Their first head-to-head encounter saw North Okanagan-Shuswap’s federal candidates under fire from a capacity crowd.
About 500 people packed the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Society’s debate Monday to hear about a variety of issues, including First Nations.
“Much is at stake for indigenous people,” said Jacqui Gingras, NDP candidate, adding that an NDP government would initiate an inquiry into murdered and missing native women within 100 days of taking office.
Liberal Cindy Derkaz told the audience that her party would adopt the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations and also hold an inquiry into the missing and murdered women.
Conservative Mel Arnold defended the government, by saying funding for aboriginal health care and education has increased.
“These people (missing/murdered women) are people and they matter but we can’t solve it with another inquiry. We need to solve it with action on the ground.”
Chris George, with the Green Party, went one step further and stated that First Nations did not give up their rights to the land.
“Get rid of the Indian Act,” he said.
“We’d like to start a nation to nation discussion based on respect.”
Candidates were also asked about the controversial anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51.
“We passed it to protect Canadians. This bill does not put any new tools into the hands of security forces,” said Arnold.
Derkaz says the Liberal caucus pushed for some changes to the act before it was approved.
“A Liberal government is committed to repealing and amending onerous sections of the act that got it wrong. There needs to be government oversight and a sunset clause.”
According to George, sections of the act concern him, including people being held in detention with no charges and secret trials.
“This isn’t Canada, we don’t need this legislation.”
Gingras describes Bill C-51 as an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Aboriginal people standing on the front lines protecting the environment are not terrorists.”
Candidates were also asked about support systems for veterans and the high rate of suicide among soldiers.
“Our government has been working to help veterans with the support they need. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” said Arnold, adding that the average funding spent on a veteran has increased 35 per cent under the Conservatives.
Derkaz says the Liberals would reopen veterans’ offices across the country.
“We will re-establish lifelong pensions for injured veterans. There will be a new veteran education benefit.”
George joined the call for fully funded programs, but he says Canada needs to reconsider the missions members of the military are involved in.
“We need to stop sending them into harm’s way except for in defence of this country.”
Gingras wants home support for veterans.
“We need to support the families and caregivers and that there are resources in an integrated fashion.”
-The All-Candidates Forum hosted by the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce took place Thursday night, after the Market News press deadline.