Conservatives Failing to Engage Aboriginal Leaders on Climate Change
April 24, 2008
OTTAWA – Despite its recent claims at the United Nations to be fully engaged with aboriginal leaders as partners in the fight on climate change, the Conservative government is ignoring their concerns, said Liberal Indian Affairs Critic Anita Neville and Environment Critic David McGuinty.“The government’s presentation to the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues was disingenuous and misleading,” said Ms. Neville. “While the government is adept at saying all the right things on the international stage to make itself look good, it has repeatedly refused to sit down with aboriginal leaders to find ways to deal with the very real consequences of global warming for aboriginal communities.”
Earlier this week, the government told the United Nations that it was working closely with aboriginal people on a wide range of issues, including climate change. Meanwhile, back in Canada, aboriginal leaders are calling for a day of action in May to highlight the fact that this government refuses to take their concerns seriously. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine has said that First Nations leaders have not been engaged by the federal government to discuss the consequences of global warming.
“Yet again this government finds a way to deny, delay, and deceive when it comes to climate change,” said Mr. McGuinty. “This week, the government touted millions of dollars of research that has been done in the north on climate change – but that money was set aside by the Liberal government in 2005.
“The Conservatives claimed that their Turning the Corner Plan will help reduce emissions and, as a result, will make things better in the North – but every economist, environmentalist, and scientist who has studied the plan has said it won’t work. The bottom line is that this government will say anything it needs to, to look good. But it won’t act to do any good,” he added.
The government’s submission to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous People did not contain any new policies, new programs, or new strategies for dealing with climate change or addressing the adaptation that must take place in Canada’s North. It was a significant opportunity that the government used to give itself an undeserved pat on the back, instead of addressing the key issues.
“Canada’s aboriginal people – particularly those living in Northern Canada – are feeling the effects of climate change today,” said Ms. Neville. “Polar ice is shrinking every year, polar bear and caribou that are relied on for food are facing growing dangers, and what little transportation networks there are, are threatened by the melting permafrost. Aggressive action is long overdue.”