Over the past month, many constituents have contacted me about the recent nation-wide Idle No More protests. I would like to take this opportunity to address the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the federal government.

Ultimately, working together remains the best way to achieve our shared objective of healthier, more prosperous and self-sufficient aboriginal communities.

The movement has included a number of protests across Canada. While we respect the right to peaceful protest, it is also expected that the rule of law will be respected and upheld. The law should be applied and enforced in a manner that treats all people equally, regardless of race, religion or creed. The fundamental principle of the rule of law must guide the decisions of police forces as they apply and enforce the law.

In January 2012, the government hosted a historic gathering of the Crown and aboriginal peoples.  Building upon that meeting, this past month, the Prime Minister again met with aboriginal leaders to discuss matters including treaties and economic development. The Prime Minister participated in the full meeting and had a good, frank dialogue with all participants.

Although we are pleased with the constructive discussions that took place that day, there is still more work to be done to improve living conditions and economic opportunities in aboriginal communities. The Prime Minister agreed to meet with aboriginal leadership in the coming weeks to review next steps. We remain committed to working with those aboriginal leaders who want to work with the Government of Canada to create jobs and growth in their communities.

Since 2006, we have taken concrete action on priorities in aboriginal communities, such as education, economic development and housing. To date, progress includes building over 30 new schools on reserves, and renovating more than 200 others.  We have also invested in safe drinking water systems, built over 10,000 new homes, and renovated thousands more. Over 80 outstanding land claims have been settled, and over 700 projects have received investments in order to connect aboriginals with job training services.  Each year, over 5,000 consultations are held by the government with aboriginals.

In response to calls from aboriginal communities for more financial transparency, the federal government introduced legislation requiring the publication of annual audited financial statements by aboriginal reserves, and the release of salaries and expenses of their chiefs and councillors. This will help aboriginal members get the information they need to make informed political decisions and hold governing bodies accountable. It will also help ensure stable, transparent governance, necessary to encourage investment and economic opportunity.

As we move forward, working in partnership will be the best way to make progress and achieve results on the issues that matter most to aboriginal peoples and to all Canadians. I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions. You can reach me by phone at (866) 878-5556 or by email at michael.chong@parl.gc.ca.