Perry Bellegarde: you cannot just raise the flags and replace it with nothing

As representative of Canada’s indigenous people, Perry Bellegarde is an integral part of the ongoing debate over the $827m proposed expansion of parliament buildings Perry Bellegarde: you cannot just raise the flags and replace…

Perry Bellegarde: you cannot just raise the flags and replace it with nothing

As representative of Canada’s indigenous people, Perry Bellegarde is an integral part of the ongoing debate over the $827m proposed expansion of parliament buildings

Perry Bellegarde: you cannot just raise the flags and replace it with nothing

As the representative of Canada’s indigenous people, this is what Perry Bellegarde has been hearing about in recent days.

On Monday, he joined with Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development chairman Romeo Saganash to urge a cautious approach to the ambitious $827m plan by the Liberal government to build a new parliament building in Ottawa.

The bill has raised serious questions, Bellegarde said, about whether indigenous peoples’ interests should be included in this project.

At present, the capitol building in the centre of the city is entirely unaffordable for indigenous people, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars could be spent every day for housing, housing, housing, Bellegarde pointed out, only to empty the auditorium – a symbolic gesture in the mostly broken treaty system.

“You cannot just raise the flags and replace it with nothing,” Bellegarde said.

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It is hard for him to be “outlaw tough” when indigenous people find it hard to attend funerals, not to forget child birth, “and all of the things we could be building towards… that are so important to our lives.”

In an increasingly hard-line political situation, Bellegarde has emerged as a voice of a more moderate view of where the country should be heading, he said.

He is cautiously optimistic, despite the recent dispute between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and indigenous leaders.

In a “heartbreaking” and “shockingly abrupt” move, Bellegarde was asked to remove Canadian flags from the doors of his office after several days of friction, reports say. Trudeau told reporters the flags should be placed in front of the offices of chiefs.

His leadership in leading his Assembly of First Nations (AFN) council was back in the headlines on Friday, after he said that Canada had the “capacity” to develop a national immigration program for indigenous people.

According to Bellegarde, there is a connection between the struggle of his nation and the stories of so many indigenous people from other countries who have left their people behind to create a new life for themselves.

“When I am in meetings with people, it’s more than on these tables. People talk about it: no matter if you are in Saskatchewan, or in Alberta, the stories of the stories of the people.”

It is “telling us a story about what is going on in the government of Canada right now,” he added.

Bellegarde called on Trudeau and his government to come up with a plan that acknowledges the serious issues facing indigenous people.

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