As you know the throne speech came down a few weeks ago and our conservative government decided to throw the first nations a bone. The Government will finally take action to address the disturbing number of unsolved cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women. When the budget came down the following day the Sisters in Spirit initiative were awarded 10 million over two to help draw attention to the 100’s of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The Government will also work hand-in-hand with Aboriginal communities and provinces and territories improve the situations in most first nation communities. And after all this talk the Native woman’s shelter of Montreal will lose it’s funding at the end of this month, jeopardizing the health and welfare of native women who desperately need the services of the shelter.
After reading the speech and seeing so many goodies for first nations in it, it makes you wonder why now? According to the speech the government will recognize the contributions of Canada’s Aboriginal people. “Too often, their stories have been ones of sorrow. Our Government will continue to build on its historic apology for the treatment of children in residential schools. After settling 17 specific claims since this Parliament began, it will continue to work to resolve additional claims.” The problem I have with this is the apology would have been historic if the Harper Government hadn’t down played the crimes committed during that era. Acknowledge the fact that some did not die in those schools, tens of thousands died due to Tuberculosis and other violent crimes.
I have to say that I am not surprised by the government’s throne speech, after an Olympics where the government promoted a happy and respectful relationship with it’s first nations. Naturally VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) neglected to mention that many first nations communities live in third world conditions, are on boiling water advisories, high suicide rates and drug and alcohol abuse. I guess the government was a victim of their own PR because now they have to live up to their claims of a happy relationship with first nations. It’s also not surprising, political pundits have been hinting at an election for some time and this may be just the government trying to hold on to power by making grandiose statements like those in the speech!
The most surprising of all the announcements was the governments decision to acknowledge the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “Our Government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws.” When this document first came up at the UN all but four countries refused to sign it, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, The U.S and Australia who recently changed governments have taken steps to sign the Declaration. The former Liberal government had planned to sign but were voted out of office before it was ready and the Harper govt had out right refused to sign it believing that to would affect the land claims already in affect.
So what changed their minds?
Can it be that the Olympics were a good idea?
Can it be that all it took was the magnifying glass of the Olympics to raise the awareness of first nations problems within Canada?
Or is this all just another empty election promise?