February 24, 2011
Check against delivery
I am delighted to be here as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. I would just like to say on a personal note that this is my first engagement as Parliamentary Secretary, and add what an honour it is for me to be able to work with the Minister on this important portfolio.
I want to thank our conference hosts – the National Association of Friendship Centres – who did a great job planning this event, along with other partners including Trent University, the University of Sudbury, and the Government of Ontario.
Everyone here shares the same goal: to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal people. That is why our government is proud to support this important event. This conference provides the opportunity to discuss urban Aboriginal issues, provide input into urban Aboriginal policy and work in partnership on issues of significance. This is also a unique venue to learn and exchange information on the urban Aboriginal environment and develop and share ideas on how to improve this environment. It is truly
One example of how our Government is strengthening and enhancing the goals of this conference is through our Urban Aboriginal strategy – announced in 2007. This is a five-year commitment and over the coming year, our government will be examining options for beyond 2012, and our discussions will be informed by events like today's conference.
As you've no doubt already heard in one of the many panels during this conference – and probably even prior to this event – urban Aboriginal people are a young, dynamic and quickly growing population. In fact they are the fastest-growing demographic group in Canada. Their success is an important part of building strong and prosperous cities, which supports a strong and prosperous Canada.
Over the last half century, cities have become home for many Aboriginal people. During that time, researchers, policymakers, and Aboriginal community leaders have all noted the challenges that Aboriginal people have encountered in establishing a place for themselves in cities, and in making the transition from rural and reserve environments to urban communities.
Urban Aboriginal people have been working to overcome these challenges and create better lives for themselves and their communities.
Public policy makers at different levels have similarly focused on finding solutions to enhancing the quality of life for urban Aboriginal people through programs aimed at improving education, increasing job skills and access to employment, addressing health issues and community development.
I am inspired by how this conference has been framed. It is not a conference about government. It is a conference about how Aboriginal people are pursuing Biimaadiziwin – meaning ‘the good life' in the language of the Ojibwe – in urban environments.
To foster Biimaadiziwin, Aboriginal people are building and strengthening neighbourhoods and communities; improving education; creating businesses and organizations; governing themselves; sharing and utilizing traditional knowledge; establishing groups of spiritual practice; learning their Indigenous languages; creating art and literature; overcoming various challenges; working with non-Aboriginal peoples and institutions; and contributing to the overall social, cultural and economic fabric of the city.
The questions you are asking during this conference are important. You are discussing innovations, effective strategies, and potential solutions.
Our Government recognizes that considerable work remains to be done to support Canada's growing urban Aboriginal population, and that urban Aboriginal people continue to face significant challenges. But we also recognize that this is a population full of potential. And that is why we are all here today, at this event. Conferences like this one help foster important partnerships and create open dialogue to support urban aboriginal people across Canada.
I look forward to working with you and hearing your perspectives on ways to improve the quality of life for urban Aboriginal people.