A path to a future built on respect: Bellegarde

From the article by Perry Bellegarde published by The Toronto Star on August 9, 2017:

Wednesday is the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Throughout time and across the globe, we as Indigenous peoples have had to fight for our lands, our languages, our cultures and often, our very survival, as explorers sought to conquer and colonize us. Armed with the Doctrine of Discovery, a decree issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, tyranny was the way most colonies were settled.

Canada was no exception. Despite treaties and agreements founded on partnership and sharing, early colonial governments set out to rule Indigenous peoples. Successive governments set up the Indian Act and the reserve system to break down our traditional ways of life. Governments created the residential schools system to destroy our languages, our cultures and families, and took decisions about development without our proper involvement as peoples with continuing pre-existing rights in our traditional territories.

Denial of our rights to self-determination and our right to benefit from the rich resources of our lands has led us to where we are today. A vast socio-economic gap grew between First Nations and Canadians resulting in a shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher rates of chronic disease, incarceration, substance abuse and suicide.

In 2017, we are finally taking first steps toward meaningful change. Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to work with us when he said no relationship was more important to Canada, or his government, than the one with Indigenous peoples.