VIDEO: AFN outlines First Nations election priorities ahead of October vote

Assembly of First Nations chief not endorsing anyone, urges Indigenous Canadians to get out and vote

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde releases “Honouring Promises: 2019 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada” during a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

If Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants the support of more Indigenous voters in the federal election, he should disavow the approach of his predecessor Stephen Harper, says Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

During an event in Ottawa Monday to launch a platform of First Nations election priorities, Bellegarde said progress has been made on key issues important to Indigenous and First Nations people in Canada, including getting greater access to the prime minister and cabinet ministers under the Trudeau government.

Bellegarde said no prime minister before Justin Trudeau went to Assembly of First Nations national gatherings. Trudeau has attended three.

That’s why, when asked if Scheer should publicly declare he would take a different approach to First Nations issues from that of the former Conservative prime minister, Bellegarde said yes.

“If he wants to gain a lot of support from First Nations people that would be a really good step, if he was to do that, and be more open and accessible,” Bellegarde said.

Harper became a polarizing figure for many Indigenous and First Nations communities during his time in office, despite being the prime minister to issue a formal apology in the House of Commons to survivors of abusive residential schools. His refusal to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was highly controversial and the concerns of many Indigenous leaders and communities over a number of his government’s policies and legislation were sparks for the Idle No More movement.

Canada has been treating Indigenous issues as higher priorities since then, Bellegarde said. He pointed to $21.4 billion spent on First Nations needs over the last seven fiscal years, four of those under the Liberals.

But more work needs to be done, he said.

“Has the gap closed yet? The answer is no. Has there been movement? The answer is yes, but we have to maintain momentum.”

Bellegarde is not endorsing any political party for the Oct. 21 vote, but the AFN is hoping to motivate Indigenous Canadians to exercise their right to vote and, when they do, to examine the efforts made by all parties on making First Nations issues a priority.

A total of 61.5 per cent of eligible First Nations voters cast ballots in 2015 — a number Bellegarde hopes will grow to ensure Indigenous issues are top-of-mind for political parties as they make their pitches to voters.

“If you want to be a member of Parliament, you’d better listen to First Nations issues and concerns and priorities because we have an impact. We’re voting now.”

The AFN election document, entitled “Honouring Promises,” lists short- and long-term goals to improve the lives of Indigenous people in Canada.

The top priority is mitigating the effects of climate change.

The AFN wants First Nations to become full partners in carrying out Canada’s climate plan, including in any decisions on how to spend money raised from carbon pricing, and would like direct participation in federal environmental policy-making.

The group is also looking for recognition that First Nations treaty rights would allow them to develop and implement environmental regulations and impact-assessment regimes.

READ MORE: Federal appeals court approves six First Nations challenges of Trans Mountain pipeline

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs call for end of police patrols

Temporary closure of field office not enough to meet demands

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

CGL must revise impact assessment on Unist’ot’en Healing Center

Environmental Assessment Office not satisfied with report’s shortcomings

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

Confusion surrounds terms of RCMP withdrawal from pipeline construction area

B.C. Deputy Commissioner clarifies terms of agreement following minister’s statements

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

UPDATE: Two missing scout leaders found near Sooke after swollen creek traps troop

Third leader and scouts located, prior to search for two leaders who’d gone for help

Most Read