Day 16: First Nation’s Priorities, Culture Should Be Supported

For Anishinaabe people, there are important cultural considerations to keep in mind during the federal election campaign.

I’d take you back to better days.  When government was far more open to First Nation’s priorities.  When we were seen as partners, not just stakeholders or a thorn in the back side.  The budget was balanced and the government could make good fiscal decisions to support the economy, Canadian families, and First Nation communities.

The Liberal government with Jean Chretien in the driver’s seat and Paul Martin at the financial controls had a plan to support the development of indigenous languages in Canada.  A national task force was formed and a $179 million budget was set-aside. Fast-forward a couple of years, and Stephen Harper unilaterally clawed it all back.  The vision of Paul Martin, including the $5 billion Kelowna Accord, were sent for permanent Conservative recycling to make room for mega-jails, jet fighters and the G20 debacle.

Sure, Anishinaabemowin may not be important to Jim Flaherty.  Knowing Aboriginal history, teachings and our songs many not be important to John Baird.  And without a doubt, our role as stewards of Mother Earth and our women’s role as caretakers of the water as not important to Peter Kent.

But it’s important to us!

For us, that means some kind of baseline funding for First Nations language and culture.  Perhaps this can begin by restoring the $170 million commitment to indigenous languages and the national task force.

This also means supporting the Aboriginal Healing Foundation whose sole purpose is to address the multigenerational impacts of the residential schools.  Surprise, surprise, Mr. Harper is putting an end to that too.

Fundamentally, we need a government that can see benefit from investment in language, culture and healing.  Just think, what would it meant to restore our cultural identity?  Perhaps our young people would develop a strong pride in themselves and their nation.  Graduation rates might just rise, while incarceration and additions may decline.  More and more of our youth would be getting degrees, raising their children in a healthy way and making real change in Canadian society.

We need a federal government that supports First Nation’s priorities.  We need a Prime Minister and a Minister of Indian Affairs that see us as partners in addressing, not only our difficult issues, but things that mean so much to us – like language, culture and healing.

Barring a significant change in their thinking, that’s just not possible under the Conservative government.

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