PM Trudeau delivers remarks at AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau
Good morning. Elders, youth, veterans, National Chief Bellegarde, members of the AFN executive, and Chiefs in Assembly, good morning.
Thank you for once again giving me the opportunity to share a few words with you today. I’d like to begin by recognizing that we are on the traditional land of the Algonquin people. We acknowledge them as past, present, and future caretakers of this land. As I stand before you today, I’m reminded of the very first time I addressed this Assembly as Prime Minister in December 2015. I told you then what continues to be true now: that the time had come for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, a relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Now we all knew that the road to reconciliation wouldn’t be quick or easy but I vowed to begin this journey with you in real, meaningful ways.
We’ve advanced a new chapter together. One in which Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people are building a better, stronger Canada together. Working in partnership with First Nations, the government is taking action to close the gaps between the living conditions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Every person in Canada, wherever they may live, should be able to drink the water that comes out of their tap. Every person in Canada, whoever they may be, should have a safe and affordable place to call home and be able to get a good education, close to their family. Yet, Indigenous Peoples are more likely than any other in this country to face these challenges.
This isn’t new. For too many years, governments have done very little to eliminate the inequities that have caused so many people to suffer. We are working together to change things for good. To ensure that people living on reserve have access to clean drinking water, we’ve made unprecedented investments in the repair and improvement of water systems and wastewater treatment in Indigenous communities. To date, 62 boil water advisories have been lifted, which brings us closer to our objective of eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2020.
We’re also investing in children and in families. We’ve committed new funding to provide access to quality health care close to home and improve K-12 education in communities. And we’re working in partnership to advance First Nations-led solutions that First Nations want to see in the child welfare system that put the wellbeing of children first so that fewer children end up in care and more children are reunited with their families and with their communities.
We’re also investing to connect 17 First Nations communities to Ontario’s power grid so that they have access to clean, safe, and reliable energy. While we know that there is still much to be done to close these gaps, this is important, impactful work that should inspire confidence in our shared future. These much-needed investments attest to the strength of our commitment to renew the relationship with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.
That said, I am ever mindful of the fact that true reconciliation between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples, and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, will not happen unless we dismantle the old colonialist structures and mentalities that led to their adoption in the first place. Last year, the government dissolved Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and created two new departments to better meet the immediate needs of communities while promoting recognition of rights and greater self-determination. And to guarantee the protection, preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages in this country, we are working with you to enact Indigenous languages legislation.
In February, I announced the creation of a Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework. This framework will ensure that the recognition and implementation of rights is the basis for all relations between Indigenous Peoples and the federal government going forward. It means that new policies developed together will replace rights-denying measures like the Comprehensive Claim Policy, so communities can exercise their inherent rights to self-determination and self-government. The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, supported by the Minister of Justice, is working in full partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to determine the content of this framework. These are some of the essential and overdue steps we are taking to ensure That Indigenous Peoples have full control of their own destiny and make their own decisions about their future.
Since the beginning of our mandate, I have often said that no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. Every opportunity I’ve had to engage with communities, like my visit to Pikangikum in the fall, has strengthened my resolve to renew this relationship and deepened my understanding of reconciliation. We have done so much together but we still have a long way to go on the path to true reconciliation, and as your communities and nations develop your paths, we will be there alongside you.
But there is no doubt that together we are moving in the right direction, that together we’re building a stronger, better Canada.
Once again, I want to thank you for your invitation to be here today.
Chi-Miigwetch. Mahsi-Cho. Gilakasla.
Thank you very much, everyone.