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OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau has made some big promises to Canada’s indigenous peoples, and the head of the Assembly of First Nations says he is anxious to get working with the incoming Liberal government to see those commitments realized.
But critics say some of the goals that Mr. Trudeau has set for himself as he tries to improve the lot of the country’s aboriginal people are impractical, wrong-headed or simply beyond his ability to deliver.
Mr. Trudeau – during a virtual town hall last week aired by APTN, Canada’s indigenous television network – said he would repeal or reform many pieces of legislation that do not respect the rights of indigenous peoples, including their right to be adequately consulted about issues that affect them. He also said he would give the First Nations a veto over development in their territories.
Mr. Trudeau promised last spring to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on indigenous residential schools, many of which are far-reaching. And, during the recent election campaign, he said he would increase the funding for First Nations schools by an amount that far exceeds the $1.4-billion over three years that was allocated but never delivered by the Conservatives.
Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that Mr. Trudeau’s statements have been “very powerful” and he is “on the path towards reconciliation.”
It is critical, Mr. Bellegarde said, to review and possibly repeal legislation passed by the Conservative government – especially a controversial anti-terror law and massive budget bills that rewrote environmental legislation. “We need to get working on that as soon as possible,” he said.
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