Niki Ashton calls on PM to save the AHF - Transcript from the House of Commons (Thursday, March 11th, 2010)

11:19 (16)

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP)

Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP): Madam Speaker, I would like to make a direct appeal to the Prime Minister.

Residential school survivors and their families have looked to the Prime Minister and Canada's national apology as a sign of hope. That hope now hangs in the balance. For 10 years, survivors and their families have looked to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for support as they try to move forward. The foundation has been key in working with young people and future generations. Despite the historic apology, the budget is silent on its support for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Will the Prime Minister follow through on the sentiment of that historic national apology and provide support and save the Aboriginal Healing Foundation?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper

Right Hon. Stephen Harper: Madam Speaker, one of the perplexing things in this House is to hear the NDP constantly standing up and demanding the very things that it constantly votes against.

This government has made all kinds of important investments into aboriginal programs, not the least of which was the signing and execution of not just the apology, but the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The member will know that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is of course a part of that agreement. The government will of course execute all of the obligations relative to that particular foundation according to the agreement, and as has already been said, the government has made sure it has provided additional money in costs that have been required under that agreement, due to higher than expected take-up on some actions. These things have been provided in the budget.

At the same time I have to say, because I did allude to some of the things we have been doing that the NDP and others have opposed, that this government has had a number of important initiatives in aboriginal communities, not the least of which has been, under not just the Minister of Indian Affairs but his predecessor in front of me here, of course the important initiative on providing clean water on aboriginal reserves. Through the economic action plan, there have been investments in infrastructure in aboriginal communities across the country. That was a particular part of the economic action plan that sadly, the hon. member and her party voted against. There are additional actions in this budget particularly to look at education, which I know is a priority of the new Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

For decades, governments have talked about improving the lives of aboriginal people and there have been many grand promises, and at times very extravagant numbers and budgets thrown around. This government has approached these problems in very clear ways, ranging from water to housing to treaties. It has approached it with a desire to have very clear goals to achieve some definitive outcomes, to actually make some progress on things that matter to aboriginal people.

While I believe we are making progress, we recognize that we still have a long way to go and we will continue to work with aboriginal Canadians for a better future.