NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took aim at the Saskatchewan First Act and the Sask. Party government during his visit in North Battleford Wednesday.
“Here in Saskatchewan, I know that you’re up against a tough government that’s not recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights. The Saskatchewan First Act is legislation that ignores the rights of Indigenous people. And I want you to know that I think that’s wrong,” Singh said at the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations All-Chiefs Assembly.
Singh spoke at the assembly, and also visited the Wahpeton Dakota Nation School, touching on several topics.
He said if we work in partnership, things get done, good projects get developed, and everyone benefits.
“When we’re fighting, it’s no benefit to anyone.”
He said economic inclusion is needed, and that development on First Nations land needs to benefit Indigenous people.
Singh said we need to honour treaty rights, which means shared prosperity.
Singh said Canada is one of the richest countries, but our approach to economic development needs to change.
“For too long the approach around economic development has put billions of dollars into billionaires’ pockets, but we don’t focus enough on the benefits to local communities.”
Things like Indigenous language, housing, health-care and climate change were some of the other key topics Singh touched on.
“I think it’s also important to acknowledge that Indigenous communities have the solutions. A lot of times those solutions are just not listened to, they’re not supported, they’re not given the power to implement those changes.”
He said it was heartbreaking that the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis is ongoing.
Singh said they are working on implementing what he called a “Red Dress Alert” which would be an immediate way to acknowledge that someone has gone missing.
“We also need to implement all the Calls for Justice.”
He said implementing the calls from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was a way to keep people safe.
Singh fielded questions from members at the assembly, one of the topics being the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.
He said there were a lot of laws that don’t acknowledge Indigenous Peoples, and ignore their rights, adding this was what the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People aimed to address.
“I absolutely support the idea that any development that happens on Indigenous land should happen in a partnership with Indigenous people, it should not be forced on Indigenous people, nor should it happen without any benefit going to Indigenous people.”
He addressed systemic racism and trauma that Indigenous people are subjected to, calling it a system that is designed in such a way to keep Indigenous people in the same cycles.
Singh said a “housing first” solution is needed, saying that is the building block that allows people to address other issues like addictions and employment.
“A lot of research says housing first is the way. So get people housed first, and then we can work on all the other things, addiction, mental health, education, training, maybe employment.”
He said funding has been secured in the recent budget for Indigenous housing in urban, rural and remote areas, that will be for Indigenous, by Indigenous.
Singh also addressed the federal government’s goal to transition to net-zero emissions by 2035, and the fight that Premier Scott Moe has put up on the topic.
“I don’t think the cost should fall on people. People are already feeling squeezed, the cost of everything has already gone up, so I don’t want to see any additional pressure put on families.”
He noted we do still need to find a path forward to reducing emissions, adding that path doesn’t include federal and provincial governments butting heads.
“There are paths, we’ve got to build that together, not by fighting each other.”