Close to 100 Chiefs and representatives from Indigenous Nations in BC along with 400 Chiefs from across Canada attended the Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa on January 24 2012.
The Crown-First Nations Gathering was an opportunity for dialogue between Indigenous Leadership and the Crown as represented by the Governor General, Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and senior government officials to re-set the relationship.
Last week, a Government of Canada delegation led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Cabinet Ministers and industry representatives were on a trade mission to China.
“As Harper promotes Canada as a tourism and economic hotspot, including the announcement of the conclusion of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China, many First Nations are astounded at the glaring absence of Indigenous leadership on this trade mission,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
“By ignoring First Nations and inviting industry representatives like Enbridge, the Government of Canada is signaling they like the status-quo relationship where they continue to ignore our deep concerns about such mega projects.
Indigenous Nations in BC are loud and clear. Our inherent Title, Rights and Treaty Rights are constitutionally-enshrined, judicially recognized, embodied in the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and we will not hesitate to defend them.”
Grand Chief Phillip continued “Our reality of appalling and disgraceful conditions of poverty is not captured in the glossy photo-op after photo-op events which appear to consume government interest. Our working relationship with governments and industry is the key issue and it must change.
It is not a conducive relationship when Canada is selling our resources to the highest overseas bidder or slashing federal environmental processes to bolster bigger and bigger projects in our territories. As billions flow into government coffers, First Nations are left to deal with the social, economic and environmental consequences.”
“Minister Joe ‘McCarthy’ Oliver should not have been so quick to blame ‘foreign’ radicals as gumming up the environmental assessment processes, as his government’s comments prior to the start of the independent panel process was blatant interference. As the Minister tours China, he should take a moment to ponder who the real foreign influence is on the independent panel process,” said Grand Chief Phillip.
Grand Chief Phillip concluded “As Indigenous Peoples, our fight is the same the world over. Indigenous Title and Rights are ignored, dismissed and violated.
The analogy of the province of British Columbia as Canada’s front door to Asia may be an apt description but it should be stated that panel processes reviewing proposed mega projects like Enbridge or New Prosperity are not mechanisms of consultation and do not provide certainty to major foreign investors.
Until the underlying key question of our Title, Rights and Treaty Rights to our respective territories have been resolved, the front door is locked until further notice.”Read more from UBCIC