Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Trudeau promises dollar-for-dollar First Nations education funding

BY SEAN TREMBATH, THE STARPHOENIX

The leader of the federal Liberal Party said his government would aim to have First Nations schools receive the same amount of per-student funding as other schools across the nation.

 

"There's no question that in Canada we have to move toward parity. We can't expect any less," Justin Trudeau said Thursday during a visit to Saskatoon.

He was responding to a question about a 2013 survey by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations that found schools on reserves in Saskatchewan received 40 to 50 per cent less money than provincial schools.

"When we have the highest proportion of young people under 25 in First Nations communities, it's not just about the future of First Nations, it's about the future of this country, and making sure all young people across this country get the proper investments in education, which means making sure we at least match dollar-for-dollar the funding for First Nations."

When asked where the extra money needed to increase education funding would come from, his answer was not specific.

"We have to make sure we're doing that in ways that start with partnerships with First Nations. The time that we make a decision in Ottawa and impose it on First Nations should be past," he said.

Trudeau was in Saskatoon to take part in a closed-door roundtable meeting with water experts from around the province Thursday afternoon. He then made an appearance at several Folkfest pavilions, where he spoke with and took pictures with hundreds of members of the public.

On the topic of resource development on traditional First Nations lands, Trudeau stressed partnerships with the communities themselves.

"The one thing we hear all the time when you meet with First Nations leaders and members is they want economic development, but it has to be done right, and it has to be done in that respectful way," he said.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Trudeau held firm on his stance on the regulation of marijuana. When asked about a new attack ad released by the Conservative Party Tuesday which insinuates Trudeau's way would make it easier for children to get pot, he cited Canada's current ranking as the developed country with the highest per-capita marijuana use among teens.

"Our current approach is failing young people and failing to protect them," he said.

He stated that if the Liberals were to form government in 2015, he would replace the recent First Nations Accountability Act.

"I voted against that act. We would bring in a different piece of legislation that would have many of the same goals, of transparency and accountability, but would be more about empowering First Nations communities to be able to do that, and to reassure people their tax dollars are being spent wisely," he said.

In reference to Thursday's conviction of Michael Sona for voter suppression in 2011, Trudeau put forth the question of who else was a part of the "robocall" scandal.

"One of the things made clear by the judge, by the prosecutor, by the defence in this case was that more people were involved than just Michael Sona. That leaves an awful lot of questions to be answered about who, and how much of a coordinated approach was this by the Conservative Party," he said.

He acknowledged that Saskatchewan's new urban-only ridings, brought about by recent changes to electoral boundaries, could be an opportunity for the Liberals, but denied that they would be focusing on any specific seats.

"There's obviously a tremendous amount of opportunities around the urban seats, with redistribution, that we're very excited about; and there's a number of strong First Nations voices who are really looking for a change in Ottawa, who put some of the more rural ridings in play as well," he said.

As far as who might be running for the Liberals in Saskatchewan in 2015, longtime Regina MP Ralph Goodale is the only confirmed candidate. Trudeau said the party has at least one candidate in mind for each of the province's ridings, but …  

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