Encouraged by PM meeting with FN leaders: Kelly

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is ready to meet Friday with First Nations leaders in Ottawa and a local leader is expressing gratitude for this turn of events.

“We very much appreciate the hard work put in by National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and his team at the Assembly of First Nations for coordinating this important meeting,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of Sto:lo Tribal Council, which represents several Chilliwack Sto:lo communities.

He gave a nod to both the “spirited campaigners” of Idle No More and Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence “for helping to focus public attention on the treaty relationship, aboriginal rights and the urgent need to step-up the dialogue,” between First Nations and the federal government.

The assertion by some right-wing pundits that there’s a “disconnect” between elected or hereditary chiefs and their citizens is simply untrue, Kelly said.

“Chiefs want the same thing our citizens do,” the Grand Chief told The Progress. “They want a better world for their children and grandchildren as simple as that. And the messaging from INM shows this very clearly.”

The meeting between the PM and FN leaders is expected to cover treaty relationships, aboriginal rights and economic development at the end of this week.

“These are the themes settled on last January at the historic Crown-First Nations Gathering,” he pointed out.

Grand Chief Kelly said further, he felt encouraged by Prime Minister Harper’s statement in a press release last week, where the PM affirmed that: “The Government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support.”

Future meetings could see discussion on issues like building transparent and accountable governance structures; empowerment through education; sustainable communities; and respect for First Nations culture and language, he added.

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