigenous
communities, our government has lifted 73 long-term drinking water advisories everywhere
from Slate Falls Nation, in Ontario, and Williams Lake, in BC, to Pabineau, in Quebec.
For Shoal Lake, we’re in the design phase for a new water treatment plant. It’s a
complex process, so it takes time to lift advisories, but that being said we are on
track to eliminate all advisories by 2021. (Applause)
But of course, clean water and safe, reliable housing are just the start. Closing the gap
also means investing in the next generation. Like the youth I met in Pikangikum. It’s
no coincidence that the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission called to action are about young
people. They are today’s promise for a better tomorrow. As we implement those calls to action,
we’re working with First Nations as partners to make the changes that have been desperately
needed for far too long. Just look at the child welfare system. There is no question
it is a system that needs to be reformed. I’ve been fortunate to learn from leaders
like Grand Chief Dumas, who spoke at a town hall when I was in Winnipeg; and Cora Morgan,
an incredible advocate who has reunited literally hundreds of families. From Ashley Bach, a young woman I met with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Youth Council, who speaks so movingly about the
challenges of being raised without her community or her culture. It’s an issue that the people
in this room are bringing into focus for all Canadians. I was at the AFN meeting in May,
when you passed a resolution calling for change. Well just a few days ago we took a major step
forward together to address the challenges in the existing child welfare system. Indigenous
children should not be forcible be taken away from their homes and their parents. And that’s
why we’re making it right. Minister Philpott announced that the Government
of Canada will introduce federal child welfare legislation co-developed in partnership with
indigenous communities and leaders. (Applause)
This legislation, which we will table in January, will affirm inherent and treaty rights to
exercise jurisdiction over children and families. As a result, we’ll put kids first, have
fewer children in care, and reunite more families. Indigenous communities must be in the driver’s
seat. As parents and as communities, you know what’s best for your kids. It’s time we
respected that. Now this is just a first step, for we’ve got incredible results for kids
that we can build on. We have made progress in primary and secondary
education. With an investment of $2.6 billion, we are helping every child get a good start
at school and learn Indigenous languages. And as a teacher, I know that classrooms have
to be in good shape for kids to learn. That’s why we are building new schools, and repairing
the ones that are falling apart. These are life changing projects. Manitoba is the perfect
example. Last month, we announced a much needed investment in four Northern First Nations
to help thousands of kids go to school in their communities.
The new Manitoba First Nations school, and the Anishinabek Agreement deliver real self-government
over education and show what can happen when we think outside the box and support new school
models. Thousands of kids are benefitting. I saw that first hand when I visited Pikangikum’s
Eenchokay Birchstick School and students proudly showed me their work and even helped teach
me a little – very little – Ojibway. With results like that, it’s clear that
we’re on the right track, and not just for schools. Through Jordan’s Principle, we’ve
approved over a 171,000 requests for vital services to help get kids the support they
need to thrive. When we formed government, you’ll remember that the principle wasn’t
even being applied. Today Keanu, a 17-year-old from Manitoba, has the wheelchair and physiotherapy
that he needs. And John, a boy who witnessed an unspeakable tragedy, can get counselling
and is now doing great at school. We know we have more work to do for Indigenous
children, for residential school survivors, for missing and murdered Indigenous women
and girls. And better housing, child welfare systems, clean water and education alone – as
big as they are – don’t add up to reconciliation on their own. I don’t have to tell you that
these individual steps need a solid foundation. A commitment to a new relationship with indigenous
peoples. And what does a new relationship mean? Well
it means being guided by recognition of rights and decolonizing our laws. That’s exactly
what we’re doing by overhauling the Comprehensive Claims and Inherent Rights policy. A new relationship means working together on legislation to preserve and protect indigenous languages, which we’ll introduce in Parliament this January. Which is fitting, because after all 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Now, you can applaud for that one Terry.
(Applause) A new relationship means creating a new fiscal
partnership. To be frank, making real change costs money. So, we’re rolling out 10-year
grants for communities and launching a new fiscal policy for self-governing First Nations,
to make sure people can count on stable funding today and for years to come. A new relationship
means that in all of our work, whether it’s decolonizing laws, implementing the TRC calls
to action, preserving language or changing our fiscal relationship; we’re being led
by you. I promised that we would do things differently,
because top-down solutions not only fail, they’re inherently wrong. And perhaps most
importantly, a new relationship of partnership and respect means rebuilding trust. Simply
put, we must face the moments in Canada’s past where successive federal governments
lost the trust of indigenous peoples. I will continue to work with you to rebuild that
trust. When I was on the title-land of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, to deliver an exoneration of the six chiefs who were wrongly treated as criminals
and hanged, Chief Alphonse wrote that we were starting a different story. Earlier this year
the federal government started a different story with the Lubicon Lake band, too. We
settled a historic claim so that they finally received the Land and Treaty benefits to which
they are entitled. We are starting a new chapter with the Williams
Treaties First Nations, one based on respect for their rights and interests. This new story
is being written little by little. Every day, across the country, we tackle issues and trauma
that were not addressed in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, like the 60s
scoop and day schools. Moreover, we are working with you, the First Nations, to address your
concerns with the specific claims process. Together, we have made real and significant
progress. Together, we can and will go so much further. The legacies of colonialism
took more than 400 years to create, so changes won’t come overnight. But with every positive
step forward we advance a little further along the right path. Each step forward, each water
advisory lifted, each school built is a sign that we’re on the right track.
In 2015, I promised to rebuild and renew the relationship with the Indigenous peoples.
Today, I promise to continue that work. Miigwetch. Kinanaskomitin.
Mashi cho. Gilakas’la. Tshinashkumitinau. Thank you, everyone. (Applause)

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