POLITICS

Indigenous-Led Group Asks Federal Leaders To Make Reconciliation An Election Priority

10/02/2015 07:03 EDT | Updated 10/02/2016 05:12 EDT
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An indigenous-led organization has sent letters to each of the federal party leaders, asking what they'll do to move forward on reconciliation between Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians.

"We really believe that reconciliation must be one of the key issues leading up to this federal election," says Karen Joseph, chief executive officer of Reconciliation Canada, a Vancouver-based organization that aims to uphold the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

All but the federal Conservatives have responded, Joseph says.

"It's disappointing for us," she says. "But should they [Conservatives] provide a response for us, we'll openly support that."

In the letters, Reconciliation Canada posed three questions to leaders of the Bloc Québécois, Conservatives, Greens, Liberals and NDP:

- What steps will your party take to create a deeper understanding of the current realities of the residential school legacy for all Canadians?

- What steps will your party take to move forward with reconciliation among Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians?

- What steps will your party take to achieve economic parity between Aboriginal Peoples and all Canadians?

Four federal leaders responded by the group's deadline of Sept. 28. 

Some of those commitments include the Bloc Québécois vowing to make the federal government recognize the residential school system as cultural genocide; a Liberal pledge to make the history of the schools part of curricula across the country; the Green Party's intention to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the NDP promise to increase funding for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

"All of the parties that responded showed a willingness to support reconciliation, and it's good to see that every one of them have made commitments to moving reconciliation forward," Joseph says.

​It's been four months since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a summary of its findings, after six years of public hearings about the abuses that happened in the residential school system. It included 94 recommendations for change in policies, programs and the "way we talk to, and about, each other."

"Reconciliation is talking about what kind of future we want to create for Canada," Joseph says. "That's relevant regardless of any party, and it's the responsibility of all Canadians to have that conversation."

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