Dan Albas

Dan Albas

COLUMN: Consultation with Indigenous communities

We must take great caution when moving on a motion without direction from Indigenous communities

Last week, in the House of Commons, the New Democratic Party used their Opposition Day to table a motion that in the words of South Okanagan — West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings “called on the government to take the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action seriously. It asked the government to finally fund the investigations that are needed to let us all know the truth. And it asked the government to stop fighting indigenous children in court.”

As MP Cannings pointed out, “that motion was passed unanimously in the House of Commons, though shamefully a few cabinet ministers abstained and the rest of the cabinet, including the Prime Minister, didn’t even show up to vote.”

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For the record I voted in support of this motion and participated in the emergency debate on this topic. During the debate one of the concerns that I shared is that we must be careful in Ottawa to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

From the local Indigenous communities I have heard from, many are still in shock and others are holding community meetings. I am told there are many discussions underway.

I should also add that none of the Indigenous communities within my riding expressed support or opposition to this NDP motion, nor has other guidance been offered at this point. This in my view raises a concern, when elected officials in Ottawa debate and vote on a motion with very little input or consultation with Indigenous leaders.

Some could rightfully call this an “Ottawa knows best approach.” I believe we must recognize that this approach has historically not served our country well.

On balance I supported this NDP motion as I believe the intentions were sincere. However, I also believe we must take great caution when moving on a motion without proper direction from those Indigenous communities who will be most impacted by decisions made in Ottawa.

“Meaning well” and being “well intentioned” does not mean actual outcomes will unfold as hoped or intended.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently stated, “If it (true reconciliation) were only done by ministers, if it were only done by Ottawa, to solve these challenges, it might have been done long ago, but it would have been done wrong.”

My question this week: While this NDP motion was well intended, do you believe Parliament should take greater caution in the future to receive direction and input from communities that will be impacted?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola.

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