Federal party leaders' visits 'well received' in Cowessess First Nation

·2 min read
The Cowessess First Nation has hosted leaders from three of Canada's federal parties so far in recent weeks.  (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)
The Cowessess First Nation has hosted leaders from three of Canada's federal parties so far in recent weeks. (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)

Cowessess First Nation's chief says his community was blessed to see the leaders of three of Canada's political parties grace its lands.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have all spent time in Cowessess lately.

Chief Cadmus Delorme said their visits were well received.

"Many critics out there would say they're photo ops and that they are, you know, here for political gain," he said on Friday.

"But to actually walk in our unmarked gravesite, to come on to Cowessess and stand in Chief Red Bear Children's Lodge, our very own child welfare jurisdiction, I do strongly believe [the leaders] will go back to their respective circles and understand that they did learn something."

Delorme said he hoped the leaders saw resiliency among the residents of Cowessess and understood that resiliency was reflected in the other 660-plus First Nations communities in Canada.

He said he also hoped the leaders understood First Nations people wanted to be a part of Canada's growth, but their truths need to prevail.

Delorme said regardless of who gets elected as the country's prime minister, he hoped they would continue to work to address the COVID-19 pandemic, focus on ensuring the government upheld its fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations people and allow First Nations to find solutions to issues within their own jurisdictions.

While the issues are longstanding and diverse and many wouldn't be solved quickly, Delorme said he'd like to see the next government work to change how First Nations communities were funded.

First Nations communities in Canada receive federal transfers to operate their programs and offer their services. Delorme noted some of those transfer agreements and formulas, which are used to determine how much communities can access, are decades old and need to be reassessed.

He said when Singh visited Cowessess on Friday, he told the NDP leader the formulas needed to be fixed.

"Some have never been increased. And sometimes it takes great leaders to go against the misconceptions, the ignorance, the accidental racism," Delorme said.

"We have to have leaders in Ottawa that will push new funding formulas and invest correctly."

He also called on the new government to understand that Indigenous people are not just stakeholders in Canada's future, but that they're also rights holders in Canada's future, too.

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