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Notes for a Speech by
Mr. Benoît Pelletier

Within the Context of the Inauguration of the Kawawachikamach Multipurpose Centre

Kawawachikamach, August 12, 2003

(The spoken version prevails)

Greetings to the officials and dignitaries in attendance.

It is with great pleasure that I accepted your invitation to be with you here today. I would like to thank you for having welcomed me into your community. I consider these visits to be an excellent opportunity for me to enhance my knowledge of the current reality of the Aboriginal people of Québec.

A new approach for Québec in the field of aboriginal affairs
First of all, I would like to briefly reiterate the current approach taken by the Government of Québec in the field of aboriginal affairs. Indeed, our action will henceforth be guided by two key concepts: continuity and progress. Continuity, because we do not call into question the progress achieved in recent years. We are resolutely committed to following the path of dialogue in order to establish a partnership based on trust and respect with the nations and various communities of Québec.

Progress, because we intend to not only promote mutual respect and dialogue, but also to achieve progress in our exchanges with the eleven nations for the greater good of all inhabitants of Québec.

Indeed, the government has taken several tangible steps with this objective in mind. I would like to emphasize one action in particular, which I consider to be very important and which is a clear demonstration of this new approach, namely the mutual political commitment signed on June 17, 2003 by Mr. Jean Charest, Premier of Québec, and Mr. Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador.

This document is an example of what we mean by mutual respect: we want the aboriginal nations to be respected wherever they may be situated on the territory of Québec, a land that we have shared for more than four centuries. We want our future to be shared and to be more prosperous. And we want to establish all this on a nation-to-nation basis.

More than ever before, our approach will be founded on dialogue and cooperation. This is the most profitable approach, from every standpoint. Indeed, cooperation leads to profitable partnerships, as is so aptly demonstrated by the construction of the Multipurpose Centre that we are inaugurating today.

The Kawawachikamach Multipurpose Centre
Indeed, the construction of this centre is a particularly good illustration of the approach of which I have just spoken. It is a project that we carried out together, based on the partnership principle. By way of the Aboriginal Development Fund, the Government of Québec invested, and I would like to insist here on the word “invested”, $656,000 in the construction of this centre, whose benefits will be considerable for the community of Kawawachikamach.

On this subject, I would like to emphasize a few of the positive spin-offs that will ensue from the Kawawachikamach Multipurpose Centre. To do so, it is important to reiterate the Centre’s two main missions: socioeconomic development and activities of a community nature.

In the case of economic development, the entrepreneurship training and support activities will have tangible impacts on the economic position of the community in many ways, for example by improving the employability of young people, by stimulating the entrepreneurship of its members and by promoting the creation or expansion of local businesses. The effect of all these actions will be to improve the overall socioeconomic conditions, both for and by the community.

Moreover, the Centre will also have a community vocation, in addition to being able to serve as a shelter in the event of a disaster or an extended power outage. Without going into the details of the numerous community-type activities that can be held here, we can easily anticipate the positive impact that they will have on the social life of the community.

Given these characteristics, the Kawawachikamach Multipurpose Centre is a structuring project, of which the members of the community may be proud. The Government of Québec is very proud to be associated with a project that is so beneficial for young people in particular and for the future of the community in general.

Finally, as we are talking about pride and young people, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to briefly underscore an event that the Government of Québec is very proud to have been associated with: the national junior karate championships that were held here on March 22nd and 23rd of this year. Thanks to their performances and their sustained efforts, the young people of Kawawachikamach honored their community.

Reminder of two other projects carried out under the Aboriginal Development Fund
On the subject of the common achievements of the Community of Kawawachikamach and the Government of Québec, I would like to mention two other important projects having benefited from the assistance of the Aboriginal Development Fund. Indeed, the project that we are inaugurating today is neither the first nor the last to materialize in this community. He follows in the wake of other projects that show the importance of the Naskapi nation in the eyes of the government.

In 2000, the building of a recreational centre including a community pool and a room for young people benefited from a $734,000 contribution from the Aboriginal Development Fund. This is another initiative whose positive spin-offs for young people are obvious.

Similarly, in 2001-2002, the expansion and renovation of the administrative offices of the band council to equip them with community type premises received more than $409,000 from the Fund.

Conclusion: maintaining a profitable relationship
With a view to ensuring continuity and progress, we need to maintain and develop the good spirit of cooperation that has been created through the carrying out of the aforementioned projects. It is important for the future of Québec and for that of the Naskapi nation to preserve this spirit. Together, we can work together better to improve the living conditions of our populations.

Finally, you may rest assured that in my capacity as Minister of Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs and Native Affairs, I will work, in cooperation with the representatives of your nation, in the best interest of all of us.

Thank you.

Signature gouvernementale
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