Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer speaks with the media following Question Period in Ottawa, Tuesday December 4, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

First Nations chiefs boo Scheer for not saying how he’s different from Harper

A First Nations chief said First Nations people have not had positive relationships with Conservative governments

Hundreds of First Nations chiefs booed Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Thursday when the opposition leader told them they will have to wait until his platform is released to see how he differs from former prime minister Stephen Harper.

The Assembly of First Nations chiefs were meeting in a downtown Ottawa hotel. During a question-and-answer session with the opposition leader, chiefs asked Scheer how he’s different from Harper, with one asking him to name one policy stance he holds that’s different from Harper’s and another asking how he plans to rebuild trust with First Nations people that “Harper lost.”

Chief Elaine Johnston of Serpent River First Nation in northern Ontario told Scheer that First Nations people have not had positive relationships with Conservative governments, including the new one in Ontario.

“My concern here is when you’re talking about the spirit of reconciliation, what are you going to do in that spirit of reconciliation that is going to be different than your predecessors in the Conservative government? I need to hear that because I’m not seeing it. The rhetoric is there, but there has not been positive action,” she said.

READ MORE: Feds ‘violating’ Canadians’ privacy with data request: Scheer

Jessica Jacobs, a councillor for Ta’an Kwach’an Council in Yukon, asked Scheer flatly how he feels about Indigenous people and issues and how he plans to try to fix the relationship between the Conservative party and Indigenous people in Canada.

“First two questions were kind of similar … the differentiation between myself and the previous Conservative government specifically when it comes to policy. So on that I am going to have to ask you to have a little bit of patience for when our platform gets released,” Scheer said, and was hit by the wave of boos.

Scheer quickly added that Indigenous people will see change. In the last election the Conservatives did not win support from a large majority of First Nations communities and people and he wants to fix that, he said. “Part of that is coming to these kinds of meetings, in a respectful way.”

But Scheer did suggest his party would seek to protect and promote Indigenous languages, saying he and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde have already talked about it.

That will be part of a whole segment of the Conservative party’s election platform, said Scheer, which he vowed would not be crafted only by his inner circle.

“I’d be happy to come back at a future time and explain more detailed aspects of what we’ll be campaigning on, but it will be a different approach to the Liberals. It will be an approach that’s based on getting the relationship right, but also getting results,” he said. “You talked about what we’re going to do to overcome the relationship challenges that we may have had in the past. It is frustrating for me as a Conservative when I think about the great things that we did do in terms of policies.”

READ MORE: Chiefs join anti-pipeline protests in Burnaby

He said it was a Conservative government that recognized Indigenous rights and extended the vote to First Nations people and a Conservative government appointed the first First Nations senator. He also raised Harper’s apology in the House of Commons that acknowledged the legacy of the residential-school system.

“So we have these legacies but clearly when you don’t have the relationship right … often tangible results get overlooked or at least get viewed in a different way.”

Scheer said the big hurdle for the Conservative party is to get that relationship back on track so the party and Indigenous people can work more closely together “in that spirit of trust.”

“I view Indigenous Canadians as an integral part of our society, proud of their contribution to Canadian history, great deal of respect for all they did pre-Confederation, the way that they have been partners in building this society we have, and I’m very proud to represent a dozen First Nations communities in my own riding,” the Saskatchewan MP said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May also addressed chiefs Thursday.

Singh raised NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s bill aimed at ensuring Canada’s laws are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, calling it a powerful and transformative piece of legislation.

Singh said that while the last three years seem like a “ray of hope” given the 10 years before, half steps are not enough and paternalism toward Indigenous people needs to be abandoned.

May said she will advocate for Indigenous people in the next election, saying that Green party candidates want to tell the truth about what’s happening to Indigenous people.

“I just want you to know I’m here in full solidarity.”

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Closures and cancellations in the Bulkley Valley due to COVID-19

Many places and businesses have closed or reduced their hours

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Two arrested after man lies about COVID-19 illness to stay in Victoria Airbnb for free

Victoria Police found stolen goods inside the occupied unit

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Most Read