First Nations group will join premiers meeting despite boycott from others

A First Nations group intends to bring healthcare and the national inquiry of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls to the attention of Canada’s premiers Monday morning.

“We’re going to represent our constituents,” chief says

Robert Bertrand, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, says he hopes to bring up healthcare, women`s rights and housing issues with Canada`s premiers on July 17. (CBC )

A First Nations group is refusing to join a boycott against meeting Canada's premiers Monday morning.

"We are always there to make sure we're working just as hard for our constituents," Robert Bertrand, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), said Sunday.

Three Indigenous groups — the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) told CBC news last week they refuse to attend the Council of the Federation's meeting in Edmonton because they do not feel like equal partners. 

The three First Nations groups will hold a press conference Monday afternoon and said they will comment at that time.

The Council of the Federation represents the country's provincial and territorial leaders.  

I'm sure they had their convictions, and we have ours — and ours is to meet with the premiers- Robert Bertrand

"You don't get a room full of premiers that often, sitting all together."

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Bertrand said, will be presenting to the premiers certain issues important to First Nations people living off reserve.

According to Statistics Canada, this population is on the rise — nearly half of self-identifying First Nations people in the country live off reserve.

Bertrand said he wants to broach many topics with provincial leaders, among them children's healthcare, housing restrictions and the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).

"There's the social side where you'll be able to meet the premiers ... so it's easier when you have to pick up the phone and give these people a call," he said.

The fifth group invited to meet the premiers is the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), an organization representing regional Indigenous women's groups across the country. The association was in Edmonton a day early for their annual general meeting, where the MMIWG was one of the main topics of discussion.

A NWAC spokesperson confirmed the organization will meet with the premiers, but declined to comment on what they hope to discuss with Canada's premiers.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters last Thursday that she expected the meeting would address some of the recommendations brought forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Completed in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set out 94 recommendations to encourage reconciliation between the federal government and Indigenous groups. One was the creation of the national inquiry.  

The premier's office said late Friday that they will continue "to work with Indigenous leaders and hope that we can persuade them to attend on Monday," but by Sunday evening, there were no updates that there will be full participation at the meeting. 

The Council of the Federation is meeting from July 17-19.