Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says the AFN Expects Full Inclusion in Intergovernmental Tables
Toronto, ON – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde expressed his strong objection today to attempts to sideline and segregate the AFN from participation in federal-provincial-territorial intergovernmental tables, including the 2017 Council of the Federation meeting scheduled for Edmonton July 18 and 19.
“The AFN represents First Nations governments, the rights holders, and any discussions by provincial, territorial and federal governments can impact First Nations peoples and First Nations rights,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We are not just another special interest group. An effective process for intergovernmental participation must reflect our status under the Constitution and international law as peoples and nations with inherent rights, title and jurisdiction. First Nations will not accept an exclusionary and disrespectful approach.”
National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) President Natan Obed and President Clément Chartier of the Métis Nation of Canada (MNC) held a press conference today in a show of unity over their concerns regarding the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples in intergovernmental forums, including the Council of the Federation meeting taking place July 18 – 19 in Edmonton, AB. The leaders of the three national Indigenous organizations chose not to attend the meeting because of the regressive moves by some members of the Council of the Federation to minimize and marginalize participation of Indigenous leaders.
“The trend should be towards respectful inclusion,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We know that there are provinces and territories that are eager to engage with First Nations leadership in a meaningful way at intergovernmental tables. The federal government has taken important steps in the direction of more inclusion of First Nations. My preference is to bring all AFN Regional Chiefs to these meetings and we will continue to press for full and meaningful inclusion.”
In a letter to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley sent on July 12, 2017, National Chief Perry Bellegarde expressed his concerns and proposed that the Council of the Federation invite the sitting AFN National Chief and AFN Executive Committee to the annual meetings.
The letter states: “There is a need for a fulsome discussion and I propose that this take place on the morning of July 18 during your official meeting. This will provide an opportunity to hear our views on meaningful intergovernmental collaboration and relationship building.”
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says Canada’s premiers respect the three Indigenous groups that backed out of a meeting in Edmonton and are committed to working with them around a common table.
Notley says no work can be done towards a better Canada unless the priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people are addressed.
New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says it’s unfortunate that the process of how best to meet has taken away from a focus on improving the lives of
Isadore Day, Ontario chief with the Assembly of First Nations, says he supports the decision by leaders of the Assembly of First Nations, the Metis
National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami not to attend the meeting on Monday, the day before the premiers hold their own talks.
“Our participation needs to be meaningful,” Day said Friday. “Talk is cheap.”
Day said holding separate talks for Indigenous leaders “doesn’t meet the test of reconciliation.”
Day said Indigenous leaders are prepared to push harder if the provinces and territories don’t demonstrate a willingness to change their position on the
meetings. “We are in troubled waters right now,” he said.
Asked whether their participation undermined the larger message, Chartier said each organization made its decision independently, but noted that the three opting out are leaders of their respective peoples rather than advocacy groups.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples did show up for the meeting and said it was valuable for the connections they were able to make.
Canada’s 13 provincial and territorial leaders are members of the Council of the Federation. Established in 2003, the Council of the Federation enables premiers and territorial leaders to work collaboratively and strengthen the Canadian federation by fostering a constructive relationship among provinces and territories and with the federal government.