Indigenous leaders from across the country made a grand entrance at TCU Place in Saskatoon Tuesday when they gathered for the National Assembly of Remote Communities Symposium.
The three-day event is the first of its kind in Canada. It’s an opportunity for leaders from remote communities to come together and discuss the challenges they live with every day.
Tuesday focused on the realities and lived experiences of remote communities with presentations and breakout room discussions.
For Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Vice Chief David Pratt, this event proves that the issues seen in Saskatchewan are also see across the country.
“For us to be able to come together as a collective voice, share all our challenges, share all our issues, be around the same table and pushing for the same thing,” said Pratt, “I think it gives us strength as a collective voice.”
Pratt said he is hoping this event will help people better understand the challenges people in northern and remote communities are facing.
“A lot of people in the north would rather be on income assistance than work,” said Pratt. “Because the jobs that pay in the communities pay $2,000. Sometimes their hydro bill is $2,000 to $3,000 in one month. Where’s the motivation?”
In fact there are many challenges faced in remote communities, challenges that have made having 16 to 22 people in one household seen as normal. It’s also normal for a jug of milk to cost more than double the amount it would in Saskatoon.
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse says there is a gap in resources.
“We’ve had enough of being on the back end of many of these deals,” said Narcisse. “We want to make sure that our children, youth and families are resourced properly.”
For both leaders, this event will pave the way for future discussions in addressing the unique needs of remote communities. It’s an event remote communities legal council, Julian Faulkner said has been a long time coming and is proud to see it finally taking place.
“This is a first in Canada,” said Faulkner. “Never before has a collective of remote communities stood on its feet together, paddled in the same direction together, and created this kind of national presence so it’s an exciting time.”