OHSWEKEN – Last Thursday, Brant Liberal candidate Danielle Takacs had a day of engagement with Six Nations and New Credit, aiming to help draw wider attention to our concerns. Takacs believes that, “Any policies to help First Nations people must be informed by their perspectives and adopted in collaboration with them.”
“I wanted to make sure a wide section of Liberal politicians and officials hear local First Nations’ perspectives firsthand so they can inform our policies in government,” she said. “Our government must adopt a more respectful and collaborative relationship with the people of Six Nations and New Credit. I am absolutely committed to ensuring this occurs.”
To begin doing this, she invited Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic and MP Carolyn Bennett, and Liberal candidates Karina Gould (Burlington), Katie Omstead (Chatham), Jennifer Stebbing (Flamborough), and Filomena Tassi (Hamilton West) as well as Lynn Steele, President of the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission.
The day included tours of the Reserve and some relevant program and service areas in Brantford, followed by invited community member presentations in the GREAT theatre. The presentations, which were open to the public, were intended to be a learning experience for those in attendance.
Brandi Martin spoke eloquently on the need for transportation services in our community, stating that, “Research shows a lack of transportation results in barriers to employment and academic pursuits. Even day-to-day activities like shopping, visiting, medical and dental appointments can seem impossible when you don’t have a ride.”
“Poverty plays a huge role in transportation difficulties which can lead to problems with other things like the judicial system. Without a way to get to off-reserve courts, people with court dates can get in a lot of trouble. This impacts our people in a lot of ways, so we can’t do what we need to do to look after our families” she said.
Kahsenniyo Tahnee Williams spoke passionately on youth issues, reciting a poem she’d written about the ongoing difficulties faced by our women and children.
“As a mother, as a woman, it’s my responsibility to help our kids, whether they’re my own or not. The things our youth face, if we had to walk a day in their shoes, most of us couldn’t,” said Williams. “If one’s not doing well, we’re all not doing well.”
Williams also stated, “The issues they deal with on a daily basis, things like bullying, violence, and abusive relationships, molestation, alcohol and drugs in the community, are in addition to straight up bullying, prejudice and racism in their school lives on and off reserve. As adults, we’ve got to get our heads out of the sand and help them.”
Claudine Albert spoke about federal underfunding of education for aboriginal students. She asked the Liberal candidates, “Are you going to speak for our children? The way our kids talk about their lives, it breaks our hearts. When you go to Ottawa, speak for our children and you’ll be speaking for the future of First Nations communities.”
Regarding land rights, Phil Monture said, “Six Nations doesn’t fit in Canada’s policies of extinguishment or extermination. The Liberals will have a chance to address our issues. Lands and justice, that’s what we expect from you.”
Charlie, a community member, spoke of issues faced by our older people. He said, “I spoke with an Elder who fought in two wars and was shot many times. He read about Post Traumatic Stress and said that now he understands why our people are so messed up.” He urged the candidates to “Do right. Uphold the Two Row Wampum Treaty for peaceful co-existence and honour the Silver Covenant Chain to ensure continued communication and understanding.”
Chief Ava Hill reminded the candidates they came to the community wanting to know how they could help. She said, “We’ve got a whole list of issues here. We’re constantly having to deal with legislation being passed without our input. With education, our post-secondary office had to turn away 400 kids who wanted to go to school because the federal government won’t provide enough resources for education even though it’s a federal responsibility.”
She identified issues with health care, child welfare, safe water treatment, infrastructure needs such as housing, roads and bridges, land rights, policing and fire services. She said, “The government continues to cut back on funding. It enables bills to consult with us, then they don’t even.”
Hill cited Bill C-10 as an example, saying, “It criminalizes community people in the tobacco industry, but that industry created an economy here and made jobs for people in our community.”
The Liberal candidates in attendance listened respectfully, were attentive and clearly interested in helping. The day of engagement ended on an optimistic note with an air of friendly cooperation.