SASKATOON – One day after securing a majority government in Canada’s federal election, prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau said he would fulfil his promise of ordering an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“I believe that there is a need for a national public inquiry to bring justice for the victims, healing for the families, and to put an end to this tragedy,” Trudeau said to reporters.
The statement covers one of many promises the Liberal leader made on the campaign trail regarding aboriginal issues that many Saskatchewan voters consider front and centre. Trudeau pledged millions of dollars toward First Nations education and full implementation of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
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“Stephen Harper said no to the inquiry and I think it’s important that Trudeau keeps his promises,” said Dallas Fiddler, a University of Saskatchewan (U of S) student who voted this election.
U of S public policy expert Ken Coates said the real question regarding the incoming government is “how are they going to work with aboriginal people and will they do it in a different way?”
Coates said aboriginal governments need to play a key role in the decision making process on issues that affect their communities.
“If all ideas emanate out of the Aboriginal Affairs office in Ottawa and if the prime minister and his cabinet are making the decision, no real change has happened,” said Coates, a professor and research chair in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
“It’s not about money; it’s not even about consultation … the real ultimate issue is about shifting decision making and resource allocation from the government of Canada to aboriginal governments.”
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One group who hopes to work in partnership with the incoming Trudeau government is the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC). Its chief said he’s optimistic about the new leader’s agenda, but worries not everyone in Ottawa will be on board.
“Its one thing for the government to want to do some things, but will the bureaucracy respond quick enough and as aggressively enough as the government wants them to do,” said STC Chief Felix Thomas.
“Good intentions are just that … What we want to do is work in a partnership to facilitate those good intentions to actually come to fruition.”