Kitchener-area political candidates campaigned for the student vote during a debate at Conestoga’s doon campus on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019.
Students questioned candidates on issues facing Indigenous people, including the lack of clean water in some communities, land ownership and respectful consent.
One Conestoga student asked what each party was planning to do for Aboriginal communities up-north living in poor conditions.
“Coming from a family of OPP officers who constantly go to volunteer and work up there for two weeks at a time, I’ve heard just absolutely terrible things about the way that people are living. I don’t think it’s right and I wanna hear what can be done at the federal level so that we can keep ourselves accountable,” said the student.
Liberal candidate Marwan Tabbara answered first saying:
“Our relationship with the Indigenous population is one that we … respect very much.”
Tabbara said the government is on track to eliminate boil-water advisories by 2021 which are currently impacting at least 53 Indigenous communities.
He finished by saying the Liberals have done more for Indigenous people than previous governments.
Green candidate David Weber followed by saying his party believes in respect for a nation to nation relationship between Indigenous people and the federal government.
He then criticized the Liberals from not effectively implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“We need to follow through.”
“… Pre, prior and informed consent — is where the Liberals need to learn a little bit. You don’t just talk to somebody until they agree with you, you don’t just put pipelines through regardless. It has to be with consent … with the Indigenous people deciding for themselves,” said Weber.
People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate David Haskell followed.
“I have to disagree with Marwan about the Liberals respecting Indigenous people. I mean we had a fundraiser where Justin Trudeau very callously told an Indigenous activist ‘Thank you for your donation’ as he had her escorted out by security.” (Watch that here.)
“We believe that the objective of Indigenous policy should be to end dependency by giving Indigenous people the tools to fix their own situation,” said Haskell.
He wants to see stronger property rights in Indigenous communities and more discussions between Indigenous and federal leaders on how money is spent.
New Democratic (NDP) candidate Wasai Rahimi said the government needs to concentrate and discuss issues with Indigenous leaders whenever a decision is made. He then said the government should never force anything on Indigenous people.
Note: Conservative Party candidate Alan Keeso was unable to attend the debate due to having another commitment that evening.
Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) President Scot Wyles hopes that this event helped inform students and community members of Kitchener South-Hespeler on what their parties stand for. Wyles believes that this event was informative to students on how to vote and to help them make sure that their voices are heard.