Ending Economic Discrimination for First Nations communities
An NDP government will raise the rates of First Nations funding for education, infrastructure and health care to the same levels across the Canada.
Indigenous peoples face disproportionately high rates of poverty, lower levels of access to economic and educational opportunities, and off the chart chronic health issues. They are three times as likely to live in housing in need of major repairs, more likely to be without safe drinking water, and many communities have only limited access to health care. Suicide rates are 5 to 7 times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth.
The Federal government is responsible for providing programs and services to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities that most communities in Canada receive from provincial and municipal levels of governments. These programs and services include education, health and social services, roads, housing, water and waste management.
The federal government has consistently failed Indigenous communities, and despite Liberal election promises financial assistance remains unequal to that of municipalities and have not considered population increases, inflation, and lack of resources.
The complicated patchwork of legislations, policies, laws and agreements, have created barriers to equitable health care and services. Indigenous communities face some of the most demoralizing health conditions across Canada. Health effects are directly tied to a number of determinants: education, employment, gender, environmental health, cultural connectedness, housing, and degree of individual empowerment and collective self-determination.
Many First Nations schools receive less funding per student than provincial and territorial schools. The Federal government fails to realize that Canada benefits from an investment in education.
The TRC Calls to Action 8, 10, 11, and 12 ask the government to eliminate the discrepancy in federal funding for First Nations, while Calls to Action 18 and 19 call upon the government to address the current state of Aboriginal health and to establish goals to close the gaps. UNDRIP Articles 3, 4, 5, 14, 15, 18, 21 support the rights of equal and just services and programs for Indigenous, with consultation on how their social, economic and political institutions.
As leader of Canada’s NDP, I will implement accountability and transparency in the funding relations between the federal government and Indigenous communities – and will ensure the funding relationship reflects the spirit and intent of treaties, and that the rates are increased to the same standard of funding for infrastructure, health, and education in non-Indigenous communities.
Justice and Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
As NDP leader, I will ensure that the families of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will have justice for their loved ones, and I will act immediately to put into place a comprehensive national action plan to address violence against women and girls.
The TRC Calls to Action and the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples serves as a framework to address Indigenous Justice.
The TRC Call to Action number 41 states “We call upon the Federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry…” and this is a driving force in establishing an effective and family led inquiry. UNDRIP Article 22. 2 additionally asserts “States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”
Housing in the North
Unsafe, inadequate housing and overcrowded homes in the North have reached a point of crisis. Due to a lack of available housing spaces combined with severe housing costs, rural homelessness has spiked and multiple generations of families are forced to share tight spaces. This also impacts the ability for Indigenous women to escape unsafe living conditions. Minimal housing spaces compounded with federal restrictions on shelter funding for off-reserve Indigenous communities leave many Inuit and off-reserve Indigenous women out in the cold.
As the leader of Canada’s NDP, I would immediately lift the barrier for off-reserve shelter funding, and invest in subsidized, affordable housing and infrastructure.
Clean Drinking Water in First Nations Communities
In 2017, there were 144 drinking water advisories affecting 95 First Nations communities.
First Nations communities do not have the protection of legally-binding safe drinking standards. While each province and territory have their own standards of protection for drinking water, the threat of contamination, the possible shortage of drinking water, and inadequate sanitation services are a real threat to the health of First Nations people. If clean drinking water is a right to Canadians, then we are failing First Nations. An NDP government under my leader will make it a priority to rectify this blatant violation of human rights.
As leader of Canada’s NDP, I will address this issue by ensuring the Federal Government commits and makes available adequate funding for these fundamental rights, and I will work with First Nations on solutions to safe drinking water and sanitation services. Most importantly, I will work with First Nations on the development of their own standards of protection for their drinking water. This is part of our commitment to First Nations under UNDRIP article 32.2.
Address the High Rates of Incarceration for Indigenous Persons
First Nations are overrepresented in Canada’s criminal justice system.
The causes of this disproportionately high number of incarcerations are deeply embedded in our justice system. It is rooted in a long history of discrimination and social inequality that has impoverished Indigenous peoples and pushed them to the margins. There is no room for racism in the chambers of justice, the power held there is enormous and far impacting. I support the call for alternative justice reform, which includes culturally relevant justice programs and restorative justice.
As leader of Canada’s NDP, I will implement TRC Calls to Action 31 to 40. These calls to action address the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system, and recommend providing reports, stable funding, alternatives to imprisonment, legal reforms, the elimination of barriers, culturally relevant services, and the develop of a national plan to collect data on the criminal victimization of Indigenous peoples, ensuring a justice system that is fair and just.
Urban reserves in Canada are located adjacent to urban centres. They usually are created as a result of specific claim and Treaty Land Entitlement settlements, which provide First Nations with payments that may be used to purchase land, according to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
I am committed to supporting the creation of urban reserves. I have listened to the calls from First Nations under Treaty rights and understand the benefits of economic stability. UNDRIP Article 3, 4, 5 and 6 support Indigenous people to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural developments, to exercise their self-determination in matters, along with the means for financing their autonomous functions, and they have the right to maintain and strengthen their legal, economic social, institutions.
For First Nations, creating Urban reserves provides economic and employment opportunities. Since most reserves are located far from urban centres, the creation of urban reserves offer ways to address the problems of geographic remoteness, unemployment, housing shortages, and economic opportunities for members.
Urban reserves are a partnership, and through that partnership municipalities benefit through municipal servicing agreements that provide fees for services such as water, garbage collection, police and fire protection.
Equal Access to Health Care for First Nations children
I am committed to honouring and upholding Jordan’s Principle, and working nation-to-nation with First Nations to ensure children living on reserve have equal access to health care and health resources.
I am inspired and deeply affected by the work of Cindy Blackstock, executive director of The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society who initiated Jordan’s Principle. Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations child, who needlessly spent five years in hospital and died. During his five years in the hospital, the federal and provincial governments argued over who would pay for his home care.
According to the FNCFCS, Jordan’s Principle aims to make sure First Nations children can access public services ordinarily available to other Canadian children without experiencing any service denials, delays or disruptions related to their First Nations status. Cindy Blackstock has stated that child welfare services on reserves receive between 22 and 39 per cent less funding than provincially run agencies.
As leader of Canada’s NDP, I will work with provinces, territories and local governments to ensure that provisions are equal to all service providers to Indigenous children. I recognize and acknowledge the distinct needs of Indigenous children and their circumstances. The narrow interpretation of Jordan’s principle is a serious violation of the ruling, and I will work to ensure that the interpretation adheres to the intent of the principle as set in the tribunal court ruling. The TRC and UNDRIP support the rights of children, and the services available to them should be just and equal. Calls to Action 1 and 3 call upon the government to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in care, by providing adequate resources, and to fully implement Jordan’s Principle. UNDRIP Articles 7, 21 (2), 22 (1) (2), state Indigenous peoples have the right to live in freedom and shall not be subject to violence including the forceful removal of their children; that Indigenous people have the right to the improvement of their economic and social conditions; and states will take measures to improve and pay special attention to the rights and special needs of children.
I will consult and engage with Métis people to ensure their rights are recognized, and outstanding claims are addressed. Métis communities have long been ignored and discriminated against by the federal government, it is time to recognize these communities as strong, distinct and resilient.
Access to Food for Remote and Northern Communities
Indigenous people in the North are facing an acute food security crisis. Current food policies in Canada inadequately address food security in the Canada’s North. The current policies in Canada are fall distressingly short when it comes to addressing food security in the nation’s northern communities.
Remote Inuit and First Nations communities are faced with expensive, low-quality foods that are difficult to obtain. In turn, Inuit and First Nations resort to consuming highly processed items more often, which is leading to poor health outcomes. The traditional food, or country food, of northern communities include wildlife, provided through hunting, fishing and gathering. Although the costs associated with hunting are challenging and some are losing the skills to hunt, these foods are crucial for health and for sustaining traditional culture. Climate change is also impacting the quantity of wildlife and historic migration patterns which contribute to the challenges of food security.
The Federal Government has a program which is the Nutrition North, which is an attempt to provide a solution to the high costs of groceries. This program provides a subsidy on shipping costs on specific foods shipped to Canada’s north. Health Canada defines which foods are subsidized based on their nutrition guidelines, which based on a diet in the South and completely disregards the traditional and natural diet of Indigenous communities in the North.
The Canada’s Auditor General recently found several concerns with the Nutrition North program including, lack of transparency which could be contributing to a business bottom line instead of reducing grocery costs.
As NDP leader I will address the issues of access to food for remote and northern communities by exploring the regulated pricing of grocers in the North, review Nutrition North program and subsidize foods that fit diet needs of Indigenous communities in the North, including traditional Inuit country food, and consult with the northern Indigenous communities to seek further solutions. The UNDRIP supports the issue of food security through self-determination and consultation; Articles 20 and 21 state Indigenous people have the right to maintain and develop their economic, political, and social systems to secure their own means of subsistence.
The Government of Canada and the courts understand treaties between the Crown and Aboriginal people to be sacred covenants, which set out promises, obligations and benefits for both parties. TRC Calls to Action number 45 iii calls upon governments to renew or establish Treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect and shared responsibility. UNDRIP, “recognizes the urgent need to respect and promote the rights of Indigenous people affirmed in treaties, agreements, and other constructive agreements with States”.
As NDP leader, I will properly apply the duty to consult and accommodate and acknowledge these treaties are living documents, not historical. Treaties form the relationship between the government and First Nations and honouring these treaties is pivotal to reconciliation. The federal government must engage in a nation-to-nation relationship with all First Nations, and must do so in the spirit of reconciliation and respect.