The prime minister made Saskatchewan’s First Nations his priority while visiting Fort Qu’Appelle on Tuesday evening.
First Justin Trudeau learned about the work of the Qu’Appelle Haven, a 24-hour safe shelter for abused women and children, before meeting privately with the 11 chiefs that make up the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council.
Each chief got about four minutes to address Trudeau and Regina MP Ralph Goodale with issues and concerns from their own communities.
After the meeting, the prime minister addressed a gathering of elders, the media and others from the surrounding First Nation communities in the tipi room at the Treaty 4 Governance Centre.
He reiterated his budget promise to provide $8.4 billion toward indigenous issues like infrastructure and health. He also recommitted to remove the two per cent cap on education funding for First Nations.
“We will work with First Nations in the coming year to lay the groundwork for a new fiscal relationship,” he said, “one that will give First Nations communities funding that is sufficient, predictable and sustained.”
Trudeau maintained, “there is still much work to be done”. That work may include ongoing dialogue with Premier Brad Wall, who he meets with Wednesday in Saskatoon.
Trudeau will first visit the Oskayak High School to hear about the aboriginal youth entrepreneurship program followed by a visit to the YWCA’s trade journey program. He will end the day Wednesday with Wall. The official itinerary indicates they will spend just 30 minutes together.
Trudeau won’t be spending any of his time in Saskatchewan in the southeast where those hurting from the downturn in the oil and gas sector are concentrated.
When asked why he wouldn’t incorporate the Saskatchewan oil patch into this visit, Trudeau replied, “we are focusing on building the kinds of relationships that will lead to prosperity for everyone”.
The crowd of people in Fort Qu’Appelle waiting to greet Canada’s leader were just glad he chose them. Trudeau arrived to fans holding flowers, posters and shouts of, “we love you Trudeau”.