Chiefs across Alberta meet with premier to discuss sovereignty act

‘It was clear from our discussions that Premier Smith does not understand Treaty’ say chiefs’ statement.

Treaty 6 chiefs speaking at a press conference during the 2022 Papal visit

Treaty 6 chiefs in Alberta are slamming Premier Danielle Smith’s understanding of First Nation treaty rights after a meeting Wednesday in Edmonton about the newly passed sovereignty act.

Most chiefs weren’t available for comment, but Treaty 6 public relations firm pipikwan pêhtâkwan released a statement that clearly indicates the chiefs remain dissatisfied.

“It was clear from our discussions that Premier Smith does not understand Treaty or our inherent rights nor does she respect them,” said the statement released after the meeting.

It rejected the notion that an invitation to the Alberta throne speech was a consultation with First Nations, and nor do they consider today’s meeting to be enough consultation.

“The Premier will not dictate how we will be consulted – we point her once again to the duty to consult to learn more about how to engage and work with us appropriately,” said the statement.

Smith was also asked about the act and engagement with First Nations in the legislature Tuesday.

Her answer, however, did not improve her standing with First Nations leadership.

“The way I’ve described it to the chiefs that I’ve spoken with is that they have fought a battle over the last number of years to get sovereignty respected and to extract themselves from the paternalistic Indian Act. We get treated the exact same way by Ottawa,” said Smith.

The office of the premier commented on the meeting with the chiefs.

“Today during question period the premier apologized if her comments in the assembly yesterday were misunderstood.

Earlier today, the Premier had a meeting with the Treaty Six Chiefs to continue building and strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities across Alberta. We look forward to continued engagement as we work together towards reconciliation and addressing the issues faced by our Indigenous and Metis communities,” said press secretary Rebecca Polak.

Chief Tony Alexis from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation told APTN News he rejected the idea that Alberta has been treated similarly to First Nations under the Indian Act.

“We know this not to be true. I want Premier Smith to focus on our concerns about the Sovereignty Act, rather than try to use our people in her fight against Ottawa,” he said.

The legislation, passed in early December directs “political entities”, organizations such as Crown-controlled organizations, municipalities, school boards, post-secondary schools, municipal police forces, regional health authorities and any social agency receiving provincial money to not use provincial resources to enforce federal rules deemed harmful to Alberta’s interests.

APTN previously reported that chiefs from across Alberta in Treaty 6,7, and 8 have said they were not consulted on the act.

Communications staff for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation confirmed that Chief Allan Adam had spoken with Premier Smith this week, and did not agree with Smith’s comparison about the Indian Act.

Adam could not be reached for comment. APTN has reached out to all Treaty 6 chiefs for comment but did not hear back by the time this article was published.

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