Election cast shadow on Canada aboriginal goals
Updated: 2005-11-25 10:07
PESSIMISTS AND CYNICS
"I know there are pessimists and cynics who think this process will fail. I
disagree," said Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the
country's leading native Indian organization, and frequent critic of the
government's existing policies for natives.
Polls indicate the Liberals could be returned to power with another minority
government but Fontaine played down concerns that a win by the opposition
Conservatives would endanger agreements reached in Kelowna.
"I think it will be difficult for any government to retreat from the
commitments that are made here," Fontaine told reporters.
The meeting also included representatives of Canada's Metis and Inuit people.
A protestor looks out from the mouth of giant
effigy of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin during a demonstration in
Kelowna, British Columbia November 24, 2005. About 50 Correctional
Officers on strike protested outside the site where Martin and the
provincial premiers were meeting with native leaders on
Census figures show about 1.3 million Canadians, or about 4.4 percent of the
population, have some aboriginal ancestry. But an estimated 40 percent of the
native population lives in poverty, compared with 15.7 percent for the country
as a whole.
"If you stand back from all the politics for a minute, I don't think that any
Canadian can accept the fact that there is an enormous gap in health care, an
enormous gap in education ... in economic opportunities for aboriginal
Canadians," Campbell said.
But debate over health-care funding has long divided Ottawa from the
provinces, who worry the federal government will either make them pick up too
much of the cost, or try to dictate how they spend the funds.
Provincial leaders usually use meetings with the prime minister to take jabs
at Ottawa but were muted in their criticism with aboriginal leaders sharing the
"We're not the only kids on the block here," said Ontario Premier Dalton
There are splits within in the aboriginal community about the meeting. About
three dozen protesters outside the Kelowna meeting complained that Indians
living in urban areas would be ignored by the new programs.