On the road to Indigenous reconciliation, Doug Ford takes a detour

A First Nations dancer performs for the premiers and Indigenous leaders as they meet in Big River, First Nation, Sask. on July, 9, 2019. Except for Doug Ford, every other premier who had landed in Saskatoon for the annual Council of the Federation had the sense of occasion to attend the historic meeting held on a First Nations reserve, Martin Regg Cohn writes.

Bad enough that Doug Ford stood up Indigenous leaders at this week’s Saskatchewan summit with his fellow premiers.

What’s worse is how he has snubbed Indigenous people since winning power a year ago. Not merely slighting them on symbolism, but shortchanging them on substance.

Not just from the start, but non-stop.

Ford set the tone at his election night victory, again at his subsequent swearing-in ceremony, and indelibly in the Speech from the Throne outlining his agenda last summer: No greetings to Ontario’s Indigenous people, no acknowledgments to their land, no references to reconciliation.

And now, no time to give them face time.

Does it matter that Ford and Rickford don’t do land acknowledgments as others did and do (or that their offices can’t or won’t say)? Does the premier view them as mere tokenism?

Parsing the press lines issued by Ford’s Tories, you can see the public relations pattern: Never mind the acknowledgments, focus on the results.

“Real action,” insists the premier’s press secretary. “Meaningful action,” echoes the minister’s spokesperson.

But if “action” on Indigenous matters is what counts, let us consider the record of Ford’s Tories over the past year:

  • Reversed the previous government’s pledge, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to make Indigenous courses mandatory in high school.
  • Slashed millions of dollars from the Indigenous Culture Fund, with the Orwellian explanation that the cuts would allow the government “efficiently to maximize the impact of Indigenous culture support.”
  • Repealed the Far North Act on the grounds that it must reduce “red tape” and boost business, relegating Indigenous consultations to an afterthought.
  • Cut 15 per cent cut in overall funding for Indigenous affairs, to $74.4 million, with no new money to deal with claim settlements.

Regardless of whether words matter, numbers count for a great deal. MORE

 

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