Aboriginal leaders call for education, emergency help
Canada's aboriginal leaders are calling for co-operation between the premiers and the federal government on social and economic issues.
Aboriginal communities need help coping with emergencies such as flooding and forest fires, the leaders said at talks in Vancouver, where provincial and territorial premiers are holding their annual Council of the Federation meetings.
In prepared remarks to the premiers, Shawn Atleo, national chief for the Assembly of First Nations, called the issue of crisis and emergency management "urgent," given the flooding and fires in 2011 alone.
Atleo said First Nations communities are affected by these emergency events "to a greater extent because of their remoteness, lack of infrastructure resources, and capacity."
And because they are "totally dependent" on provincial and territorial agencies to provide emergency services, Atleo called for a "First Nations-managed search and rescue service" on a region-wide basis.
The communities need resources and training in emergency management along with long-term security plans so they can better respond to a crisis, Atleo said.
This would include "major work," like permanent dikes in areas prone to flooding, road upgrades, and evacuation centres. Temporary housing would also be required for those forced out of their homes.
Atleo said the leaders want the federal, provincial and territorial governments to work together on education, economic development and ending violence against women.
Inuit leader Mary Simon said Inuit education and health issues, particularly mental health, need the "attention, focus, and support" of all levels of government.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark, who currently holds the rotating chair of the Council of the Federation, called the meeting "constructive and frank."
Aboriginal leaders also called for a full-fledged first ministers meeting in the next year.
The premiers' summer meeting continues until Friday.