Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced government investment into Indigenous infrastructure Thursday with another $517 million earmarked for infrastructure that will better safeguard Indigenous women and LGBTQ2S people as part of the feds’ response to the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
With the government calling the cash an “historic” investment in Indigenous infrastructure to address critical gaps in that infrastructure and improve economic, social and health situations in Indigenous communities, one First Nations chief said the investment was part of Canada’s responsibility in its work toward reconciliation.
"Canada's contribution will fund much needed infrastructure in support of the mental health and wellbeing of our people,” said Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm. “It will also help ensure the continuation of our cultural practices as we face the rapidly expanding impacts of climate change. This welcome investment is not just about building and maintaining community infrastructure, it's about Canada's responsibility to work toward reconciliation and to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous peoples in concrete ways."
A portion of the funding -- $108 million -- will fund the Cultural Spaces in Indigenous Communities Program, whose mandate will be support Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples in gaining “meaningful access to their cultures and identities through culturally relevant spaces,” Bennett said, linking the attitudes that sparked the cultural attitudes the necessitated the MMIW report to the casual attitude taken toward human life rediscovered in the Residential Schools discoveries this summer.
“During this summer of reflection as Canadians absorb the realities of the horrors of Residential Schools and the missing children in unmarked burial sites, the damaging legacy and intergeneration trauma persists today,” Bennett said.
“Once you know the truth you can’t un-know the truth. Canadians are now joining the journey of reconciliation in numbers unprecedented. Canadians now recognize and feel what it must have felt like to have your children taken away from you against your will, and some to never return home,” she said, adding “today we make the link between those damaging colonial policies, the Indian Act, Residential Schools, forced relocation, and the taking away of language and culture, and link it with the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People.”
In addition, $12.5 million will be set aside to fund support for survivors of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Bennett said the funding is an important step on the road to reconciliation.
“Our relationship with self-governing and modern treaty Nations is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together to recognize and respect Indigenous people's right to self-determination,” she said.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase