By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is turning over all the stones it can to get itself a seat on a new federal Reconciliation Council, its national vice-chief said early yesterday morning.
“Senators appear to be under the illusion that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) represents all Indigenous people in Canada, and they simply do not,” CAP national vice-chief Kim Beaudin said.
“They only represent a portion of Indigenous people on Canada’s territory and not every First Nation.”
Beaudin feels that CAP, which works on behalf of the country’s urban Indigenous and off-reserve population, has been excluded unfairly.
“This is a distinction-based policy approach,” Beaudin said, suggesting that because a great many of the country’s urban Indigenous population are marginalized that, too, gives Canada an excuse to keep CAP on the margins.
CAP is once again calling on the Senate to ensure all Indigenous Peoples are included in the planned Reconciliation Council being created by Bill C-29. CAP called it `vital’ that urban Indigenous voices and CAP have a seat at the table, and that `senators must make an amendment allowing us to take part.’
Under the proposed legislation, the council would be considered a non-profit corporation with nine to 13 directors.
The AFN, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Metis National Council would sit on the Reconciliation Council. An opposition amendment tabled last fall to include CAP was voted down by the government earlier this year.
Beaudin reiterated that AFN doesn’t speak for every First Nation from coast to coast.
“It feels as though the government is giving AFN free rein to speak on behalf of everyone, when they really don’t speak on behalf of everyone,” he said.
The agency’s national chief agreed with Beaudin.
“Senators now have the opportunity to make reconciliation inclusive for all Indigenous Peoples,” CAP National Chief Elmer St.
Pierre said. “Despite being one of five recognized national Indigenous organizations, the government is attempting to play divisive politics and leave out the voices of urban Indigenous peoples.”
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. LJI is a federally funded program.