The Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde strongly objects 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,” stated Bellegarde in a press release.
The AFN and four other national Indigenous organizations had been invited to meet with provincial-territorial leaders today, in advance of the Council of Federation, but declined to attend, along with the Metis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. It was a show of unity over their concerns regarding “the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples in intergovernmental forums.”
In a press conference today, they accused some members of the Council of the Federation of regressive moves “to minimize and marginalize participation of Indigenous leaders.”
“We are not just another special interest group,” said Bellegarde. “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.”
Bellegarde said the trend should be “towards respectful inclusion.”
“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 sent July 12 to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, 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.”