The member of Parliament for Nipissing-Timiskaming is certain that 2021 will be a better year for his Indigenous constituents and indeed for all Canadians.
Liberal Anthony Rota, who is also the Speaker for the House of Commons, is overcoming his own health issues as the new year begins.
“I had surgery to have my thyroid removed. My voice is coming back. It’s not yet the same as it was, but overall the surgery went very well. I don’t have to worry about cancer and everything went well,” Rota said. He added that he fully expects to be in the Speaker’s chair when the House resumes sitting in late January.
Rota said that he is confident that the Indigenous people he represents will have a better year in 2021 than they did in 2020. He pointed to the Liberals’ proposed legislation that would implement the recommendations contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a positive measure to help Canada’s First Nations population.
“I think it’s crucial. It’s basically a tool for addressing the systemic racism that’s been going on for years. It happens right across the country. It’s about human rights and respect for human rights. I think it’s a step forward in healing the wounds of the past,” Rota said. “There has been a lot of injustice over the years, and by accepting UNDRIP and looking at our past and what’s gone on, we recognize the mistakes that have been made in the past.”
Rota said he has spoken to Indigenous leaders in his riding about the proposed legislation, and he believes that it has prompted an honest discussion among Canadians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, about how to make our country better.
Rota said two areas that he would like to see prioritized by the Federal Government in 2021 are clean water for Indigenous Territories, and Indigenous education. He agreed that the water issue may not be a specific problem in his riding but added that it certainly has been on Indigenous territories elsewhere in Canada.
“Everyone in Canada deserves clean drinking water. Measures have to be put in place and once the problem is resolved there has to be some ongoing consultation and upkeep to make sure that water plant remains operational,” Rota said.
He added that Canadian educators have extensively taught the English and French history in Canada, but Indigenous history, taught to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, he said, has to be upgraded and enhanced.
“They have a place in Canada. Bill C-60, introduced a couple of years ago, gave the right to the Anishinaabe to write their own education plans and their own curriculum,” said Rota. “Depending upon who writes the books and who writes the curriculum, you have different inputs.”
Rota said that he is very optimistic that in 2021, Canada will get a grasp on the COVID-10 global pandemic, adding that once people are vaccinated, the virus will subside and that absolutely includes for the Indigenous people he represents.
“The region as a whole has been very good. We have had the occasional case come up. But overall, people have been respectful and very careful. I’m very proud of the residents both on and off-reserve,” he said.
John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com