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2. Be credible and coherent
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A Liberal government would also adopt all the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The government would hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. In an election with unprecedented participation by Indigenous communities , the Liberals fielded a record 18 Indigenous candidates. Eight of them were elected.
Trudeau then placed two Indigenous people in cabinet portfolios of great importance in Indigenous affairs. In the mandate letters sent to all his ministers, Trudeau insisted:. No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. The reception from Indigenous peoples in Canada, though not universal , has been positive. At the launch of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in December, Trudeau was warmly received for adopting all its recommendations.
All this rhetoric is matched only by the scale of the tasks ahead. Quite a few are not aimed at government but call on universities, law societies, the health professions and the media, among others. Any satisfactory response will involve a hectic legislative agenda. This includes bills on child welfare, primary and secondary education, and Indigenous languages.
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It will require substantial reform of the criminal justice system, the health system, the public service and cultural policy in Canada, among many other programs and services. It will require significant investment to support new programs in higher education, healing, training for Indigenous professionals and support for Indigenous businesses, the creation of Indigenous law institutes and appropriate school curricula. For more than a decade, Indigenous communities and organisations have wanted a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recently acknowledged a total of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls between and This is evidence of a complex problem of racism, poverty and indifference.
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Trudeau has directed the ministers of Indigenous and northern affairs, justice and attorney-general and status of women to begin a six-month design process to determine what the inquiry should address and how. Taken seriously, this would oblige Canada to abandon its policy of litigation against those Indigenous nations seeking respect for their rights. It would make the Indian Act , which affects nearly every aspect of life on Indigenous reserves, untenable. The obligation to work on all these matters with Indigenous peoples as national partners on the one hand, and the urgency of demands in areas like housing and education on the other, poses a dilemma for the government.
And conflicts over federal and provincial jurisdiction over natural resources and other issues will persist. Through charisma and his embodiment of generational change, Trudeau is persuading many Indigenous peoples to re-engage with government. But as older Australian readers may recall of Bob Hawke , getting emotional about Indigenous affairs is not enough. A high bar has been set. Indigenous peoples in Canada now expect the new government to meet it.
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