Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 179
  Friday, June 21, 2013
 
Question: Government Response to First Nations
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I thank the minister for her answer. You said you are well aware of the challenges and that you have the record to prove it.

Today, National Aboriginal Day, we have marchers coming all the way from northern Saskatchewan, 3,450 kilometres. They are here because they are frustrated. I am frustrated. This government has put forward a tsunami of legislation over the last few years that has failed to listen to First Nation leaders. We have not been consulted. At least four bills have been foisted upon First Nations within the last two years. In addition to that, we had Chief Teresa Spence going on a hunger strike. The Prime Minister refused to meet with her. We had Elder Ray Robinson, who went on a hunger strike twice; we had Shelley Young and Jean Sock, from the Millbrook First Nation, who also went on a hunger strike. We had Elder Emil Bell from Saskatchewan, who went on a hunger strike; and we had Shawna Oochoo, from Regina, who went on a hunger strike; and others. Yet this government did not listen.

What do First Nation people have to do to get a response from this government?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, first, I cannot imagine how the legislation that we have brought in, including matrimonial property rights for Aboriginal women, would not be a positive step for Aboriginal women living on-reserve.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator LeBreton: Obviously, we acknowledge and recognize the determination of the walkers. We had the young Cree group from northern Quebec a few months ago. Minister Valcourt met with them when they were here and indicated that he would be going up to their community over the summer.

Again, honourable senators, as I pointed out in my last answer, we have designated new resources for scholarships, bursaries and personalized job skills training, all to help First Nations youth achieve success. We have had many good treaty negotiations that have been successful and have been applauded by First Nations leaders. Other First Nations leaders do not necessarily agree with the government, but there are many who do.

Honourable senators, it was our government that made the official apology on the residential schools issue. It has been our government that has worked very determinedly over the last number of years, since we have been in government, to address many of these issues. I would argue very strenuously that we are making considerable progress.