By Greg Laychak
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling for nothing less than a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and First Nations.
“I will be your partner,” the PM told First Nations leadership at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Gatineau last Tuesday morning.
And that is positive news for local Yale leader, Chief Ken Hansen who said he is optimistic about the next few years “as long as open dialogue and real consultation and real consent are a part of the process.”
He told The Standard he is hopeful Trudeau and the federal Liberals see the benefit in working together.
“If First Nations are strong, Canada is strong,” Hansen added. “Indigenous people are part of this country, we contribute to the economy in the same way anyone else in this country does.”
As a growing and young population across Canada, he said investments made in indigenous communities now will “pay off ten-fold” for the future of this country.
Under the Harper government, Hansen said there was no real consultation or consent with First Nations.
“Decisions affecting First Nation peoples’ lives were made with no actual input or permission from us,” he said.
The Conservative leadership showed a “total disregard for the lives and wellbeing of Aboriginal women,” according to Hansen.
“Our missing sisters, daughters, nieces and mothers were seen as non-important, a political nuisance at best,” he added. “I’m hoping the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Women can provide some answers and offer peace to the grieving family members, and prevent future tragic losses to our communities.”
On top of that, Hansen has seen funding increased for other populations’ essential services over the last 20 years.
But Yale and other First Nations had been under a funding cap during that period—that is until Trudeau announced last Tuesday that two per cent limit will be finally lifted.
“With the cost of living continuing to rise but essential funding at a virtual standstill, it’s as if our communities are always taking one step forward and three steps back,” Hansen said. He’s hopeful Trudeau’s commitment to immediately lift the funding cap will allow much-needed services to the Yale membership.
Yale First Nation’s short-term goals are to address a lack of housing and poor nutrition, according to their leader.
“When I was elected, I also inherited a Treaty that’s signed and ratified under past leadership and I’m not happy with it,” Hansen said. “The Treaty will affect neighboring First Nations as well as non-Native communities in ways I’m not comfortable with.”
And though he and his counterparts are elected representatives, Hansen said there’s still an aura of distrust from membership toward the leaders.
With the majority of the Yale First Nation population first-generation descendants of residential school survivors, he said the distrust is natural.
Hansen might be a bit distrustful of unproven leaders himself: “I just hope Trudeau is a man of his word and walks his talk,” he said.
~ with files from Jennifer Feinberg