An interview with Provincial MP candidates for Brant-Brantford

We had an opportunity to sit down with the candidate for Provincial MP in Brant-Brantford and asked them all 6 questions about the Six.

NDP – Alex Felsky
Liberal – Ruby Toor
Progressive Conservative – Will Bouma
Green Party of Ontario – Ken Burns
Ontario Libertarian Party – Rob Ferguson
None of the Above Party – Nicholas Archer

Q. Can you name the 6 nations of the Haudenosaunee?

Felsky: “Onondaga, Cayuga and Mohawk…”
Toor: “Onondaga, Tuscarora, Oneida, and Cayuga…”
Bouma: “No I cannot. Is it the Mohawk nation…”
Burns: “Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida…”
Ferguson: “Not off by heart to be honest. I can’t”
Archer: “I’m afraid I must plead ignorance. I don’t know very much about Six Nations…”

A. Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk and Tuscarora.

Q. How many people live on Six Nations?

Felsky: “12,000?”
Toor: “7000?”
Bouma: “Last number I thought I heard was in the range of 15,000 to 17,000.”
Burns: “I always round up — I think somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20,000.”
Ferguson: “I personally don’t. That’s a good question.”
Archer: “I saw the number once but I’m drawing a blank. Is it the same as the County?”

A. Just over 12,000 on reserve. Our total band membership is about 27,000

Q. Do you know how many indigenous people live in this riding outside of the reserve’s population?

Felsky: “No, and the reason for that is because of the census not being done.”
Toor: “That’s what initially when I answered you 7000 — that’s what I thought you meant.”
Bouma: “No.”
Burns: “No I’d have to admit that I don’t know that.”
Ferguson: “I am unaware of that number specifically.”
Archer: “I’m afraid I don’t. I’ve never really listened to some of the specifics about Six Nations…”

A. Just over 5000 in the city according to the 2016 census.

In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the indigenous community today?

Felsky: “Well it’s the broad ranging inequities from access to health care, to education, to resources… Six Nations contributes so much in terms of revenue to the broader community and to the government and yet people are struggling with access to housing in a major way — with access to housing, with access to all kinds of health care and living in poverty when we have such a rich rich province there’s absolutely no reason for that.”

Toor: “Reconciliation. And I’m so glad the liberal government is doing it. It’s for their mental health for them to — they’re the one who brought this land — who were the first one to be on this land, right? And its so sad to hear whatever has happened but let’s put that aside because its good to move forward in life. It’s not easy, it’s easier said than done, but this is the only way that we can take the harsh thing out of our mind — out of our heart — and we can progress forward. I’m so glad that the liberal government has taken a step on it. And they are spending a lot of money on it. And they said sorry, you know it was much needed, past due.”

Bouma: “I would say the real issue is pride. To be proud of who you are, where you’re from — but that also means to be able to be successful and to be an active member of Six Nations or the Mississaugas to build lives and businesses. My parents came here for opportunity. North America has been living off of other people’s drive for opportunity for hundreds of years. Willing to leave their country, their language, their people and come to a new place. Those are people who build things. How can we engender that same kind of entrepreneurial — but bigger than that not just business — spirit in our indigenous communities and stop holding them back? So when I see Six Nations Polytechnic having a college and a partnerships and all that stuff going on it seems like there’s slowly some meat coming on some of those bones that I get very very excited about.”

Burns: “The ability for First Nations to be able to determine their own priorities and to have the prosperity and independent ability to pursue those priorities independently and the respect of their neighbours in Canada to meaningful consultation — whether its about education systems or resource revenue sharing. For me reconciliation and the relationship that we should have with First Nations would honour those things.”

Ferguson: “Well, you know one of the things I see is the condition of the reserves themselves. I think that’s a stumble. I think that’s the major stumbling block — from running water to sewage. All of these services. A lot of people would go back to land claims. But land claims wouldn’t be a major issue if all these other issues were resolved or reduced. There wouldn’t be that strain on the reserves. It wouldn’t be a focal point of land claims if we worked together on this other stuff.”

Archer: “Is it the domestic violence issue that the federal government is trying to tackle?”

How do you feel the current provincial party has failed in its support of the indigenous community and how do you feel you can do better?

Felsky: “The reality is that the liberal government has had 15 years to deal with these issues and the liberal government has played pass the buck back. The reality is that people are feeling more and more squeezed. People are struggling more and more after 15 years with a liberal majority government. It’s been three years since the TRC was completed. Where is the real change? Where is the implementation of the 94 recommendations?” We would establish a true nation to nation relationship with Ontario’s First Nations including Six. Work with our leaders to sign a co-operative government to government accord. Implement recommendations of the TRC. Replace the Far North Act. Implement revenue sharing. Invest $209 million immediately into a First Nations Health Action Plan, invest $28 million for urgent repairs and capital upgrades to Ontario friendship centres plus an ongoing investment into the 28 friendship centres in the province. And remove the electricity delivery charges for First Nations.”

Toor: “If you want to know where I would like to improve…? Water….that’s one thing I would work on, focus on big time. I was reading in the paper and I felt sad and then I digged more into it to know why — in this country, first world, not everyone has safe drinking water…I spoke to [a city councillor] about it because he is the one who is working with them and he has sound knowledge about this. This is what he told me that over there it is a well system. So when you dig the wells you don’t know what kind of water supply is coming out. So this is why sometimes they get poor quality of water. The water lines have gone to the community but not from the main to the house — where the need is. It’s a lot of money so sometimes they don’t spend that money to take it to the house — otherwise Brantford water is available.

Bouma: “Look at the water treatment plant fiasco. You have a wonderful treatment plant most of the people who don’t live in Ohsweken don’t have clean drinking water. It’s easy to politicize something — say good things — and not do anything…. I think really listening but with an active plan for resolution other than what I see so often. I respect everything from the TRC but if all it becomes is a few works spoken before a public meeting – than what is it good for.”

Burns: “Well I think that we’ve failed to recognize that indigenous people have the right to be actively involved in determining their own priorities first of all. And secondly I believe we’ve failed to do everything that is the prioirty. I don’t think we’ve truly recognized to understand what it means to support the rights of indigenous people to determine their own priorities and strategies. I think we’ve failed because I think there is too much of a caretaker mentality and that is inappropriate. First Nations shouldn’t be coming to Ontario for money that they already entitled to.

Ferguson: “When we look at the liberals and right now our member is speaker. And he can’t be very vocal because he’s speaker he has to be neutral on everything. I’ve always said by being speaker you silence the voice. So, in the last term and a half while he has been speaker he’s silenced all of Brant’s voice, including natives. I’ve been known to be the loudest libertarian candidate in Ontario and I think that would be the difference. Voicing the concerns of the neighbours and friends. If you don’t say anything you don’t get heard.”

Archer: “Well, they seem to focus on particular issues that have to do with the land disputes and funding which is only partially provincially….I definitely would like to talk to the band…chief? I think that’s the correct term? I’d talk to the entire council and sit down with them and say ‘okay what exactly are the specific local issues that don’t have to do with land disputes or other types of disputes and work to try to know a kind of program that is a combination of the private/public programs…i feel like the local issues are being neglected by the province when they can help with the local issues…”

Name one of the TRCs 94 calls to action that you will implement if elected.

Felsky: “I’m a Grand Erie District School Board Trustee. And there are a lot of students that come from the reserve and come to our high schools or who are living in Brantford. I moved a motion as a trustee to have students elect the first ever indigenous student trustee to sit at the table and be the voice of the indigenous youth to represent themselves. Its already work in action and I’ll continue that work.”

Toor: “My priority will be mental health. We are already giving a funding to that. But that takes a lot of things with it. Because when you are healthy you could be a lot more progressive to help your family.”

Bouma: “I haven’t read it. Homework. So I can’t answer that question. Sorry.”

Burns: I was so pleased to have the opportunity to go to the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Survivor Series. I learned more about the impact of the residential school system on First Nations Culture. And I think that as a result of that I understand better now what the TRC was about and where the recommendations are coming from. In particular our obligation to work to help repair or restore the damage that was caused from that to the culture, to the pride, to remember and to never make that mistake again. To tell the stories and to help other nations to never make that mistake again. To preserve the language and the stories and to share them….Diversity makes us stronger. But it only makes us stronger when we embrace and celebrate our diversity.”

Ferguson: “This is something that I’m not very educated on specifically this whole element. But I go back to this land claim stuff and discrimination’s always been a factor. Discrimination’s a factor from property rights to land claims to services. Myself being rights and freedoms liberty binded — I would be focusing on a rights and freedoms liberty perspective. There’s not one I can specifically quote. Its about having that freedom of property. I’m not sure which one of those comes down to rights to property.”

Archer: “Aw man. I read that. Let me try and recall here. I read the report but I cannot recall what the calls to action were. I must apologize for that…I’ve been telling people my whole platform is more about reform: finding that third way — that third position. I’d definitely review the calls to action and then find that kind of middle ground when it comes to those things. I’m a little ignorant on the subject so I can’t verify how I would approach this but I would definitely look to find a balanced approach.”

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