VIDEO: AFN outlines First Nations election priorities ahead of October vote

Assembly of First Nations chief not endorsing anyone, urges Indigenous Canadians to get out and vote

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde releases “Honouring Promises: 2019 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada” during a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

If Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants the support of more Indigenous voters in the federal election, he should disavow the approach of his predecessor Stephen Harper, says Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

During an event in Ottawa Monday to launch a platform of First Nations election priorities, Bellegarde said progress has been made on key issues important to Indigenous and First Nations people in Canada, including getting greater access to the prime minister and cabinet ministers under the Trudeau government.

Bellegarde said no prime minister before Justin Trudeau went to Assembly of First Nations national gatherings. Trudeau has attended three.

That’s why, when asked if Scheer should publicly declare he would take a different approach to First Nations issues from that of the former Conservative prime minister, Bellegarde said yes.

“If he wants to gain a lot of support from First Nations people that would be a really good step, if he was to do that, and be more open and accessible,” Bellegarde said.

Harper became a polarizing figure for many Indigenous and First Nations communities during his time in office, despite being the prime minister to issue a formal apology in the House of Commons to survivors of abusive residential schools. His refusal to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was highly controversial and the concerns of many Indigenous leaders and communities over a number of his government’s policies and legislation were sparks for the Idle No More movement.

Canada has been treating Indigenous issues as higher priorities since then, Bellegarde said. He pointed to $21.4 billion spent on First Nations needs over the last seven fiscal years, four of those under the Liberals.

But more work needs to be done, he said.

“Has the gap closed yet? The answer is no. Has there been movement? The answer is yes, but we have to maintain momentum.”

Bellegarde is not endorsing any political party for the Oct. 21 vote, but the AFN is hoping to motivate Indigenous Canadians to exercise their right to vote and, when they do, to examine the efforts made by all parties on making First Nations issues a priority.

A total of 61.5 per cent of eligible First Nations voters cast ballots in 2015 — a number Bellegarde hopes will grow to ensure Indigenous issues are top-of-mind for political parties as they make their pitches to voters.

“If you want to be a member of Parliament, you’d better listen to First Nations issues and concerns and priorities because we have an impact. We’re voting now.”

The AFN election document, entitled “Honouring Promises,” lists short- and long-term goals to improve the lives of Indigenous people in Canada.

The top priority is mitigating the effects of climate change.

The AFN wants First Nations to become full partners in carrying out Canada’s climate plan, including in any decisions on how to spend money raised from carbon pricing, and would like direct participation in federal environmental policy-making.

The group is also looking for recognition that First Nations treaty rights would allow them to develop and implement environmental regulations and impact-assessment regimes.

READ MORE: Federal appeals court approves six First Nations challenges of Trans Mountain pipeline

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Jack-knifed semi closes Coquihalla northbound

A red liquid is reportedly spilled down the side of Highway 5

Chilliwack Visual Artists Assocation calling for artists to display

Works will be on display at O’Connor Group Art Gallery

Teacher salaries, special needs dominate SD78 budget talks

Fraser Cascade has been dipping into reserves to make up teacher salaries

White Rock woman seeks fellow hockey players for BC 55+ Games

Sue Rittinger aiming to put Zone 3 women’s team together in time for September event

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

B.C. man rescued after getting trapped headfirst in well as water level rose

The rescue involved crews from Oak Bay and Saanich

Investigators in wildfire-torn Australia head to site of B.C. airtanker crash

The B.C. government sends condolences to Port Alberni-owned Coulson Aviation

Mud slide prompts evacuation in Burnaby as rain saturates southern B.C.

About 20 metres of a five to six-metre high wall gave way

RCMP investigating sexual allegation against Lower Mainland police officer

Delta officer suspended while the alleged off-duty incident involving a co-worker is investigated

Former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse in B.C. granted day parole

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s

VIDEO: Person in wheelchair narrowly avoids collision with car in Kelowna

There were no injuries in the scary looking near-accident last week in Rutland

Here’s what Canada is doing to stop the coronavirus from getting in

Health officials are monitoring multiple possible cases in Canada

Fraser Valley poultry producer’s $130,000 fight with the CFIA earns him a red-tape award

Canadian Federation of Independent Business Paperweight Awards ‘honour’ government over-regulation

Most Read