Positives for a change

Share Button

The difference in attitude toward First Nations people with the new federal government is amazing. The contrast with the closed and hostile Harper government is huge. That difference was illustrated by the meeting in early June that members of a Mattagami First Nation youth group had with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Health Minister Jane Philpott.

This is a big deal as the government is opening up to First Nation leaders, groups and organizations in an attempt to learn more about the needs and issues affecting Aboriginals across Canada. In the past there was a feeling of hopelessness and desperation from the level of negative pressure from the federal government.

During the meeting, the group discussed issues such as suicide prevention, proper housing, the right to be protected from all kinds of abuse, recreational programs and facilities, equal education funding and teacher retention. Trudeau wanted to know from the presenters how they thought the government should address these issues. What a difference a few months can make.

Trudeau also met with Attawapiskat Chief Bruce Shisheesh and a few of his band councillors, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and MP Charlie Angus to discuss the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat First Nation and other Aboriginal communities.

The best thing about these meetings with First Nation people was that Trudeau and his government made an effort to listen to the needs of my people and then made significant commitments to dealing with them. In other words, he put his money where his mouth was. In my 20 years as a journalist, this was the most impressive thing I have seen happen in regards to the relationship between the federal government and First Nations.

Trudeau committed close to $70 million over three years to provide services and assistance including: two permanent mental health care workers for Attawapiskat, a 24-hour culturally sensitive crisis response line, four crisis response teams in Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut, an increase in the number of mental wellness teams from 11 to 43 for communities at risk, training for existing community-based workers to ensure that care services are provided in a traditional way and funds for new housing for Attawapiskat.

I cannot believe I am writing such positive words about the relationship between the government and my people these days. It is unbelievable how things have changed so much for the better and I am grateful to all those who have put up such a good effort over the years including Theresa Spence, the former Chief of Attawapiskat, to bring us to this point of respect, understanding and positive development.

I say many thanks to our leaders, youth and Elders for making the future of young First Nation people more hopeful. Lives will be saved with these decisions and commitments and I will be eternally thankful for that.

First Nations Youth with Justin Trudeau

Share Button

Comments are closed.