Leaders of Canada’s national Indigenous organizations say they hope talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s premiers will lead to greater movement on implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and new child-welfare policies as well as resources to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed and Metis National Council vice president David Chartrand will participate in the opening day of first ministers meetings today in Ottawa.
They’ll meet first with Trudeau and then with provincial and territorial premiers.
The leaders plan to raise a number of issues, including the UN declaration, the federal government’s forthcoming action plan on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the overhaul of the Indigenous child welfare system.
They also plan to raise the unique needs of remote Indigenous communities when it comes to the coronavirus.
The Indigenous leaders acknowledge they are likely to face pointed questions from premiers on the role of Indigenous nations in resource development in Canada following recent blockades and protests mounted in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en chiefs opposed to Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia.
Bellegarde says he welcomes those discussions, plans to stress that the UN declaration can help prevent many conflicts that arise over pipelines, as it would see Indigenous Peoples involved in proposed projects at the outset.
Chartrand says he plans to stress to the premiers that UNDRIP does not mean Indigenous communities or First Nations get a veto over projects — a claim provincial and federal conservative politicians have made in opposition to the declaration.
Obed says he plans to highlight the structural deficit that exists for marine, air and social infrastructure in Canada’s northern Inuit communities and hopes premiers and Trudeau will be open to creative solutions to ensure the Inuit are not left behind.
Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press