Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie condemns Marty Burke’s racist comments towards Aboriginal peoples
“I am appalled by Marty Burke blaming Aboriginal peoples in their struggle against forced impoverishment and Canada’s colonial legacy,” Drew Garvie said today. “The Conservative candidate let his true colour show when he clearly implied that Aboriginal communities are misspending funding and that if there is anyone to blame it is the people themselves. In fact, the opposite is true,” Garvie said.
At an all-candidates debate yesterday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School Burke stated that funding was “flooding” into aboriginal communities, and then followed up with “I just wish it was a little better spent when it got there.”
“The Harper Conservatives have done nothing to alleviate poverty in general and Aboriginal poverty specifically,” Garvie said. The Communist Party of Canada is calling upon Marty Burke to formally apologize to Aboriginal communities in Canada and for other Parties to speak out about Burke’s comments until they are retracted.
“The federal government must take emergency action to improve living conditions, employment, health and housing of Aboriginal communities.” Garvie said. The government must also recognize and respect Aboriginal nations’ right to sovereignty and self-determination.” The Communist Party of Canada demands the Canadian state and corporations ‘pay the rent’ for stolen lands and justice denied, including:
* remove all vestiges of colonialism from federal legislation;
* fast and just settlement of all land claims, including natural resource-sharing agreements without extinguishment of inherent Aboriginal title;
* immediately end the discriminatory cap on education and health funding for treaty First Nations.
“We’ve come to expect this thinly veiled bigotry from Mr. Burke and the Party he represents,” Garvie said, noting that Marty Burke came under fire for similar racist comments before being declared the Guelph Conservative candidate. In a letter to the editor in 2005, Mr Burke criticized the appointment of Governor Generals Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean by saying that Canada is running out of “visible minority, immigrant, former CBC commentators with odd husbands,” Burke said.
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BACKGROUNDER: Conservative policy attacks Aboriginal people
To Canada’s shame, 114 First Nations communities remain under Drinking Water Advisories and 49 water systems are still classified as high risk. When the United Nations General Assembly declared “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation” to be a human right, the Harper government abstained and joined a small minority of countries not supporting the declaration.
Life expectancies for Aboriginal peoples (including First Nations and Metis) are 5-7 years below the rest of the population; infant mortality rates are 1.5 times higher than the average; the suicide rate of Aboriginal youth is six times higher than the Canadian average, and the tuberculosis rate – a reliable yardstick for poverty – is 8 to 10 times higher.
Drew Garvie sees Mr. Burke’s racist and sexist statements as connected to Conservative Policy:
“This is the same kind of thinking that has lead the Conservative government to try to cut the funding of the First Nations University and to follow through with the funding cut to the ‘Sisters in Spirit’ campaign’s efforts to end racialized violence against women”.
The Harper Conservative government has perpetuated Canada’s colonial legacy by persistently attacking Aboriginal people’s organizations. In addition to land reclamation and negotiation struggles across the country, like the Six Nations people in Caledonia, other examples include:
* Tearing up the Kelowna Accord;
* unilaterally appointing, this February, a consumer safety group to scrutinize who is considered a Metis;
* continuing the 1996 two per cent cap on funding increases to the federal Post-Secondary Student Support Program (which falls below inflation);
* blocking and stalling on land negotiations and redressing violations of treaty rights;
and denying core funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, First Nations University and the National Women’s Association of Canada’s “Sister’s in Spirit” campaign.
In response to justified public outrage, the Harper Conservatives allocated $10 million “to address the issue of missing and disappeared Native women,” but re-directed this funding in November 2010 away from the Sisters in Spirit campaign, and instead towards repressive policing efforts.
“The Prime Minister refuses to even acknowledge a past that has included theft of lands, genocide and forced assimilation” Garvie said, referring to Harper’s 2009 statement where the Prime Minister said Canada has “no history of colonialism”.
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