A day after it was revealed the Liberals had failed to address the plight of Indigenous people in their meetings with First Nations leaders, a group of Indigenous leaders gathered with Premier Justin Trudeau to say they will not back down.
“The Trudeau Liberals are committed to addressing this crisis and we will not accept any further excuses for not doing so,” the Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Reconciliation Committee said in a statement Tuesday.
“We will not be silenced by any of the Liberals.”
The Liberal party’s first Indigenous minister, Karen McCuaig-Boyd, said in an interview Tuesday that the meeting Tuesday with First Nation leaders is a good start.
“It’s good to have the first meeting with the first minister of Canada,” she said.
“This is the first opportunity to really discuss the realities of what the situation is, and what we need to do about it.”
But in a news release issued Tuesday, the group said it will continue to make a stand against the Liberal party.
“These Liberal ministers and their departments are not listening to our voices, nor are they listening to Indigenous leaders,” the statement said.
In the wake of a recent court ruling that ended the legal battle to keep a federal-provincial court order against the government’s plan to close a residential school in British Columbia, Trudeau was forced to issue a brief apology for the government.
The apology was a response to an article published in the Canadian Press on Tuesday, saying the Liberal policy of opening up residential schools to non-Indigenous children was a “mistake” that had “affected thousands of Indigenous children, and may have led to untold suffering.”
The Liberals also said they were changing their policy on residential schools, but only after an extensive review of the issue by the United Nations.
A government report released last week found that some residential school survivors were at high risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness and suicide.
The Liberals say they are listening to First Nations concerns and will be implementing the recommendations of the report.
“While the Liberal Government has been clear that the Government will not close the schools, it has also been clear over and over again that it will not take any action to remove the residential school population,” the release said.
The government said it would not close any remaining residential schools and that it would continue to consult with First Ministers to ensure all students are protected.
In response to the apology, the Liberal leader of the Assembly of First Nations, Kevin Flynn, said the Liberals’ silence on the issue had led to a “deep sense of betrayal.”
He said the party had not only failed to take concrete steps to address Indigenous people’s problems, it had failed “to address the broader impact of the Residential School Act and the systemic injustices that it perpetuates.”
“We are calling on all Liberals to speak out now to ensure this Government’s inaction continues,” Flynn said in the statement.
“All First Nations communities have an obligation to stand up for our rights and for our future generations.”
The federal government will hold a series of events to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the First Nations Act in Canada.
The federal and provincial governments are expected to hold an Aboriginal-led summit in B.C. on Wednesday.
The meeting with First nations leaders comes after the federal government announced in April it was dropping its plan to end the federal-instituted residential school system.
The plan was set to begin to end residential schools by 2018.
The residential school program was dismantled after the court ruling, and all but a few surviving students have moved to community-based boarding schools.