Trudeau must renew commitment to reconciliation with new cabinet, say Indigenous leaders

'Must renew commitment'

Indigenous leaders and New Democrats say naming a new cabinet is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chance to restore survivors' confidence in his government's commitment to reconciliation.

At a news conference this morning, Charlie Angus was joined by a St. Anne's residential school survivor and two deputy grand chiefs ahead of Tuesday, when Trudeau is set to unveil his new cabinet picks.

Among the positions he must fill are the ministers of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations, currently held by Marc Miller and Carolyn Bennett, respectively.

The appointments come amid louder calls for justice for residential school survivors and for the federal government to drop its court battles against them, as well orders directing it to compensate First Nations children.

Friday is the deadline for when the Liberal government must decide whether to appeal a recent Federal Court decision confirming it should pay $40,000 to First Nations children, who a human rights tribunal found it discriminated against by underfunding child and family services on reserve.

Angus says Trudeau "has four days left to do the right thing for reconciliation" and sit down with litigants instead of taking them back to court.

“We call upon the Canadian government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to comply with those orders. He has spent enough money fighting against us, fighting against our children," said Anna Betty Achneepineskum, deputy grand chief at Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

She said Bennett hasn't lived up to the government's mandate of reconciliation with Indigenous people and its relationship with them must be "strengthened and honoured."

Mushkegowuk Council Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca Friday added Bennett hasn't responded to the concerns brought forward over the claims for compensation by those who attended the St. Anne's school, where sexual and physical abuse was reported against Indigenous children.

She said whoever leads the "powerful positions" of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations "have to really reconcile with the survivors."

Evelyn Korkmaz, who attended St. Anne's and has long called for the government to release the records it has about the abuses that took place at the facility, said she and others want to meet with Trudeau.

“I personally want the prime minister to explain why the government not only withheld names and evidence of the perpetrators, but are refusing to turn over the person of interest reports that would allow survivors to have closure on our files.”

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