Photo: Adam Scotti
Tonight on Power & Politics, Manitoba First Nations elder Raymond Robinson told host Evan Solomon that he would be beginning a full-on hunger strike — no food or water — starting tomorrow, unless the Harper government engages in real nation-to-nation negotiations.
It just so happened that I had an interview with Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau, so I decided to ask him about it. He hadn’t heard the news yet, but had a pretty good idea why Robinson was striking.
In general, I’m not a fan of hunger strikes. I went to talk to Theresa Spence, and support her, because her argument was very important. And I understand where her frustration, and this manitoba [elder]’s frustration comes from: from having a government that is simply not listening and not engaging. So no, I don’t think this government has done enough. Whether it’s the latest news of them letting down Aboriginal policing, we have a government that, ever since the landmark apology in the House of Commons, has been more about words than actual needs and respect.
So I’m worried for anyone who chooses to go on a hunger strike, and will implore him to make sure that he is very careful about his health. We have a long road ahead of us to restore relations with First Nations communities across this country. And we’re going to need active players like this [elder].
Would you support nation-to-nation meetings?
‘Nation,’ as a Quebec MP, is one of those words that gets thrown around an awful lot and means different things to different people. But I’m comfortable with the idea of engaging with them nation-to-nation; we already use the word ‘First Nation,’ whether we want to talk about it as ‘nation-to-nation’ or ‘people-to-people.’
What’s most important is the substance of the conversation and the level of respect, and the seriousness in which you engage in building the partnership. That’s why i think that the example of the Kelowna account, which was negotiated over 24 months and involved significant capacity building, partnerships, results, accountability, is something we need to move forward in establishing a level of fundamental respect and real engagement that looks at the original treaties and not just the Indian Act. That’s something that I think is important.
Stay tuned. I’ll have a blog post about Trudeau on Xtra, and I’ll post the full text of our interview on here.