Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay, gave a lecture to a large crowd on Feb. 9 at Wilfrid Laurier University.
“I don’t want to be prime minister no more. I want to be a paramedic. They help people.”
These words were spoken to Angus by a girl raised in an Indigenous community and are a practical reflection of the overall purpose of his talk — discussing the disenfranchised state of the federally operated Indigenous school’s program.
Angus, a prominent activist for Indigenous children’s rights, championed the cause of Shannen’s Dream, a movement begun at age 13 by the late Shannen Koostachin.
Koostachin responded to institutionalized problems within the Indigenous school system, provoked by her own experiences.
The talk also promoted Angus’ book on that topic, which was written in 2015, Children of the Broken Treaty.
Angus described the book as the “story of how the children fought back.”
The book functioned as a vehicle by which to discuss something that is extremely important to Angus; his passion and enthusiasm for fighting against this system of injustice was palpable.
He explained that the children of Canada are our main resource, “our primary responsibility.”
“Every child in this country is going to get what they need … we have to make that happen,” he said.
His talk especially focused on pronounced governmental inaction to the needs of children in negative conditions.
“Suicide is like a contagion… you’ve got to move in quickly to keep it from spreading [sic].”
“[W]hen a First Nation declares a state of emergency, nothing happens … You couldn’t design a system worse than [The Department of] Indian Affairs.”
He continued by asking: “is it some kind of specialized incompetence, or is it the continuation of the politics of denial?”
Angus iterated that the roots of the issue are systemized.
“Don’t blame Stephen Harper,” he said. “[The] pattern is repeated government after government.”
This was just one of many of Angus’ visits around Waterloo.
In the preceding day, he also hosted a beer hall conversation, a talk at the University of Waterloo and another at Communitech discussing topics in regards to innovation.
His focus for his visit to the region was primarily to see “what lessons can we learn applied in Waterloo that could be applied elsewhere,” as well as to bring back memories — his first experiences in Waterloo were when he was playing in punk bands.
“Someone threw a beer bottle at me,” he said, relating an anecdote during the lecture about playing at the Kent Hotel.
Before the lecture, Angus came into the foyer to strike up various conversations while getting to know his audience.
He also commented that his speeches often change in those moments, in order to better speak specifically to that night’s crowd.
“[There are] a lot of requests and pressure to run for NDP leadership,” Angus said, when asked about his future with the party.
He suggested a clear as well as necessary purpose for the future of Canada, regardless of which party or politician was at the helm and should be highly focused upon.
“Reconciliation isn’t going to be a hashtag anymore [sic]; we need to make it real,” Angus said.