MPs represent First Nation residents, too

MPs represent First Nation residents, too I am writing in response to the Dec. 12 story "First Nations slam Bill C-45." The comments made by MP Ryan Leef when he proclaimed, "They should be delivering their message and not needing an MP as a spokesperso

I am writing in response to the Dec. 12 story “First Nations slam Bill C-45.”

The comments made by MP Ryan Leef when he proclaimed, “They should be delivering their message and not needing an MP as a spokesperson on their behalf,” were ludicrous considering that at the Crown-First Nations Gathering, PM Stephen Harper told chiefs that they should consider contacting their MPs and he can’t just focus on aboriginal issues because he has a country to run.

If the government will not listen to its people, then what does this mean?

Ryan Leef, as an MP, is a resource that belongs to all of us as Yukoners. His role as MP is much more than birthday greetings, passport applications and acting as the now-closed CRA.

Ask any First Nation what role previous Yukon MPs played in their negotiations for the creation or the implementation of land claims and you will find that it was a substantial one. Mr. Leef has the ability to follow through on election promises when he stated that he would be “Yukon’s Man in Ottawa.”

I hope his government will stop trying to impose legislation in such a paternalistic and unilateral nature. I hope Mr. Leef will sit down in consultation with Yukon First Nations’ leadership and discuss how the current legislation will affect them so detrimentally and what can be done to strengthen the relationship between indigenous people and the federal government.

Here in Yukon, there are four constituency offices and 25 per cent of the population is of First Nations descent. I hope Mr. Leef learns more about indigenous history as it pertains to the federal government. Here in Yukon, thousands of people have worked on aboriginal self-government over the past 40 years. Yukon is a exemplary region to the rest of Canada, showing the success of what happens when the federal and territorial governments work with indigenous populations as opposed to viewing them as adversaries.

Since the 2008 federal apology for residential schools there have been cuts or cancellations to Sisters in Spirit, First Nations Statistical Institute, National Centre for First Nations Governance, Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth, Metis Nation of Canada, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, Native Women’s Association, Assembly of First Nations, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Aboriginal Health Organization, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

All political First Nations organizations are also being targeted with a 10 per cent or $500,000 cut to their funding including organizations here in Yukon. These cuts coupled with the eight pieces of legislation being proposed, and grassroots people are standing up and are being Idle No More to the Conservative government’s agenda.

Expect to hear more First Nations’ unified voices taking proactive measures from here until 2015 when our greatest pinnacle will be our opportunity to vote in the 2015 election. The right to vote, a democratic right that wasn’t given freely to First Nations, Inuit or Metis until 1960.

Cherish Clarke

Co-Chair

Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission of the Liberal Party of Canada