We can all help make 2016 a good year

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Happy New Year and welcome to 2016! As a First Nation person I can tell you that I feel very good about the coming new year. What a change in terms of my people right across the country starting a new and more positive relationship with the federal government.

Much has changed for Aboriginal people in this country with the election of Justin Trudeau as prime minister. If all of the election promises his Liberal Party made are honoured, we certainly will be having a great 2016.

It’s working out so far. Prime Minister Trudeau recently announced a new approach to working with Aboriginal people in a partnership he called a sacred obligation. That is certainly a big change from how things operated with Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for the past decade.

Trudeau also announced the Liberal government would be going ahead with the promised federal inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This is a huge commitment to Aboriginal people across Canada. Too many families have for far too long wondered what happened to their loved ones.

The sources these tragedies and often have to do with racism, devastating conditions of poverty and lack of opportunity in First Nation communities – not to mention past federal and provincial government policies and colonization.

Trudeau also lifted a 2% cap on federal funding to First Nation communities, which had been in place for almost 20 years, because it did not keep up with actual growth and needs in the First Nations. He also committed to more funding for education. We as First Nation people need to make sure our young people have safe, positive, culturally sensitive education programs and schools that are at least on par with those offered in non-Native communities.

Trudeau’s recent appearance before an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) meeting was the first by a prime minister since his father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was in power. At the AFN meeting Trudeau committed to implementing all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to review all legislation unilaterally imposed on Indigenous peoples by the previous government.

Politically, we Aboriginal have a lot to celebrate. But we still need to maintain support our leaders at the community level, tribal council levels, regional, provincial and national levels to hold the government to account.

We must remember that powerful interests in our country will do their best to limit what Trudeau and his government will do for First Nations and the population of Canada. So don’t throw out your Idle No More signs just yet. Keep them handy as we need to continue with our fight for fairness to our people, protection for the land, waters, air we breathe and Mother Earth’s creatures.

Let’s face it: the big-money guys are still pushing the buttons of power, and it is up to us and the citizens of Canada to provide Trudeau with the support he needs to push these bullies back. Thankfully, we still have a healthy New Democratic Party opposition that will hopefully put aside most differences to make sure that good deeds are done for the people of Canada over the next few years. It is still up to us to help make sure these good deeds are done.

I was born and raised on a remote First Nation so I can tell you firsthand how difficult that was. When most Canadians were living lives with good employment, education opportunities and all the modern conveniences of a civilized society I was dealing with very sad, sometimes tragic and poverty stricken realities.

Some will excuse all that by saying that this was another time, when attitudes of racism, bigotry and colonialism were so negative and nasty. Yet, just look at what has transpired over the past decade in terms of First Nations being bullied by government and you have to admit not much has changed. We all need a way to move forward and with this new Liberal government in place and a young leader with some vision of good for the people it just might happen. He will need our help every step of the way.

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