PEI

P.E.I. could take 'leading role' on Indigenous rights framework, says chief

Chief Brian Francis of the Abegweit First Nation says he's looking forward to his meeting with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett on Wednesday.

Carolyn Bennett a 'very sincere, hard-working minister,' says Chief Brian Francis

'It's critical the federal government moves forward by building a strong nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and the Mi'kmaq nation within P.E.I.,' says Chief Brian Francis. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

As he prepares to meet with the federal minister responsible for developing a new legal framework to recognize Indigenous rights, the chief of the Abegweit First Nation says P.E.I. could be a leader in developing that framework.

"We have two First Nations governments here that work together very well," said Chief Brian Francis. "We're small, we cover the whole province and I think we could be role models."

Francis, along with Lennox Island First Nation Chief Matilda Ramjattan, will meet with Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett on Wednesday.

Bennett is on the Island as part of a national tour to develop a legal framework to recognize Indigenous rights.

The new framework is meant to cut down on costly legal battles between First Nations and the federal government, and help develop self-governance.

"For us, I think it's critical the federal government moves forward by building a strong nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and the Mi'kmaq nation within Prince Edward Island," Francis said.

"One that recognizes the constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Mi'kmaq. That's critical for us."

Feds 'stepping up to the plate'

Bennett will also meet with Lennox Island First Nation chief Matilda Ramjattan on Wednesday. (John Robertson/CBC)

Although recent years have been marked by legal battles between First Nations and the feds, Francis said the government is on the right track.

"It's tremendous that we have action being taken, a federal government that supports our Indigenous peoples, in my opinion. In Minister Bennett, we have a very sincere, hard-working minister," Francis said.

"We went through a number of years where things were very lean for First Nations and very tough. Now we see a government here that's really stepping up to the plate and moving the agenda forward to have Indigenous peoples in Canada take their proper place within the country, and I think that's amazing."

Francis is in his 11th year as chief of the Abegweit First Nation and said their agenda is being moved forward through the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.

"It certainly makes for busy times, that's for sure."

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With files from Mitch Cormier