By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador joined the chorus of voices criticizing the Native Alliance of Quebec, saying the organization is illegitimate and that using federal funding earmarked for Indigenous spending amounts to fraud.
The AFNQL blasted the NAQ’s use of federal-government funding for its Rendez-Vous des Nations event held earlier this month in Gatineau. The event, held from March 1 to 4, which featured a number of different exhibitions, was blasted by the AFNQL and its chief, Ghislain Picard.
“It is nothing new that non-Indigenous people or groups call themselves Indigenous, the point being that it is clearly an identity fraud. These groups of non-indigenous people are accessing government funding meant for Indigenous people, who are already underfunded in so many ways and already have limited resources,” Picard said. “The AFNQL will be hosting the `Grand Rassemblement,’
bringing together Chiefs and mayors; Indigenous Chiefs and communities should be the only legitimate people and groups to host such gatherings.”
The event was blasted not only by the AFNQL, but by the chief of a First Nation near Gatineau who was invited to the event.
The chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishin?beg denounced the festival as “inappropriate,” accusing the main organizers behind the event of being a “non-Indigenous group.”
“What your organization does can cause more harm to legitimate Section 35 First Nations peoples in our territory,” Dylan Whiteduck, chief of the council for the Algonquin community north of Ottawa-Gatineau, wrote in a public letter on February 21.
Whiteduck said the group doesn’t have anything to do with Indigenous people.
“I wouldn’t be caught dead at their events or anything that would be a part of their association or group,” he said. “They do not represent First Nations off reserve at all.”
On their website, the NAQ indicated they have been around since 1972 and that the recent event in Gatineau doubled as their 50th-anninversary celebrations.
Calls to NAQ for comment went unreturned.
Whiteduck called the NAQ “a made-up group organization made up of a few non-Indigenous people,” and he called on Gatineau’s municipal government to take immediate action against the organization.
“It is not acceptable that these groups or organizations find their way to utilising funding or resources originally allocated for Indigenous people right here on our own unceded lands/territory,” he said. “I urge the city of Gatineau to take immediate action and ensure this does not happen, and build a stronger, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relation with Indigenous people also means to recognize who the legitimate Indigenous people are, and not be participants in fraudulent cultural appropriation such as this.”
The AFNQL and the Kitigan Zibi Anishin?beg Nation called upon governments to `take immediate action in ensuring that such events do not take place again in the future and that Indigenous funds actually go to legitimate Indigenous people or groups.’
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded.