Thursday, June 11 marked the one-year anniversary of the historic apology in Parliament that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made to the victims and survivors of residential schools.
In speaking about the anniversary, Chuck Strahl, federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, said it was his hope “that all Canadians will reaffirm our commitment to take the practical, necessary steps to build a better life for aboriginal people from coast, to coast, to coast.”
I agree with him. As a Yukoner, I wish to take a simple step by writing this open letter back to Strahl asking him to find a way for the federal government to honour the spirit and intent of our existing First Nation land claim agreements.
In particular, I encourage him to work constructively to finalize the federal transfer agreements with our First Nations that have been outstanding for some time now.
First Nation governments have done remarkably well in the short time they have been formalized, despite the many challenges all governments face. Still, getting financial clarity is important.
Secure and stable funding would allow our First Nations to put in place the programs they need to create strong, resilient and healthy communities. This, of course, benefits all of us as Yukoners.
So my specific request of Strahl is that he engage our First Nations with honesty and respect. As an example, he should not be here in Whitehorse, when our chiefs go to Ottawa to speak with him.
As outgoing Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said, “We need to create a future which benefits First Nation peoples and all Canadians.”
If we are to reconcile and move beyond our past it will take more than words.
John Streicker, Green Party
Candidate for the Yukon