Hughes Challenges Parliament to Act on First Nations Issues

Ottawa – The grassroots political movement sweeping First Nations communities is an opportunity for the government to reset their relationship with Canada’s Aboriginal population in order to break the cycle of poverty and the challenges that arise from it, says Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP, Carol Hughes.

Speaking to a New Democrat Motion instructing parliament to recognize the broad-based demand for action and calling on the government to make the improvement of economic outcomes of First Nations, Inuit and Métis a central focus of Budget 2013, Hughes explained how the deck has been stacked in a way that should be a call to action for parliament.

“Canadians are proud of our country and for many good reasons,” said Hughes.  “We rate 6th on the United Nations Human Development Index but when First Nations-specific statistics are applied to the same index, First Nations in Canada are rated 63rd.”

Despite the obvious need to improve employment opportunities, infrastructure, and significant health problems that are at unacceptable rates for Aboriginal communities, the government has proven they don’t see these challenges as important.

“It is clear that this government doesn’t know where to start,” said Hughes. “They have insisted on presenting their own solutions that pick away at the margins instead of working with First Nations to arrive at a mutually agreeable path of action that could get to the heart of the problem.   In doing so, they invite a negative response.”

Hughes explained that a critical mass of unresolved land claims stand in the way of the kind of development the government wants to pursue on First Nations territories and promoted a course of action that New Democrats believe will help address this.

“We believe in building a new relationship on a nation-to nation basis with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and are committed to the principles of meaningful consultation and real co-operation because we understand that Canada is a stronger place when we choose to work together,” said Hughes. “It is clear this government has not acted in a way that shows they share this opinion.”

There is an appetite for change and a political awakening going on in First Nations communities across Canada and Hughes shared a story with the House to illustrate that.

“I met with a group of First Nations’ youth last week and was more than encouraged by the level of their engagement and the sense that they were taking the political process in Canada seriously,” said Hughes.  “I have no doubt that strong leaders will emerge from this generation who will not accept the status quo.”