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April 8, 2008
Ottawa – The Right Honourable Paul Martin today called on the Conservative government to respect the will of Parliament and honour Canada’s commitment to Aboriginal people by implementing the terms of the Kelowna Accord.“When the government changed, the Conservatives decided to ignore Kelowna, to dismiss it out of hand, to break the word of the Government of Canada to the provinces and territories and to our nation’s First Peoples,” said Mr. Martin in his testimony to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. “That was a mistake – and like a lot of Canadians, I will not give up. For I know that at some point, if not now, then later, the spirit of Kelowna will prevail. Why? – Because Canadians are a fair and just people.”
Mr. Martin was joined by the Honourable Ralph Goodale and the Honourable Andy Scott at the committee today to speak about Mr. Martin’s Private Member’s Bill, C-292, which calls on the federal government to immediately implement the terms of the Accord and close the prosperity gap between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals.
“The day we agreed to the Accord, the day we reached consensus, all of us at that table, and from all political parties, truly believed that we had achieved something for the ages; that future generations of Canadians would equate that day with the beginning of a new way, the time and place when everything began to change for the better,” said Mr. Martin.
“Unfortunately since Kelowna, we have learned once again, something that we have learned and relearned without it seeming to stick and that is –governments should keep their word.”
The Conservative government’s decision to walk away from the Accord was a betrayal but it does not mean that the hope that the Kelowna Accord represents has been forgotten, said Indian Affairs Critic Anita Neville.
“I continue to hear irresponsible attacks and even outright dismissals of the Kelowna Accord from the Conservatives,” said Ms. Neville.
“The Aboriginal leadership and provinces have told us they are still on board and still working towards the goals and objectives of the Kelowna Accord — the only group not at the table is the federal government. For that they should be ashamed,” she said. “It is time for them to come to the table.”
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