AFN British Columbia Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould says that meeting with the Prime Minister was no victory, but there was movement.
Throughout the days building up to Friday’s meeting – nicknamed J11 – the delegation of over 500 chiefs and leaders narrowed down what they thought needed to be discussed with the Stephen Harper.
According to Wilson, Assembly of First Nation’s Chief Shawn Atleo sent a letter to Harper with the eight items he and the chiefs outlined.
Atleo opened up the meeting by reading Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration which says: First Nations are Indigenous people with the right to self determination. He read article in its entirety, gave a copy of the declaration to Harper, and presented the following eight items.
CKLB has it on good authority that these are the main action items addressed. This is a short, unofficial summary:
1) Fundamental need for treaty implementation on a nation-to-nation basis. This includes aboriginal title and rights, and to seek resolution to land questions
2) A complete reform the Comprehensive Claims Policy
3) Resource revenue sharing and how to engage provinces
4) Moving beyond the Indian Act.
5) Challenging the federal government on omnibus bills
6) Fundamental need for sustainable fiscal transfers for First Nations.
7) A need for a national public commission of inquiry on ending violence against Indigenous women and girls
8) A need for schools and education in all communities. A safe environment for learning, including culture and language.
Wilson says Atleo and the chiefs were not there to negotiate treaties or titles and rights, but to bring forward these consensus items that First Nations had agreed to.
Harper allegedly responded to each of these points in depth. He said progress has been made, but admits that it is not enough
Wilson says Harper asked the Chiefs for advice on how to change or repeal the Indian Act:
“He spoke about the Indian Act and recognized we all believe the Indian Act is flawed. He was looking and put it out there and asked if there are any solutions, that there are differences of opinion among First Nations about how to get rid of it and among his colleagues about how to get rid of it but he said that he is open to solutions.”
Harper allegedly conceded that there is a need to have increased supervision at a federal level.
Wilson says a point of contention during the meeting was on item #5, how legislation is passed:
“He spoke about the role of the Department of Justice and that the role of the Department of Justice is to ensure, when any legislation goes though, that it’s in compliance with the constitution and section 35. And this is where there was a complete divergence of opinion in terms of our perspective on legislation like Bill C-45 and others that are fundamentally or diametrically opposed to our views of what is constitutional.”
Wilson summarized his comments and said that Harper is open to having more meeting with First Nations leadership. Harper provided a clear mandate for high-level talks on treaty implementation and on comprehensive claims.
“He was, indeed, open and made the commitments for that high-level oversight in terms of the ongoing political oversight that was needed, in a substantive way, to address implementation of treaties and address the comprehensive claims policy.”
According to Wilson’s recount, Harper even addressed why he didn’t want to hold a larger meeting with all the chiefs
“The prime minister said that he was open to having further meetings but that he thought that big gatherings work best if there is something to report and he wanted to have the process in place and the solutions on track to be able to report on some of the activity in achieving those solutions.”
Minister Leona Aglukkak, Minister John Duncan, Minister Tony Clement, and representatives from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development were also at Friday's meeting with Harper and the chiefs.
Other comments made at the meeting:
“Our grassroots movement forces both of us to take heed and address these issues. We need answers to take to our peoples,” said Grand Chief Weaselhead, Blood Tribe, Treaty 7.
“We need to break the impasse through high-level political oversight,” said Chief Deborah Robinson, Acadia First Nation.
“Our people outside are rallying for change. Their voices will not be silenced,” said AFN British Columbia Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Wilson is looking to have an assembly for all chiefs on January 24 in BC.
Iman Kassam / CKLB News
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