APTN National News
The Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador is asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fire his Aboriginal Affairs minister “immediately.”
In a letter sent to Harper Friday, Ghislain Picard said “in order to clearly indicate your willingness to work with the First Nations towards genuine reconciliation, the first gesture that the AFNQL is seeking from you is the immediate replacement of the current minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Mr. Bernard Valcourt.”
Picard outlined his concerns in a brief 5 paragraph statement.
He accused Valcourt of having a “total lack of respect for First Nations,” that he has shown on too many occasions “an absolute failure to understand our issues,” and of being “incompetent.”
Picard warned Harper that, “maintaining this minister in place will mean for the AFNQL that you have no real intention of grabbing the historical intention of reconciliation that is offered,” the letter states. “Your minister has shown on too many occasions his total lack of respect for the First Nations, his absolute failure to understand our issues, as well as his incompetence.”
The AFNQL is following a move by the Iroquois Caucus June 4 which sent a release asking for Valcourt to resign because of what it saw as a “lack of respect” by the minister to a recommendation made in the Truth and Reconciliation report days earlier.
On June 2, in a packed conference room at a downtown Ottawa hotel, Valcourt remained seated when TRC Commissioner Murray Sinclair called on Canada to establish a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. The majority of people in the room gave Sinclair a standing ovation.
“As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, he [Valcourt] should have been the first person to rise to his feet in order to acknowledge the issue,” the letter said. “While it is clear that the Minister exhibited little enthusiasm for the Truth and Reconciliation report, the Iroquois Caucus nonetheless are angered that he should lack the grace to acknowledge the pain and suffering of our people regarding the loss of hundreds of Indigenous women.
“His actions are a stain on the Canadian government,” it adds.
Picard wrote that Valcourt has imposed measures that are “reminiscent” of the “colonial” past.
“The preliminary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada … demands from all Canadians, and most importantly from the leader of the Canadian government, a rigorous soul-searching about the way this country, which claims to be modern, treats the First People in this country.”
He stated that the futures of many First Nations youths are blocked by the “backward thinking” policies implemented by the federal government.
“Enough is enough Mr. Prime Minister. Minister Valcourt must be removed from office immediately.”