Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday the support for jobs and skills training he is announcing during his annual Northern tour this week are "direct support" that will benefit the lives of the people living in Canada's North.
And he bristled at the suggestion his policies in the North rely on a "trickle down" effect to address social issues, as he continued a Northern tour that has included a lot of talk about resource development.
CBC News reporter James Cudmore had asked Harper how his government would address issues in the North beyond those that could be addressed by employment, including concern over missing and murdered aboriginal women, the impact of the high cost of transportation and a local First Nations community considering pulling out of a land-claim process.
"I want to take umbrage with [the] preamble of the question,'" the prime minister said in a question-and-answer session following the announcement of a mining jobs program in Hay River, N.W.T. "I've never used the term 'trickle down.'
"That is certainly not even remotely indicative of what we're doing here today. This is direct support to people, including aboriginal people in this territory, that will put them directly into jobs that will immediately benefit their lives, and that's what we're doing here today."
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Last month, Canada's provincial and territorial leaders backed aboriginal leaders in calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The Native Women's Association of Canada has said they have documented more than 600 cases where aboriginal women have been slain or disappeared between 2005 and 2010 — a number the RCMP has told CBC News it can't confirm.
"You've asked me about a range of issues. Obviously we have a very wide and active agenda to deal with criminal justice matters," Harper said. "We have a vigorous devolution and land claim negotiation process that's continuing across this territory.
"This government is just in the process of completing the biggest … transportation infrastructure program in the history of this country, and we have just launched in the last budget, the beginning of the next, which will be an even larger infrastructure transportation project across this country."
In talking about the new mining jobs program earlier Tuesday, the prime minister said rapid expansion in the North's resource industry is creating demand for local skilled workers.
"The support being provided today will help aboriginal participants in the North gain the training they need to access the jobs and prosperity being generated by the industry's growth," he said.
Harper continues his annual visit to the North in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, where he will meet members of the Canadian Rangers patrol unit. He'll visit Rankin Inlet, Nunavut on Thursday before heading to northern Quebec on Friday.
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