Action needed as well as inquiry: AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

The Liberal government must ensure there is an action plan to accompany an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Thursday.

OTTAWA — The Liberal government must ensure there is an action plan to accompany an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Thursday.

Bellegarde said his organization supports the inquiry, but he hopes it follows movement on long-standing problems, such as aboriginal housing and education.

“It’s not just about the inquiry,” he said. “There also has to be an action plan and investments made in the root causes of this violence amongst our peoples.”

Carolyn Bennett, the new minister of indigenous and northern affairs, is a long-time advocate for an inquiry.

She said she wants to “get this right.”

“There is a number of initiatives going on, but mainly we know we have to listen to the families,” she said. “We have to listen to the legal strategy team.”

Bellegarde said Bennett is a positive choice for the ministry because, as the former Liberal aboriginal affairs critic, she knows the files well and can hit the ground running.

“There’s not going to be a huge learning curve for her because she’s really on top of a lot of the issues,” Bellegarde said.

The national chief also said he is pleased that former AFN regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould is the new justice minister.

Bellegarde said they worked as partners when he was the regional chief for Saskatchewan.

“She brings a lot of experience and professionalism to any job that she is going to do,” he said “Having her appointed to cabinet is a major thing … she’s going to do a good job.”

Bellegarde said indigenous people can make a positive contribution in government.

“We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have scientists, we have business people,” he said. “We can be put to any position around a cabinet table and make a really strong positive contribution that will affect not only cabinet … but Canada.”

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