APTN National News
OTTAWA–Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan have agreed to a plan that seems to set the stage for an historic meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and First Nations chiefs.
The plan, set to be announced today, commits the minister to opening talks with First Nations leaders on Treaty rights, spurring economic development and speeding up and settling comprehensive claims.
The agreement, called the Canada-First Nation Joint Action Plan, will also see
Duncan fulfill a year-long promise to repeal sections of the Indian Act dealing with residential school, including the section giving truant officers authority to take aboriginal students to residential school with as much “force as circumstances require.”
Atleo and Duncan also agreed to keep working together on permanent improvements to primary and secondary education, based on the results of a previously announced blue-ribbon panel tasked with studying the issue. Their results are expected to lead to legislated changes to on-reserve education.
The plan will also see Duncan maintain his commitment on improving the First Nations electoral process. Last October, Indian Affairs announced it was backing the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs who launched a series of consultation sessions with band members on the issue.
Duncan also agreed to discuss the nagging irritant of who decides First Nations citizenship. Many First Nations band governments wants control over who can be a First Nations citizen, while the department remains the final word on who is a status Indian and who isn’t.
The government recently passed court-forced legislation allowing women, who regained Indian status as a result of 1985 legislation amending the Indian Act, to pass on their status to their grand-children.
Before 1985, First Nations women who married non-First Nations men lost their status.
With the agreement focused on delivering “recommendations,” along with “options” and “frameworks” for dealing with most of these unresolved issues between Canada and First Nations, it appears it will produce a tightly focused blueprint by the time a meeting is finalized between Harper and First Nations leaders.
The agreement “commits the department and the AFN to prepare options for the possibility of holding a First Nations-Crown Gathering at a later date,” the statement said.
Duncan said the plan of action signified a “new phase” in the “enduring historic relationship” between Canada and First Nations that is “based on mutual respect, friendship and support.”
Duncan said the plan demonstrated “concrete action,” according to a joint statement issued with Atleo.
Atleo also praised the agreement.
“Strengthening and affirming the relationship of First Nations and the government of Canada is about producing real results that strengthen First Nation peoples, communities and governments based on our rights and responsibilities,” said Atleo in the statement. “First Nations have been calling for real engagement and real partnership to advance our priorities. This work plan is a first step in that direction and First Nations are and will be engaged in all aspects of this work as we move