The Canadian government plans to increase funding for the country’s indigenous people, who have long been disadvantaged and still have a worse life on average than their non-indigenous compatriots.
The money is to be spent on policing Indigenous communities, fighting racism in Canada’s criminal justice system, and addressing widespread violence against Indigenous women. The Canadian government’s plans come after the discovery of the remains of 215 people at a former boarding school for indigenous children.
The Canadian government did not say when it will improve living conditions for the first nations. The Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to give indigenous communities more say in some social services and better access to health care.
Two years ago, a report on the deaths of more than a thousand indigenous women and girls in the last decades called it a “national genocide”. The study then found that indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to disappear or be killed than other women and girls in the country.
On Thursday, the government announced, among other things, that it would tackle racism among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The mounties responsible for security and law enforcement in Canada’s more remote areas need better training and stricter selection. The government has also promised to tackle racism in healthcare. The need for this was underlined this week in a hearing on the death of 37-year-old Joyce Echaquan. The mother of seven died in a Quebec hospital in late September after being neglected and mocked by staff.
The Canadian government has allocated 2.2 billion Canadian dollars (about 1.5 billion euros) over the next five years to improve conditions for the indigenous people. “You have made it clear how our system has failed you,” Trudeau told the indigenous population on Thursday.
The announcement has been met with scepticism from the indigenous community. “Plans are great, but what we need is action,” said the president of the Association of Relatives of Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. She would have preferred to see a plan for improvement within a year, with safeguards to ensure action is taken. The Canadian Indigenous Women’s Association head also said he did not find the plans concrete enough.