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Wednesday, 30 September 2015 00:00

Libs and NDP show strength on Indigenous issues

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            Speaking at an all-candidates meeting for Peterborough-Kawartha riding, both NDP candidate Dave Nickle and Liberal candidate Maryam Monsef showed more than expected

awareness about the marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Canada—as well as commitment to work for justice and a new relationship between Canada and First Nations.

            This included recognizing Indigenous sovereignty, committing to ongoing consultation, and raising funding levels to match settler society in terms of health care, social services and education.

            Conservative candidate Michael Skinner, whose majority governing party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has butted heads with First Nations leadership repeatedly, avoided attending.

            Meeting sponsor, Niijkiwendidaa Anishnaabekwewag Services Circle (NASC), asked the candidates to respond in turn to seven prepared questions about: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; environmental protection; clean, safe drinking water for First Nations communities (Curve Lake is among many communities living under an extended boil water advisory); support for urban Aboriginal services; Aboriginal and Treaty rights; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and relations between Aboriginal communities and settler society.

            Elder Doug Williams opened and closed the meeting with prayer, and told the candidates at the end of the meeting, “I wish we could elect you all so you could all do this work together.”

            He spoke about the need for “debwewin” (truth), and for building relationships that have been sadly lacking in recent history—and which are necessary for government to work.

            Doug Mason, a last-minute replacement for Gary Beamish as the Green Party candidate, repeatedly showed himself out of his comfort zone, both in his understanding of the Green platform, and in public speaking.

            Toban Leckie, candidate for the new Strength in Democracy Party, was overcome with emotion as he tried to read a prepared statement about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Curve Lake Chief Phyllis Williams graciously volunteered to take over reading it for him.

            “We have tried to bring a little Indigenous civilization to this process,” said NASC Executive Director Liz Stone at the end of the meeting. If that means respect and compassion, then they were successful.

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