Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan
Good evening everyone. Good evening everyone. Thanks for being here today and welcoming me so warmly onto the traditional territory of the Saskatchewan Treaty Four First Nations. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here.
It’s great to be back in Saskatchewan, joined here by our Minister for Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, who’s right here.
And I bring greetings from your local MP Andrew Scheer, who I spoke with a couple of hours ago, and he asked me to pass along his very best to you as well, and regrets that he couldn’t be here with us tonight.
Tomorrow morning I’ll be meeting with Premier Wall for the first time since the election here. So I’ll be congratulating him, but also talking about how well we’ve been working together since the tragedy in La Loche where we… where we last saw each other, and how the partnership we have on infrastructure, on building a strong future for Saskatchewan is going to be continuing together in the coming years.
Just moments ago, I finished up a meeting with the Tribal Chairperson Edmond Bellegarde and members of the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, along with leaders of its member First Nations. We were joined by Chief Cameron from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and National Chief Bellegarde from the Assembly of First Nations. We had a good, respectful, and productive conversation.
That meeting gave me the opportunity to talk about the actions our government has taken to advance the interests of indigenous peoples here in Saskatchewan and throughout the country. But above all, it was a chance for me to listen.
I think it’s critically important that politicians take the time to listen. I don’t want to pretend that any of us have the answers to the challenges facing indigenous peoples in Canada. But what I will tell you is that, as a country, we can build those answers. We cannot turn our collective back on the problems. It’s not enough to be outraged by the headlines—the stories of heartbreak and hopelessness that come out of communities like La Loche, Attawapiskat, Natuashish, and so many more—these are stories we need to hear. Before we act, we need to listen to the elders, to the young people, to the parents, to the victims, and to the survivors. They deserve to be heard.
And I want to thank all the leaders who met with me today for giving me a chance to listen. And I have to underline that it’s not just a story of challenges. There’s a tremendous story of opportunities and hope that I heard also today.
Today, I was told about the work that the Tribal Council is doing to support its local communities and to spur economic growth. I learned more about the services the Council provides to its communities, notably about the efforts dedicated to managing two shelters for women and children. That conversation reminded me once again that no relationship is more important to Canada than the one we have with the First Nations, the Métis Nation and the Inuit.
For my part, I reiterated my government’s commitment to rebuilding those relationships and making sure that they are based on respect, recognition of rights, cooperation, and true partnership. We know that much needs to be done and we know that we can’t fix the problems overnight. But we are—all of us—committed to working together as we start to make things right.
Over the next five years, our government will invest $8.4 billion on improving the lives of indigenous peoples right across this country. That includes $2.6 billion to improve primary and secondary education on reserve, and nearly $970 million to repair, build, and maintain new schools on reserve.
Over the next two years, we’ll focus on improving social infrastructure. That means more housing and better healthcare facilities on reserve. It means greater investments in facilities and programs that support early learning and childcare, and it means more funding for cultural and recreational centres, as well as programs that help to promote, preserve, and protect indigenous languages and cultures.
We also know that the victims of violence need more help, and starting this year we’re making significant new investments to repair, build, and support shelters for victims of family violence in First Nations communities. Our work on a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls has already begun.
That inquiry is a priority for our government because we are facing nothing less than a national tragedy. Indigenous women and girls are overrepresented among victims of violence. It’s a… problem we have to face and that we have to resolve. The victims deserve peace; their families deserve a chance to be heard and to have closure.
The inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls needs to provide justice for the victims, healing for the families, and ensure that this ongoing tragedy ceases once and for all.
We promised during the election campaign that we would lift the 2% funding cap for First Nations’ programs. We remain committed to that goal and the unprecedented investments announced in Budget 2016 sets us well on that path. And we will work with First Nations in the coming year to lay the groundwork for a new fiscal relationship, one that gives First Nations communities funding that is sufficient, predictable, and sustained. As I said, there is much work still to be done and meetings like the one we had today are an important part of rebuilding the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, and I’m honoured to be part of this ongoing dialogue.