Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 2004
Don't forget aboriginal people - Chalifoux
Aboriginals still face discrimination
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Much is done for immigrants coming into Canada, says retired senator Thelma Chalifoux.
But Chalifoux says we ought to also lend a helping hand to our Canadian immigrants - aboriginal people - who experience a similar cultural shock when they move from isolated settlements to fast-paced cities.
"Immigration (from foreign countries) is very important because our country is so large and we do need more population but we don't think about the immigration issues facing people within our own country," Chalifoux told more than 100 participants Nov. 13 at a conference at Grant MacEwan College.
"We have a segment of our society that is living in Third World conditions and when they move into the city they have exactly the same thing. It's a tragedy that no one is considering it."
Chalifoux, a former co-chair of the Alberta Metis Elders Senate and a Canadian senator from 1997 to last February, was one of several speakers and panelists at the conference.
"Make sure you develop a policy of inclusion, an inclusion for all Canadians," she urged. "When you develop (social) policy, don't forget about aboriginal people."
The goal of the conference, which was sponsored by the Quality of Life Commission, was to develop policies and recommendations on areas such as low income, housing, children and seniors. The recommendations will be submitted to all levels of government and other pertinent organizations in the near future.
In her presentation, Chalifoux urged participants to think about two different types of immigrants that come to Alberta's cities: the ones from foreign countries and the ones from isolated settlements in Canada's North.
Chalifoux once told Canada's immigration minister she found it "interesting" that people coming from other nations get all sorts of support "and yet our people that move from the isolated settlements of the North, of the mid-Canada corridor, have absolutely no support services."
Aboriginal people "truly are the forgotten nation of this country," the former senator said.
"When I spoke at the United Nations, I talked about aboriginal women and children living in absolutely deplorable situations and everybody said, 'Isn't that sad' but nobody does anything."
She described the social policy conference as an opportunity "to really start looking at the immigrants coming from the isolated settlements of the northern parts of our country to live in our cities."
The aboriginal population is the fastest growing population in Canada and the majority of aboriginal people are between the ages of 15 and 24.
"And so when you are making policy don't forget about the situation of our aboriginal children, our aboriginal women and our aboriginal seniors," Chalifoux told conference participants.
"Despite the latent discrimination that we face, we have a lot of smart, very, very intelligent, well-educated aboriginal people and they can't get a job. We have to look beyond the colour of the skin.
"We have to look beyond the stereotypes because the majority of our people are very hardworking, well-educated people but they've never been given an opportunity or a chance to be included in Canadian society. We are all Canadians and yet one segment is being forgotten."
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