APTN National News
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde extended an olive branch to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt during a meeting Monday when he invited the minister to sit down with the national organization’s chiefs executive next week.
In recent interviews with media outlets, Valcourt has taken an aggressive posture toward the AFN and on his portfolio in general.
Yet, Bellegarde, an experienced politician, has chosen not to respond publicly to the any of the minister’s broadsides, choosing instead to try and quietly rebuild the relationship between Ottawa and the AFN which was fractured after the collapse of support from chiefs for the Harper government’s on-reserve education bill.
Valcourt and Bellegarde met for the first time Monday in Quebec City and the national chief invited the minister to attend the AFN chiefs executives meeting scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday. APTN National News has learned Valcourt said he couldn’t attend Monday because he has a cabinet meeting scheduled that day, but left the possibility open he could attend Tuesday.
Valcourt’s office did not return a request for comment as of this article’s posting.
Bellegarde sent a note to the chiefs executive Monday following his meeting with Valcourt saying he had issued the invitation to the minister.
“The purpose of the meeting was to open lines of communications and to outline priorities,” wrote Bellegarde, in the short note, which was obtained by APTN.
Bellegarde said in the note he planned to provide a more detailed update during next week’s planned chiefs executive meeting.
Privately, however, Bellegarde has told some chiefs the minister was cordial during the meeting, but also “kind of cold.”
In an earlier interview with Maclean’s, Valcourt said he didn’t think he could get anything done with the AFN, telling the magazine he thought there was a structural problem with the organization.
“Of course, I will meet with the national chief, but I’m not kidding myself,” Valcourt told Maclean’s. “I don’t think we can hope to be able to get a national solution.”
Valcourt, who has repeatedly refused requests for one-on-one interviews with APTN, said he planned to focus on dealing with communities.
In a separate interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Valcourt, while again rejecting calls for a national inquiry, blamed First Nation men on reserves for the nearly 1,200 murdered and missing Indigenous women across the country.
“Obviously, there’s a lack of respect for women and girls on reserves,” said Valcourt, during the interview. “If the guys grow up believing that women have no rights, that’s how they are treated.”
Bellegarde said during his victory speech in Winnipeg following the national chief election that he would continue to fight for a national inquiry and make it a reality.