Martin sees Trudeau's UN speech as 'waking up' the rest of the world
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Indigenous-focused speech to the United Nations on Thursday was Canada “waking up” the rest of the world to the ongoing plight of Indigenous peoples, says Paul Martin.
In an interview with Don Martin, host of CTV's Power Play, the former Liberal prime minister and advocate for Indigenous issues said that Trudeau giving a speech predominantly focused on the government’s historically troubled relationship with Indigenous peoples was important to help other world leaders understand the importance of the issue.
"I don’t think the rest of the world is really very much aware and this is part of the problem," Martin said.
"That he gave the speech at the United Nations is telling the world where Canada is, and this will actually rebound beyond that."
During the speech, Trudeau laid bare Canada's past failures and ongoing challenges when it comes to how Indigenous people in Canada are treated. He also outlined how his government intends to right some of those past wrongs, from efforts to improve conditions in First Nation communities, to its latest endeavour: dismantling the department of Indigenous Affairs and encouraging more Indigenous self-government.
"Canada remains a work in progress. For all the mistakes we've made, we remain hopeful that we can do better," Trudeau said.
Trudeau announced in August that he was splitting up the Indigenous file, naming Jane Philpott minister of Indigenous services, and Carolyn Bennett the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs.
It's a restructuring move Trudeau said is about following through on the Liberals’ promise to reset the federal relationship with indigenous peoples.
Martin said the government’s decision to split the file in two is the right move.
"I think if you ask anybody who should be in charge of your children’s education, who should be in charge of your children's health care, who should be there when you family's having trouble, and to say that it shouldn’t be the community and it shouldn’t be those who are the closest to the people just doesn’t make any sense," he said.
Martin cautioned that it will take a long time before real change will be felt.
NDP Indigenous and northern affairs critic Romeo Saganash said Indigenous people have already waited long enough for the government to act on its promises when it comes to Indigenous issues.
"First Nations are still under 172 drinking water advisories. This is up from 159 advisories from before he [Trudeau] was elected. So how can the Prime Minister keep claiming to the world that this is the most important relationship, when in reality he’s letting them down," said Saganash in House of Commons Thursday, shortly after Trudeau wrapped up his remarks.
Martin also offered comment on the ongoing controversy surrounding Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak.
The Ontario senator has been removed from all Senate committees, but has not been removed from the Conservative caucus, despite calls for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to remove her after she suggested Indigenous people “trade in” their status cards for Canadian citizenship.
"That a Canadian Senator would do this is obviously... doesn’t speak very well for her, but what it does show is that this battle is not going to be easily won," he said.
Martin said Beyak's remarks are "an indication of really what the First Nations have been facing for a long time."