Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council Grand Chief Verna Polson vows to continue occupying a small wigwam on the sidewalk in front of 100 Wellington Street through the Canada Day long weekend.
Polson has been living in the wigwam since last Thursday morning.
It’s to send a message that 100 Wellington—a former embassy given to Indigenous people by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau two years ago—sits on unceded Algonquin territory and the Algonquin Nation should share a 25 per cent partnership with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) , and Metis National Council (MNC).
The building, which is to be re-purposed as an Indigenous space, sits on prime real estate right across the street from Parliament Hill.
Last week at a news conference the Algonquin announced their desire to be equal partners in the building and be able to make decisions about its use.
“And it’s time we take our rightful place here at the capital city where our people are from. Our ancestors gave up this land for everyone to live here in harmony. Still yet, they don’t respect Algonquin people,” Polson said last week.
She says she wants a meeting with the leaders of the AFN, ITK and MNC to resolve the issue.
“The longer I’m kept waiting (for a meeting), the higher our demands will be,” said Polson. However, she wouldn’t specify what those demands will be yet.
A possible meeting with the three national Indigenous organizations fell through when Manitoba Metis Federation President, and MNC Vice-president, David Chartrand was tasked with handling the file.
But Polson insists on meeting MNC President Clem Chartier and not the vice-president, something Chartrand says won’t be happening.
“We allow no one to dictate to us who they’ll meet,” Chartrand told APTN News. “I’m the minister responsible for the file and if (the Algonquin) don’t want to respect our governance then that’s their prerogative. And then there’s no meeting.”
“They don’t respect our government if they’re not willing to meet with (myself), but they’re only willing to meet with (President Chartier),” continued Chartrand.
Chartrand also states that this issue can only be fixed by the AFN and that the MNC will not be giving up any of their one-third stake in the new Indigenous space.
“Algonquins are a member belonging to the AFN and if AFN want to give their seat and their one-third share to the Algonquins, they’re more than willing to do so,” said Chartrand. “But that doesn’t mean the MMF and ITK has got to give up their one-third to appease the Algonquins when it’s an AFN issue.”
AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde was at an event in Victoria, B.C. Monday.
APTN News asked him about the position of the MNC.
“We’re going to try to meet as soon as we can to bring all parties together to dialog and discuss this,” he said. “And hopefully we’ll find a common ground because it’s a good news story, especially 100 Wellington (Street) is right across the street from the House of Commons.
“So it’s prime real estate in that territory. But it is on unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory and we have to respect that.”
The ITK put out a statement late last week saying it was committed to exploring options to achieve a resolution.
“Furthermore, ITK has not asked for title related to 100 Wellington, and has no interest in anything but a lease agreement with the appropriate entity/entities to secure use of the building,” it says.
Meanwhile, Polson says she has received a lot of support over the weekend. Liberal Member of Parliament Will Amos and NDP MP Niki Ashton said they stood behind what Polson is doing. As well, Senators Lillian Dyck, Dan Christmas and Dawn Anderson did the same thing.