OTTAWA: Admitting Canada has failed its indigenous people, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the United Nations on Thursday his government would do better to improve the lives of aboriginal Canadians and achieve reconciliation.
Trudeau used his second-ever speech to the UN General Assembly to frankly acknowledge the dark history of Canada’s colonization and promise to do more to help the nation’s 1.4 million indigenous people.
“We have been working hard, in partnership with other orders of government, and with indigenous leaders in Canada, to correct past injustices and bring about a better quality of life for Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” Trudeau said in prepared remarks.
“Though this path is uncharted, I am confident that we will reach a place of reconciliation,” Trudeau later added.
While Trudeau used his UN speech last year to highlight Canada’s strengths, a discourse the New York Times summed up as “We’re Canadian and we’re here to help,” the prime minister took office in 2015 pledging to fix its relationship with aboriginals.
Still, two years into Trudeau’s mandate, many accuse the prime minister of not doing enough to help indigenous Canadians, who make up about 4 percent of the population, and the UN speech follows a recent Cabinet shakeup aimed at revamping the government’s approach to aboriginal affairs.
Many aboriginal communities do not have access to safe drinking water, and suicides have plagued several isolated communities in recent months.
Acknowledging Canada’s attempt to force assimilation through residential schooling and other repressive policies, Trudeau called the high levels of poverty and violence aboriginals face “the legacy of colonialism in Canada.”
Trudeau promised to move forward with a review of federal laws and policy, and to support indigenous self-determination.
Trudeau in August reshuffled his Cabinet to put more emphasis on helping aboriginal people, splitting the federal indigenous and northern affairs ministry in two.