I’m sending you my personal invitation to attend the “Rise Up For Canada” rally tonight in the Downsview area of Toronto. It is sure to be the largest campaign event in the election campaign thus far.

It will include all the top Liberal candidates in the GTA including our Leader Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Ken Dryden, Martha Hall-Finlay, and special guest, The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien.

Wednesday, April 27 · 7:30pm – 10:30pm

Montecassino Hotel, 3710 Chesswood, Toronto, Ontario

I know Jean Chrétien isn’t a hero to most Anishinaabeg, myself included. After all, he was the Minister that brought forward the 1969 White Paper, and nearly, the First Nations Governance Act. That’s a lot to overlook for many First Nations people.

The Liberals eventually abandoned the White Paper, and the Trudeau government enshrined Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the Constitution.

The Liberals also eventually abandoned the First Nations Governance Act, in favour of a more collaborate approach with First Nations under a Paul Martin government.

However, the Chrétien government did attempt to develop a new relationship with First Nations. A lot of that has to do with the work of former National Chief Phil Fontaine during his first term. Many don’t realize that the Chrétien government made an official apology to First Nations over the residential schools in 1997. They responded by creating the Aboriginal Healing Foundation a year later. In fact, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, may have been finally signed off by the Harper government, but it was established and well underway under the Paul Martin government.

The Chrétien government was best known for slaying a massive deficit. In 1997, the government had to make difficult decisions, including limiting growth of First Nations spending. Many erroneously call this the “establishment of the 2 per cent cap”. But the real story was there was government-wide freeze. The fact was that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada was the only government department permitted 2 per cent growth every year, in order to address the needs of communities. During those tough fiscal years, the 2 per “cap” was really a positive thing.

Just as Paul Martin was going to lift the cap and provide the single largest investment in First Nations history, the NDP and the Conservatives killed the Kelowna Accord by defeating the Martin government.

The biggest reason that First Nations people might give Chrétien his due, is he is the Elder statesman of the Liberal party. I’m happy to provide my respect to this Elder whose heart, I feel, was always in the right place.

I’m definitely more of a Paul Martin guy. After all, he was the engineer of the Liberal fiscal policy that eliminated a massive government deficit in the 1990s and early 2000s. He truly believes in First Nations social justice. To this day, puts his money where his mouth is by supporting so many worthwhile First Nations initiatives.

I look forward to seeing you at the Rise Up For Canada rally tonight.