Former Member of Parliament Ethel Blondin-Andrew called on the Government of Canada to be a better dance partner in a new relationship with Indigenous people.
Blondin-Andrew joined Sherry Hodgson, president of the Norman Wells Land Corporation as part of a Senate committee hearing involving major Northern Indigenous leaders, Sept. 10 at the NWT Legislative Assembly. The day-long event focused on how the federal government can improve how it works with Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people going into the future.
“Many steps have been taken but if you want to tango, you need to have a good partner,” Blondin- Andrew said in response to a hearing question on what Indigenous people have to do to improve the relationship in the future. “It takes two to tango and I think if your partner is a shitty dancer, I don’t think it is going to be very attractive what happens.”
Blondin-Andrew was particularly vocal about the need for Canada to give back to the people of the Sahtu after years of natural resource extraction of oil and gas and uranium, as well as pipelines built. She said the the federal government needs to ensure better respect is offered in co-managing efforts of land and that serious investments from Ottawa are made for infrastructure projects like the Mackenzie Highway and mine reclamation.
Her biggest focus, however, was on Sahtu youth and ensuring they are “centred” and prepared for the 21st Century.
“I want our descendants to have the same access to land that we have now,” she said.
“They live in complex world with two ways of know of knowing. One is the modern world where they have science, technology, engineering and math on one side They (need to be) strong in that because that is where they make money and earning power. The other side is being strong to land and culture and engaged on that side.
“Our people should not have to go through any of the Scoop processes, or the residential schools They can be the strongest people in our territory and on our land.”
Hodgson echoed some of Blondin-Andrew’s comments noting how her corporation is working toward reestablishing culture and identity for future youth. This is being done, for example, in finalizing a self-government agreement that works for all relevant governments, she said.
It is important young people are prepared for an increasingly modern society, she said.
“Our kids today may not understand the wants we had when we were kids,” Hodgson said. “We forget that (for kids now) it is different with social media, internet and what they see there.
“They are our future and as we move forward, they will sit in these chairs and around this table. We just hope that decision making today is going to help them with their futures.”
Other speakers throughout the day included Duane Smith, chair of the Inuvialuit Corporation with Bob Simpson, Director of Government Affairs, Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian of Dehcho First Nations, Chief Roy Fabian of the K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Garry Bailey, president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, and Premier Bob McLeod.
Committee Chair Lillian Dyck, said she hoped the information gathered from the hearing would help the federal government develop policy around creating a new relationship with Indigenous people. She said it may even help inform the Minister of Crown and Indigenous Relations on its work on creating a legal framework for inherent rights, expected later this year.
“Most Canadians don’t understand the history of Canada with respect to its relationships with Indigenous peoples,” Dyck said. “Some have had a chance to learn this, but many Canadians haven’t.
“If we are talking reconciliation Canadians need to understand what has happened with the relationship in order for there to be a more respectful and harmonious relationship in the future.”