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Aboriginal culture contributes to Canada’s value. The challenges faced by First Nations and their relationship with the Government are complex and require attention.
The Government is committed to supporting First Nations, to improve their well-being and prosperity, developing sustainable communities and creating greater opportunities. Through dialogue with First Nations the Government has identified five priority areas: education; reconciliation and governance; economic development; empowering citizens and protecting the vulnerable; and resolving land issues.
Since taking office the Government has built over 230 new schools on reserves and renovated over 230 others. It has built over 10,000 new homes and renovated thousands more. It has increased funding for family services by 25% and has invested billions in safe water systems. The Canadian Government invests approximately $1.7 billion per year to educate 117,500 students on reserves.
The Government introduced the First Nations Financial Transparency Bill to foster strong First Nations governance. It requires First Nations to publicly disclose financial statements and the salaries of the chief and councillors. No framework for accountability presently exists.
Lack of healthy housing in Attawapiskat is a particular concern. Since 2005, the Government has transferred over $54,000 for each man, woman and child in the community. This has not delivered the desired results. A 2011 independent auditor discovered that over 80 percent of the financial transactions of the Attawapiskat First Nation lacked supporting documentation and found no evidence of due diligence. Consequently, Attawapiskat has been placed under Third Party Management.
Every year the Government holds over 5000 consultations with First Nations. Eighty land claims have been settled in recent years. I strongly support all forms of dialogue between the Government and First Nations.
This approach accounts for the historical legacy which complicates aboriginal issues. It recognizes the role Courts rulings play. It prefers diplomacy over confrontation.
Chief Spence’s demand that Canada exchange constitutional limited monarchy for absolutist monarchy by giving the Governor General new powers to intervene in negotiations with First Nations was unacceptable. I am very glad she is no longer jeopardizing her health to pursue that objective.
Happy New Year!
Please accept my best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2013! I consider it to be a great privilege to represent my friends, neighbours and constituents of Kitchener Centre as your Member of Parliament, and I look forward to working together with you in the New Year.