- The federal budget tabled on March 19 includes a commitment to forgive and reimburse First Nations loans accumulated through the negotiation of comprehensive claims.
- I advocated for this commitment along with First Nations as a move consistent with our rights, title and jurisdiction, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a move in the right direction.
In follow-up to the AFN’s Federal Budget Bulletin issued earlier, I am providing this Bulletin to highlight a specific and important move in the recently tabled budget.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states in article 27 that First Nations have the right to access “a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process” to address their land rights and claims, and that we have the right to participate in this process.
Consistent with this article and consistent with our rights, title and jurisdiction, the AFN has been advocating forcefully for this principle to be applied by Canada. I have explicitly conveyed this to the federal government many times, including a June 1, 2018 letter to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Bennett. This is about nothing less than compelling the federal government to uphold the honour of the Crown with regards to the restitution of First Nation lands.
The recent federal budget commits $1.4 billion dollars over 7 years to forgive and reimburse First Nations for loans accumulated from negotiating comprehensive claims agreements. This builds on our victory in last year’s federal budget, which finally ended the unjust practice of forcing First Nations into increasing financial debt while negotiating a federal land claim. That approach was replaced with non-repayable contribution agreements.
The recent commitment to forgive all loans and repay those that have already been paid back is an important next step in ensuring First Nations are able to negotiate on an equal footing with the Crown. I maintain that First Nations should not have to pay for the rightful restitution of our lands and traditional territories. With your ongoing support, we will continue to move forward towards full recognition of our rights and reconstituting our lands and traditional territories. I thank you for your support in this work.