December 18, 2012
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today reiterated the urgent need for the Prime Minister and Governor General of Canada to demonstrate respect and attention to the outstanding request for a meeting between First Nations and the Crown, and the priorities set by First Nations, including adequate and appropriate follow up on commitments made at Crown First Nations Gathering.
“Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike is an example of action for change that speaks to the overall frustration of First Nations across this country, and it deserves immediate and urgent attention,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “We must see a concrete commitment for a meeting between First Nations and the Crown to address priority areas for attention and advancement. First Nations stand together and united in calling for the Crown to honour its relationship and its responsibilities to First Nations.”
In a December 16, 2012 open letter to the Right Honourable Governor General David Johnston and the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, National Chief Atleo expressed concerns by First Nation leaders from across the country that have collectively raised their voices on the need to respect inherent rights and title and fully implement Treaties and other living documents, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the commitments made at the Crown-First Nations Gathering in January 2012.
Today marks day eight of a hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, who has been clear she wants to see a meeting between First Nation leaders and the Crown to discuss the full implementation of Treaty in ways that will address current challenges faced by First Nations, including housing, education, resource development, etc.
“The dire need to have a discussion on Treaty relationships for all First Nations people in Canada is now and not tomorrow,” said Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Spence from Victoria Island yesterday. “We will no longer be left out of any process that will affect our livelihood. To both levels of government, please honour the true spirit and intent of the Treaties in this country, not to forget the issues affecting our non-Treaty peoples.”
A number of First Nation leaders and other supporters have visited Chief Spence while she resides in a teepee on Victoria Island in Ottawa, Ontario.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR NEW BRUNSWICK/PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: “Once again the First Nations are standing together, this time this battle will never end, this time we are preparing for a long fight, the echoes of our youth and elders will be heard all over the world,” said AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR QUEBEC LABRADOR: “The confidence level has to be at its lowest. One could hardly imagine we would come to that, 30 years after the Constitution and Section 35. It is up to the Prime Minister to take the honourable decision and meet with our peoples,” said AFN Regional Chief Ghislain Picard.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR ONTARIO: “There is a tremendous amount of frustration and anger among First Nation people , especially the youth, and it is is absolutely imperative at this point in time for the government to engage First Nations in a respectful and meaningful relationship. The frustration and unrest among First Nations will begin to create economic uncertainty for investments which will then affect the economic stability in this country. I urge the Prime Minister and Governor General to commit to a meeting with FN leadership immediately,” said AFN Regional Chief Stan Beardy.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR SASKATCHEWAN: “The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has been seeking political solutions to the issues at hand. We’ve had meetings but we’re not going to just sit back and wait for Canada to get moving. We are also looking at what legal options are available to us. Activism can help get us to the table where long-term solutions can be worked out,” said AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief and FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde.
ASSEMBLY OF TREATY CHIEFS IN ALBERTA: “We are in prayer and support of Chief Spence in her sacrifice to bring attention to the plight of First Nations in Canada and for the reconciliation of our inherent and treaty rights and title. We need to be meaningfully consulted and have free prior and informed consent on any legislation impacting First Nations. It’s so sad that Theresa feels she has to resort to this extreme measure to make this assertion, but that is why, more than ever, we must stand together in solidarity in order to move forward to ensure our rights are protected,” said Grand Chief Charles Weasel Head on behalf of the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs Executive of Treaties 6-7-8.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: “The Dene have never given authority to anyone to control their lands, this was confirmed in the Paulette case in 1973. Justice William Morrow made no mistake when he ruled and enforced the fact that Treaties # 8 and 11 are peace and friendship instruments with the British Crown. The Dene have upheld their part of the bargain, its time the crown did the same by following the legal judgements that are paramount in the country called Canada,” said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR YUKON: “Our First Nations in Yukon are in full support of the efforts of Chief Spence, not only to bring attention to the plight of our people, but a serious demand to see change by the Crown to change its policies of assimilation, the elimination of Treaties and unilateral action of the Federal government,” said AFN Yukon Regional Chief Mike Smith.
AFN REGIONAL CHIEF FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA: “It is truly regrettable that in 2012 and in a country such as Canada a First Nations leader feels compelled to go on a hunger strike to draw attention to the desperate plight of her people. As Canadians we need to put politics aside, face the difficult issues head on, find the solutions and then build upon them to ensure that all First Nations’ peoples in Canada can enjoy the full opportunity that this country affords and the quality of life we all deserve. We must do better,” said AFN Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould.
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