Governor General and Prime Minister to meet with Chiefs
Ovide Mercredi and other Quebec Chiefs have stated their support for AFN NCNational Chief Shawn Atleo and his willingness to go ahead with today's scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister. They have also received support from BC Chiefs.
The Chiefs from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic have refused to attend the meeting.
There were efforts to try and change the agenda and secure the attendance for the entire meeting for both the Prime Minister and Governor General. The Prime Minister's Office refused any changes to the agenda and schedule.
AFN Chiefs gathered Thursday evening to discuss attending the proposed meeting between FN Chiefs and PM Harper.
Onion Lake Chief Wallace Fox voiced his support for Idle No More, Chief Theresa Spence and states why he will not be attending Friday's meeting. He asks for and receives support from many other Chiefs who stand behind Chief Fox.
AFN Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde from Saskatchewan also voiced his support and willingness to stand in solidarity in requesting that Friday's meeting receive full participation from Prime Minister Harper and Governor General David Johnston.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo stated that this country will be forever changed. "Our people's patience has simply run out - enough is enough!"
"This is the moment we will recapture the greatness of our heritage," he says.
Atleo then declared that while he and the AFN are "imperfect", that "we (Chiefs) need to stand up for all of our people and reflect back to Idle No More". Atleo then stated that he will attend Friday's meeting.
The meeting will be going ahead but without full representation: The Chiefs from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Atlantic region and the Dene Nation are all boycotting Friday's meeting with Harper tomorrow.
This is a substantial divide within the Assembly of First Nations. Is this divide temporary or will the AFN be forever changed?
The Governor General, David Johnston, has accepted a request by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to host a ceremonial meeting with First Nations leaders at Rideau Hall on Friday evening following the PM’s talks with First Nations chiefs.
Some Manitoba chiefs lead by Grand Chief Nepinak along with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who remains on a liquid diet, had threatened to boycott Friday’s meeting with the Prime Minister unless the Governor General was in attendance.
First Nations people in Canada have "nothing left to lose," the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs told a group of reporters Thursday, pointing to the problems with lack of housing, unsafe drinking water and poor health in the community.
The Manitoba chiefs also threatened that unless the federal government meets their demands - which include the repeal of the government's budget bill - the protest movement Idle No More is ready to seriously disrupt the Canadian economy.
"We have the power," Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told reporters. "The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees....So we're not here to make requests. We're here to demand attention and to demand an end to 140 years of colonial rule. That's what we're all about."
Bill Travers, the regional chief for Manitoba for the Assembly of First Nations, said the No. 1 demand of Manitoba chiefs is the repeal of the government's omnibus budget bills, C-45 and C-38.
"These bills must be repealed, must be rescinded," Travers said.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and Regional chiefs Perry Bellegarde and Jody Wilson-Raybould as well as former National Chief Ovide Mercredi all met with the Prime Minister's Office Wednesday evening in an effort to ensure the Governor General's attendance on Friday.
National Chief Shawn Atleo is to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon to “set out clear expectations” for Friday’s meeting.
The Prime Minister has said the meeting with chiefs will focus on two key issues: the treaty relationship and Aboriginal rights, and economic development.
Agenda: The meeting with First Nations will take place from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm. It will start with opening remarks from PM Harper and Chief Atleo.It appears that the PM will be present at the meeting between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm and then again from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The meeting with the Governor General will begin at 6:30 pm.
'Poverty is killing our people,' AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo says
In a press conference held on Thursday afternoon, Shawn Atleo showed emotion as he detailed the expectations for a meeting between First Nation chiefs and Prime Minister Harper.
"We are absolute in our convictions," he said. "We need action in particular for our most vulnerable citizens."
"This is what our people are saying. That poverty is killing our people. That the history of colonization and unilateral action on the part of governments will stop now," Atleo said.
Atleo, along with regional chiefs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Perry Bellegarde, laid out a number of specific requests, including treaty implementation, treaty enforcement and a new financial relationship with the Crown.
The chiefs also mentioned resource development agreements and disputes over changes to environmental legislation the Conservative government made in its two omnibus budget implementation bills in 2012.
"Our treaties were not meant to make us poor in our own homelands. But that's what we see," Atleo said.
Atleo says he's always hopeful the issues can be resolved.
"We have inherited something none of us created at this juncture but we can all, all of us, do something about it," he said."
"Need for fundamental transformation now. We need real change for our people, now.
More to come...
Via @EdmontonJournal and @HannahThibedeau @APTNNews
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