By Joseph O’Conner
When Paul Martin assembled his new cabinet in January, Robert Nault was not reinstated as minister for INAC. In the period Nault was in office he was often under attack from Native councils, it was a tenuous relationship that didn’t improve when Phil Fontaine was elected as head of the A.F.N last July.
The new Prime Minister wanted a clean agenda, most of all he wanted a fresh start with native leaders across the country and to show he meant it, Robert Nault was given the boot.
Paul Martin stated in his throne speech that, “Aboriginal Canadians have not fully shared in our nation’s good fortune. While some progress has been made, the condition for far too many Aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful. This offends our values. It is in our collective interest to turn the corner. And we must start now.”
Robert Nault couldn’t have been very happy with the Prime Minister’s decision but it didn’t mean the end of his political career; or perhaps it did. In February AFN Ontario Regional Vice-Chief Charles Fox announced he would run for the Liberal nomination in Nault’s riding.
“Under the leadership of Paul Martin, Canadians have been told they will have a voice in the development of a new Canada,”‘ Fox said from his home Eagle Lake First Nation. “With your support, I can ensure that the Kenora-Rainy River Riding is a resounding part of that voice.”
Nault says no
For Nault this was the last straw. He announced his withdrawal from the election and threw a parting dagger at Fox. “It’s not about winning or losing; I don’t see Mr. Fox as a credible candidate to start off with.”
If he’s not credible why did Nault roll over before the first salvo? Nault’s double talk, which he cultivated during his tenure as minister, comes off sounding more like sour grapes than anything else. He has represented the riding since 1988 and according to Liberal insiders
Nault has an “intimidating knowledge of local, regional and national party organizations, election tactics and resources.”
Which means nothing if Martin doesn’t like you, if Fox can secure the Aboriginal vote and win over the white voters, it could spell a new era in Native politics.
“This is not a native platform. It is one that affects all of the people of this riding, and by bridging the cultural gap between natives and non-natives, we can build an economy that will benefit all cultures resulting in a stronger future for youth. This riding has the tools to improve its quality of life for generations to come.”
Charles Fox has an impressive record for standing up for land claims and native rights. His agenda, if elected, would be developing partnerships with business and government in order to improve the local economy. “While Canadians have been told they will all have a voice in the development of a new Canada, that has not traditionally been the case of the north. There is a unique way of life for all people in this region; one that has not been considered when it came to legislation concerning the gun registry, tourism, health care and wildlife management, to name a few, but our voice was simply not heard.”
There may be obstacles to overcome, but if Charles Fox is elected in the coming federal election, he may be the man who makes sure the First Nation’s voice is heard loud and clear.