On Jan. 10, the Canadian Prime Minister met with that country’s Congress of Aboriginal Peoples during the first of what are to become annual meetings to discuss Indigenous priorities and the government’s approach to them.
The first meeting was held between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, along with the CAP’s vice-national chief, its executive officer, a senior policy adviser and Indigenous elder Claudette Commanda, The Canadian Press reported.
Among other subjects discussed were missing and murdered Indigenous women, children in foster care, incarceration rates and education — all major issues affecting Indigenous communities in Canada.
The meeting comes at a time when the federal government has promised to renew relations with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Trudeau said the meetings would ensure the group’s leaders would be heard.
Those efforts, in turn, come in no small part due to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and its damning report on the historical mistreatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada at the hand of government and church forces. This dark past has led to various kinds of trauma in the Indigenous population, evidenced in part by its low employment numbers and high alcoholism and suicide rates.
There is also a long history of violence against Indigenous women, most tragically evidenced by the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases have long gone unnoticed.
The Committee therefore also released a set of 93 recommendations on how to begin the healing process, which, among other things, has included more culturally-sensitive-and-aware education at all levels and more genuine nation-to-nation consultations.
Last year, Trudeau also promised to meet with various Indigenous groups, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders at least once a year.
However, he has come under fire multiple times since his election in October 2015 for failing to deliver on his promises to lead a more inclusive government respectful of Indigenous rights and culture. In his latest show of backtracking, Trudeau recently approved two major pipeline projects that have seen – and continue to see – massive Indigenous opposition.
The government also announced it would be meeting with representatives from the various Indigenous groups in that country at least twice annually to discuss new policies.
The newly elected national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Robert Bertrand, said he thought the meeting was “an open and a very frank discussion.”