Top aboriginal chief to Canada's Trudeau: Words are easy, take action

Mon Jan 25, 2016 6:33pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's top aboriginal chief wants more action from new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to alleviate crippling poverty and poor living conditions among the country's indigenous community, saying: "Words are easy."

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the main political group representing the country's aboriginal people, said he would put pressure on Trudeau to deliver on election promises to his community.

"It's a travesty that this quality of life persists in this great, rich country called Canada," Bellegarde said in an interview on Monday after a shooting spree in a remote aboriginal town last week.

"Everyone's focused on La Loche now, saying this is not acceptable in 2016."

A gunman shot 11 people, killing four, at a school and home in La Loche, Saskatchewan, an impoverished northern community with high rates of suicide, addiction and unemployment.

A 17-year-old youth made his first court appearance on Monday, facing four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and unauthorized possession of a firearm. He remains in custody.

"Words are easy to say ... there has to be these investments now to get us to the same starting line as everyone else," Bellegarde said. "We've got 10, 12, 13 people living in a two-bedroom house. That affects everything."

Bellegarde, who voted for the first time in the October election that vaulted Trudeau to power, said he believed the new prime minister "gets it," referring to the need to improve living standards.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) stands with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde during the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Canada, in this file photo from December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/Files