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

Residential Tenancy Branch won’t allow B.C. landlord to evict tenant even though he’s in jail

Landlord baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Central public school principal paints a bleak picture

In 1925, the principal of a Chilliwack school had strong words for a class of Grade 8 students

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

Stolen truck recovered by RCMP after it was used to commit crimes

Older red Chevy S10 was linked to thefts last weekend from rural and industrial areas of Chilliwack

High-risk sex offender living in Chilliwack back in court

Former mayor and residents wanted James Conway gone from residential neighbourhood two years ago

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

Three months later, city official Coun. Dalvir Nahal said she’s more angry than anything

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

B.C. Liberals call for assistance on soaring strata insurance rates

NDP’s Carole James says problem is across the country

Naked driver leads Langley, Surrey RCMP on hit and run spree

A Kelowna man has been charged with numerous offences

Most Read