Off-reserve, non-status native people need support, says leader

Ryan Ross
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Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in Charlottetown for meetings

The head of a group representing First Nations people who live off reserve says he is optimistic the Trudeau government will respond to their needs.

Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said if a case before the Supreme Court of Canada is successful he wants the federal government to sit down for negotiations.

"I'm somewhat optimistic that they're willing to at least sit down and talk about this at this point in time," he said.

Dorey was in Charlottetown Friday for meetings as part of what he calls a grassroots engagement tour to discuss matters of importance to indigenous people living off reserve.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples represents Metis, status and non-status natives, as well as Southern Inuit of Labrador who live off reserve.

The congress says more than 70 per cent of indigenous people live off reserve.

If the court case is successful, it will see Metis and non-status natives recognized under the Constitution Act, giving them access to government programs and services.

In an interview with The Guardian, Dorey said the problem has been the federal government has taken a view that unless people are status natives living on reserve they fall within provincial jurisdictions for support programs.

"We referred to ourselves over the years as the forgotten people," he said.

High levels of infant mortality, drug and alcohol abuse and low levels of education are consistent between native communities on and off reserve, Dorey said.

"My basic position as the leader of the congress is the need requires comparable services and programs."

Examples of some of those programs Dorey gave include access to health services that are available on reserves and transportation provided for people who need medical treatment.

"You don't get that if you live off reserve," he said.

Dorey said no matter what happens with the court decision it will have an impact on non-status and off-reserve natives.

"That's potentially going to be a game changer," he said.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Organizations: Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, First Nations, Supreme Court of Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Not enough coverage
    February 07, 2016 - 10:33

    Health benifits in important areas are not much mental health for example ..there are 10 sessions and assessment for crisis counciling only and so many need these services . ..health benifits such as physiotherapy,Occupational therapy ... are non existant ..and expected to use provincially which wait times are two years .. I didnt take the medical plan through my employer because I thought Id have coverage though aboriginal health and I didnt want to use work plan if I didnt need it ..and didnt want to increase rates for others if I had other coverage ..not knowing that therapy amounts are excluded or minimal if ever one should need it in a timely manner ..not all live on reserve example displaced individuals such as adoptees or foster care placements ..

  • David
    February 07, 2016 - 07:55

    The Canadian Government has been screwing the First Nations people for years. Just look at the way their social allowaance has been altered for years. Personally I hope they get all they deserve instead of the crooked Government of Harper padding their pockets. He should not show his face in public again

  • Mike Mouse
    February 06, 2016 - 19:26

    Living off the reserve, non status? That sounds like me.

  • gamer22
    February 06, 2016 - 14:14

    if you live off reserve then you have choosen to spread your wings and be a big boy/girl. This is what kind of stuff keeps a society divided. aka you must live like "the rest of us"

  • mutt
    February 06, 2016 - 12:55

    Where is m cheque? It's not big enough!! (are u getting the message?)