August 2, 2017
Ottawa, ON – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde will participate on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Council to ensure a strong voice for First Nations rights, title, and jurisdiction during the upcoming international negotiations to “modernize” the North American Free Trade Agreement,.
“I will participate to represent First Nations interests,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This is the first time an AFN National Chief has been asked by Canada to participate in international trade agreements. It is essential that we be heard and represented. Any agreement must recognize our rights, title, and jurisdiction. Our involvement will ensure any outcomes are best for First Nations and best for the entire country.”
The NAFTA Council announced today is to advise Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland directly throughout the NAFTA negotiations. National Chief Bellegarde was approached to participate last week and in a letter sent to Minister Freeland August 1, 2017, expressed interest on the condition that his participation is in no way construed as diminishing the international, constitutional and other responsibilities of the Crown in relation to First Nations.
The Council’s first meeting will likely take place sometime in August and there will be opportunities to provide advice before and after each round of negotiations. Canada, Mexico and the USA will each host a round before the end of the year, with negotiations expected to go on into 2019.
AFN Resolution #32 /2017, First Nations Trade Relations, passed at the AFN’s Annual General Assembly last week, directs the AFN to advocate for First Nations participation in trade initiatives and existing trade mechanisms on the basis of the recognition of First Nations inherent and Treaty rights affirmed and protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, international law and First Nations inherent right to trade with, and between, nations in North America and globally.