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

Just Posted

Lacombe’s AFSC ready to help Alberta producers facing difficult times

2019 season not easy for Alberta producers due toweather and other challenges

ROAD CLOSURE: Wolf Creek Drive rail crossing repair in Lacombe

Wolf Creek Drive will be closed from 50 Ave to 52 Ave on Thursday, Nov. 21

Alberta Justice Minister advocates UCP rural crime plan

Expanded property rights, more power to peace officers, demonetizing scrap mental part of UCP plan

VIDEO: Lacombe honours those who fought for freedom

Remembrance Day ceremony welcomes 100s to LMC

Protesters say Alberta bill would make it harder to access some medical services

The bill would mean a health-care provider could not be sanctioned for refusing to provide a service due to morals

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

Rebels ride 3-goal first period to 4-3 win over Brandon

Goaltender Byron Fancy with key saves in third period to save game

One year on, most oil-and-gas bailout money has moved, federal government says

Sweden’s central bank says it has sold its Alberta-government issued bonds

Supreme Court of Canada dismisses murder appeals in 2013 Calgary swarming death

Assmar Shlah and Franz Cabrera were convicted in 2016 of second-degree murder

Ski resorts selling mountain water is a risky move, critics say

Alberta allowed ski resort in Kananaskis Country to sell about 50 million litres to third party

Sportsnet looks at new options for Coach’s Corner time slot, post-Don Cherry

Spokesperson says Hall of Fame feature on tap this weekend after co-host’s firing

Most Read