The Saskatchewan NDP has made a number of commitments to Indigenous and northern people in its campaign platform.

These commitments include reintroducing an independent ministry of northern affairs and putting $10 million toward calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

During a recent campaign stop in La Ronge, NDP Leader Ryan Meili said for too long the needs of the north have been taken for granted by the Saskatchewan Party government.

“Northern Saskatchewan has been neglected by the Sask. Party,” he said. “There has not been attention to diversifying the economic opportunities here, there’s not been attention to making sure there are local jobs and there has been no real response to the challenges communities have faced.”

The NDP has also announced it will re-open the Buffalo Narrows correctional centre if elected.

Meili said it was a very short-sighted decision by the Saskatchewan Party to close the facility a few years ago.

“It was shut down in 2016 and that meant a loss of 18 jobs in Buffalo Narrows at a time when we really need local employment. It was also a very great model of community-based rehabilitation so that people who have gotten into some trouble can have a path to some education, some training, some support…”

Other commitments to Indigenous people and northern Saskatchewan in the NDP platform include hiring more doctors, nurses and continuing care assistants for northern health centres and restoring funding for the Northern Teacher Education Program.

The party also says it would use a Sask. First approach on northern infrastructure projects by ensuring local labour is used.

Under a heading entitled “First Nations and Northern Support” on its election website, the Saskatchewan Party touts a number of its financial commitments to Indigenous people and northern communities while in government.

These include $213 million in targeted investments in Indigenous communities, organizations and businesses in the current budget.

The Sask. Party also says the budget includes $45 million in relief for First Nations and Métis organizations affected by casino closures because of COVID-19.

Another $14.5 million has been set aside for northern medical services and $700,000 to improve kidney health and dialysis services in the northwest region.

The NDP says it would put $5 million toward a suicide prevention strategy while the Sask. Party has set aside $1.2 million.

(PHOTO: Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili during a campaign stop in La Ronge. Photo courtesy Saskatchewan NDP.)