Patience on aboriginal file is key says Saskatchewan professor
SASKATOON – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s question and answer period with Saskatoon aboriginal students Wednesday is an example of how the government can create a new relationship with First Nations’ people according to an indigenous history professor.
“I want them talking and talking and more talking,” said Ken Coates, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, in an interview Thursday.
“I want them to prove that they are partners with indigenous peoples, not the bosses of.”
Trudeau spent Tuesday near Regina, meeting with First Nations’ leaders, before travelling to Saskatoon where he visited Oskayak High School Wednesday morning. After the tour he took questions from the students themselves.
“For me listening is every bit as much important as speaking, if not more important,” said Trudeau to the gymnasium full of students and dignitaries Wednesday.
“Because the learning and the understanding of your issues helps me do my job.”
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Coates applauded Trudeau’s actions Thursday and said it’s critical that they continue throughout the rest of his term.
“He has reached out and had more direct conversations with indigenous peoples in the last six months than the previous prime minister had in ten years in office,” said Coates.
“The conversation and the process in which he’s engaged in is more important than getting money out the door.”
The potential new relationship could direct federal support to areas which First Nations’ leaders deem important, compared to the federal government coming to the conclusion, according to Coates. He added the “idea that the government of Canada can figure out what’s right for indigenous people has not worked for 150 years.”
However Coates cautioned that Canadians must be patient in the process and said the public shouldn’t judge the government on quantifiable results after four years. Instead, he said Trudeau should be judged on if “indigenous people feel they’re partners in confederation.”
“Give these communities, the government and the indigenous communities’ time to build trust, and the partnership and the collaboration,” said Coates.
“This has taken 150 years to muck up; you’re not going to [in] four years turn around and create some good outcomes.”
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