Mulcair calls for 'nation to nation' approach after residential schools report
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:46PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2015 2:16PM EDT
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says the first step in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report on residential schools is to implement a “nation-to-nation” approach with First Nations, making education the No. 1 priority.
Mulcair made the comments one day after the TRC tabled its highly-anticipated report summary, which found that the residential school system amounted to "cultural genocide."
"I continue to believe that the first step is to create a respectful nation-to-nation approach, and there are models for that and it can be done," Mulcair told reporters following his party’s weekly caucus meeting Wednesday.
The report made 94 broad recommendations, touching on areas of child welfare, justice, health and education.
"Amongst the list of priorities, I would say that education remains No. 1," said Mulcair.
The NDP leader drew attention to the fact that aboriginal children "receive systematically 30 per cent less than other Canadian kids.” He said addressing that inequality is "a tough decision" that would require hard work, including further consultations with First Nations.
If the NDP forms a federal government, Mulcair said his party would put a "filter" on all its decisions related to First Nations, to ensure that their treaty and inherent rights are respected, and that Canada's international obligations to First Nations are fulfilled. He also said the NDP would immediately address one of the TRC's major recommendations.
"The NDP would, within the first days of its mandate, commission a Royal Commission into murdered and missing indigenous women. We would consult with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples to make sure that we are including them in the process for defining the mandate, and including them in the commission that would do that work."
Other TRC recommendations include asking the Pope to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the residential school system, and for Canada to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In question period Tuesday, Mulcair asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper if he would accept the recommendation on the UN declaration. Harper did not commit to the recommendation, and avoided using the term "cultural genocide.”
"The government accepted the UN declaration as an aspirational document," Harper said.
While the Prime Minister said the government would review the recommendations, he did not commit to taking any specific steps. Harper met with TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair privately Tuesday to discuss the TRC's findings.
On Wednesday, Harper, alongside Governor General David Johnston and the other federal party leaders, attended the TRC's closing ceremony at Rideau Hall. Sinclair personally thanked Harper for helping to facilitate the work of the TRC. Outside Rideau Hall, children carried paper hearts on gardening stakes for a “heart garden” to be planted on the grounds of the residence.
The full six-volume report into the government-funded, church-run schools isn't due out until later this year. There are also plans to open a National Research Centre for Residential Schools at the University of Manitoba this year.
An estimated 150,000 First Nations children went through the residential school system over a period of more than 120 years. The last school, located near Regina, closed in 1996.
With files from the Canadian Press