The Liberal government laid out Thursday that reconciliation with Indigenous people remains one of its core priorities while it recognized the road will be long.
Reconciliation “must continue," Governor-General Julie Payette said Thursday in reading the Throne Speech, which officially opens a new session of Parliament and puts forward goals and directions of the government.
“Every single person in Canada deserves a real and fair chance at success – and that must include Indigenous people,” she said before pointing to the Liberal government’s promise of a new relationship with Indigenous people in 2015.
Progress has been made over the past four years, Ms. Payette said, citing examples including the elimination of 87 long-term drinking water advisories, funding for First Nations K-12 education, the passage of legislation on Indigenous child welfare and protecting Indigenous languages, and the inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Ms. Payette also listed the next steps for the government, including plans to co-develop and introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of its mandate.
In the last Parliament, a bill put forward by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash, on ensuring the laws of Canada are in harmony with the declaration, died in the Senate.
Ms. Payette said Thursday the government plans to co-develop legislation to ensure Indigenous people have access to culturally relevant health care and mental-health services.
Indigenous people who were harmed under the discriminatory child welfare system will be “compensated in a way that is both fair and timely,” she added.
Child welfare has been a hot-button issue for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In October, Ottawa asked the Federal Court to judicially review and stay a September ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering Canada to provide compensation of up to $40,000 to First Nations children who were unnecessarily taken into care on or after Jan. 1, 2006. The tribunal also said its findings applied to parents or grandparents and children denied essential services.
The government’s stay request was dismissed last Friday by a Federal Court judge.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has urged the Liberal government to drop its judicial review and implement the tribunal’s order, said Thursday that fighting Indigenous children in court is not in keeping with the spirit of reconciliation.
For his part, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the Throne Speech an opportunity to maintain progress and momentum for First Nations.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a non-profit organization representing Inuit, said in a statement it welcomes "affirmation” in the Throne Speech that reconciliation remains a core priority, adding that investments in infrastructure and housing remain a high priority in Inuit Nunangat.
David Chartrand, national spokesperson for the Métis National Council, said he commends the Prime Minister for the government’s strong focus on reconciliation, adding work is under way but “unfinished business” remains.