Saturday September 30, 2017

Preview of next week's First Ministers meeting

Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council.

Clement Chartier, president of the Métis National Council. (David Vincent/The Associated Press)

First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders who will be participating in next week's first ministers' meeting, with a focus on Indigenous economic development, say they hope it will be the start of further conversations about the economy and other issues facing their communities.

Clément Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, told The House that he's pleased with the focus of Tuesday's meeting.

Economic development has been one of his organization's main initiatives under this federal government as well as under the previous government.

Chartier noted that past governments have not taken the Métis into account, since many programs and services were set up for First Nations and Inuit people.

"Our issues were kind of off to the side," Chartier said.

But Chartier said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, is slowly dealing with the Métis Nation-Canadian government relationship.

Chartier said he wants to continue to meet with the Prime Minister and the premiers of provinces that host Métis homelands, from Ontario to the west, to continue to promote economic development and will be asking them to convene yearly meetings with the National Council.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in an interview with The House that he isn't looking for any specific outcomes from the meeting, but rather to start important discussions.

Bellegarde said that so much has changed in the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous groups over the past few years, including the country's adoption of the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

This, along with many aspects of economic development, including getting First Nations people trained and educated, sustainable land and resource development on First Nations ancestral lands and improving access to capital, will need on the agenda over the coming months and years.

A regular meeting between Indigenous leaders and first ministers would be a solid plan to making these discussions happen, he said.

Carolyn Bennett told The House the first ministers' meeting is reinforcing the need to have Indigenous knowledge at the table in political talks.

"Whenever possible, First Nations, Inuit and Métis needs and perspectives need to be part of the conversation and part of the decisions that are taken amongst first ministers," she said.

The meeting will be an important opportunity to make sure provinces are on the same page with the Indigenous issues Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has highlighted as priorities, such as the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership, she said.