Calling for renewal: Prime Minister Trudeau unveils plan to repair relations with Canada’s indigenous peoples

Prime Minister Trudeau has announced his government’s plans for rebuilding Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples.

“It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation,” said Trudeau on Tuesday, speaking at the beginning of an annual three-day gathering organized by the Assembly of First Nations.

In seeking to renew Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples, Trudeau said his government will focus on five key priorities:

1. A national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women

“We have made this inquiry a priority for our government because those touched by this national tragedy have waited long enough,” Trudeau said. “The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to heal and to be heard. We must work together to put an end to this ongoing tragedy.”

In the hours following Trudeau’s announcement, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu held a news conference on Parliament Hill to launch the first phase of an inquiry. More information about their announcement can be found here.

2. Investing in First Nations education

Trudeau also promised significant investments in First Nations education.

“We can’t afford to wait and we won’t,” Trudeau said. “Every child and young person living in Canada deserves a real and fair chance at success, First Nations students are no less deserving.”

3. Lifting the two per cent cap on funding for First Nations programs

Trudeau announced that as part of its first budget, his government will lift the two percent cap on funding for First Nations programs that has been in place for almost two decades.

“It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations”, Trudeau said. “That gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding.”

4. Implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Trudeau reiterated his pledge to “fully implement” all 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

5. Repealing legislation

Trudeau promised to repeal all legislation unilaterally imposed on indigenous peoples by the previous Conservative government. “Where measures are found to be in conflict with your rights, where they are inconsistent with the principles of good governance, or where they simply make no public policy sense, we will rescind them,” said Trudeau.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that while there is much work to do, Trudeau’s government has made a “great start in changing the narrative”.

You can read Chief Bellegarde’s full opening address here.