When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier this summer that his government would spend more than $700 million a year to fund abortions overseas, Canada’s indigenous people were stunned. Now, that shock is beginning to turn into anger and outrage.
“Canada is paying $700 million to kill the babies of indigenous people around the world,” explains one First Nations activist. “While most indigenous babies here in Canada don’t have access to clean drinking water.”
“If that’s not genocide, I don’t know what is,” she adds.
Trudeau plans to increase Canada’s foreign aid spending on ‘women’s health’ to more than $1.3 billion annually by 2023. Meanwhile, more than 140 indigenous communities in Canada still suffer from drinking water that is so toxic that government officials warn them not to consume it.
Most of Canada’s northern industries, from uranium mining to lumber mills, have used the vast wilderness’ various rivers to dispose of industrial byproduct. Decades of doing so have poisoned the drinking supplies of most First Nations reserves, most of whom lack basic infrastructure.
So when Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan told an 8-year-old indigenous girl last July that, “I’ve heard you, and no one wants you to suffer one more day,” she told him flatly that he was lying. It was a bellwether moment at the Assembly of First Nations convention, a lobbying group comprised of federal works agencies known as ‘band councils’, which are constructed and governed by the Indian Act.
Just two weeks prior, the residents of Attawapiskat, Ontario were told at an emergency meeting to limit their water usage after chemicals were noticed infiltrating the Attawapiskat River. Critics say that the Trudeau government hasn’t given the crisis the attention it needs — especially in light of the billions of dollars in foreign aid that the government has committed in recent weeks.
“We are a third world nation here in Canada, and Trudeau has no right to expropriate the natural resources of indigenous people here, and then gift the exploits of that theft to kill indigenous babies abroad,” explains another activist from the Six Nations Reserve in Ohsweken, ON.
“Those billions of dollars in our resource wealth should be used to build out drinking water infrastructure in Reserve communities — which are being actively poisoned by the extraction of those very resources,” he adds. “Trudeau is an intellectually-limited liar and a phony.”
Earlier this year there has been a national outcry for the government to solve this crisis, after the Prime Minister had two indigenous attendees of a high-priced Liberal Party fundraiser in Toronto forcibly removed, after being asked about the community of Grassy Narrows, where the mercury from a nearby lumber mill has poisoned nearly every member of the community.
Trudeau has been criticized for lacking attention to indigenous issues and having an exceptionally shallow understanding of North American and indigenous political history. Despite lofty campaign-time rhetoric on reconciliation during his 2015 election campaign, his government hasn’t delivered on any of its major commitments.
Tensions have grown so hostile between the Trudeau government and indigenous communities that the Prime Minister was forced to flee a Labor Day Parade in Hamilton after being confronted by indigenous protesters who stopped the procession, demanding answers for his government’s inaction on the mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows.
Canada’s aboriginal population comprises about 6% of the nation’s population. But the portion of the population that identifies as indigenous, but who lack government-sanctioned status, comprise a significantly larger portion of the population — perhaps as much 23% by some demographers’ estimates.
Together, the constituency can be powerful in the context of Parliamentary elections, where multiparty contests could yield a majority government with less than 30% of the electorate. Even the slightest polling margins could swing control of 40 or 60 seats in the House of Commons.