Montreal

First Nations say their issues ignored so far in election campaign

First Nations chiefs say the federal parties are ignoring the key issues affecting their communities, and they want those addressed in tonight's French-language leadership debate.

Quebec aboriginal leaders call on federal leaders to address First Nations' issues in French-language debate

(From left) Grand Chief of the Atikamekw Nation, Constant Awashish, AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard and Kahnawake Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton say they will hold a rally in Montreal on Oct. 9 to mobilize First Nations leaders just ahead of the election. (CBC)

First Nations leaders in Quebec say federal party leaders are overlooking major issues affecting their communities, and they want that to change, starting with tonight's French-language leadership debate.

The party leaders are facing off in Montreal Friday at 8 p.m. for their second televised French-language debate.

The last debate – broadcast on Radio-Canada one week ago – had tempers flaring on topics ranging from the Senate, national unity and the right to wear the niqab.

Mike Mckenzie, chief of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam — an Innu community near Sept-Îles —  said he is not impressed by anything he's heard.

"They talk about immigration and the niqab and ignore the problems facing the continents' first inhabitants" McKenzie said.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said he's also disappointed, but not surprised.

"They've been like this for so long, it's almost what we expect, and of course there's always a frustration, every election. This one's no different," Simon said.

First Nations leaders said they want the conversation during tonight's debate, and throughout the rest of the campaign, to include issues that affect First Nations communities such as improving access to schools, health care and living conditions, settling territorial disputes and strengthening the communities' partnership with Ottawa.

"The Crown and First Nations relationship is broken. It must be repaired and restored. The political parties have to acknowledge that, go beyond easy electoral promises and present a real plan. Our future is also the future of all Canadians," said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador.

Rally next week

The First Nations leaders announced Friday that they will hold a rally followed by a march in Montreal next Friday, Oct. 9.

They hope to mobilize all First Nations communities across Canada.

The federal leaders of all political parties are invited to attend.

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