A town hall style meeting was held with former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and Liberal Candidate for Brant Danielle Tackacs in Brantford at the Woodland Cultural Centre, formerly known as the Mohawk Institute – one of Canada’s first residential schools. Several organizations had a few minutes to present what their needs are and how the Liberals can help if elected.
TRT had the opportunity to speak with Martin and Tackacs after the meeting to get their perspective on what they see as the way towards restoring the nation to nation relationship between the Crown and Six Nations.
TRT: Many spoke today on the need for funding things like indigenous languages in our schools, indigenous led programming and educational materials that are coming from an authentic and indigenous perspective. Mr. Martin, in the Kelowna Accord you’d previously established 1.8 billion for First Nations education, however upon the Conservatives taking their place in Ottawa those protocols were never established. What do you think needs to happen now to bridging funding gaps between First Nations children on-reserve and children in Canadian municipalities?
Martin: First of all the Kelowna process —one of major discussion before any action was taken — and First Nations action taken jointly should be reestablished. Secondly, the 1.8 billion that you talked about was 10 years ago and theres been a lot of inflation since then. And that funding was only for the first step. It’s not going to be sufficient to equate with the provincial costs. There’s a lot more costs involved in First Nations; the catch up as a result of what has happened, and the funding for languages and culture is on top of that. The important thing to understand is that the funding for languages and culture is every bit as important a piece of education as any other.
TRT: Justin Trudeau just pledged $515 million in core funding for First Nations primary and secondary education, $500 million in education infrastructure on reserves and an additional $50 million for First Nations postsecondary funding. That sounds promising.
Tackacs: The opening door of that and the basis of that is that a new cooperative relationship. All these promises are great but we cant do that unless we go back and fix how we relate to one another.
TRT: That is actually my next question, Kelowna Accord also included $170 million dollars for relationships and accountability. Mr. Martin what was/is your vision for this in terms of an investment for Canada?
Martin: Martin: First of all we’re talking about something that has a very powerful moral underpinnin. We talk about canadian values: dealing with people fairly, dealing with each other fairly, dealing with each other as though we are related. That is an essential canadian value. When you underfund health care and education you’re violating that.
TRT: Locally, many of our people don’t participate in voting – both on and off reserve. Our community is also divided politically, some supporting Elected Council, some supporting the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council and others still without faith in either system. However as an elected leader it is still your responsibility to hear all of their concerns. Ms. Tackacs, How do you plan to establish positive relationships outside of Band Council or Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council to engage with and hear the voices of the people of Six Nations ?
Tackacs: I’m slowly immersing myself and becoming more aware and educated of the nuances [at Six Nations] and what it comes down to is relationships. I’ve even learned that sometimes the Confederacy wont sit at the same table as the Elected officials and at the end of the day those matters are still impacting the people, be it my people in Brantford or the Six Nations people on the whole. I think if anything, I’ve learned you have to have an open door. As a politician I’m well aware of what a politician gets paid. And for that amount of money you have to be a representative to the people and be willing to go there and hear their concerns and their complaints in addition to the compliments. Each of the groups have their own following as well so you cant just automatically shut a door because you’d be effectively shutting out a population. They will feel like, ‘you’re ignoring me’. So what I can commit to at this point is to say ‘what are the things that we can agree on’…and build it from there. And if we have to build individual relationships, than so be it. Then there is also the relationships with the developers within the city as well. Historically we’re still not finished the land rights discussion in Brantford.
Martin: When the government makes a deal, they should live up to it.
Tackacs: Yes! And that’s never been done. When it comes to development there were deals made here in Brantford and they’ve never been done.
TRT: We all saw Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt’s decision to not participate in the standing ovation when the TRC Report was released and Sinclair called for an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; what were your thoughts when you saw that? Should there be an inquiry?
Martin: Yes. Unequivocally. There should be an inquiry. The response of the government that we know there needs to be an inquiry. I can tell you: Canadians need to know the answer and the inquiry is going to provide it. Valcourt’s answer to the question and then his what he did at the TRC is disgraceful. There’s no other way to put it.
Tackacs: I don’t know what’s less tasteful or indignant. It’s one thing when you’re the Minister but when your leader says it blatantly during his Christmas address that ‘this is not a priority for me’, I couldn’t believe those words came from his mouth. If there was any time to shut the door on the government that was it. There is no working with them there is no relationship.
TRT: Ms. Tackacs, how do you vision walking out the path locally for truth and reconciliation?
Tackacs: Trudeau has pledged to all of them. I give him respect for making that commitment. I think it comes down to education. I grew up across the street. My mother said the worst day of her life was when she was questioned on the nationality or lineage of her father because he wasn’t white. There is a stigma in Brantford that is worse than in other communities. And to me it’s ironic. These are our neighbours. I would think there would be some sort of respect. But I met a girl, she is a student at Western and she said ‘I had to move permanently from Ohsweken because whenever I leave and go to Brantford the racism that I have to deal with is too hard. but when I’m in London I don’t feel that.’ That’s wrong. We have to be more tolerant. It’s about education and explaining to people why things are the way they are and what we can do together to move forward.