Chiefs, cabinet ministers, MPs arrive for historic gathering

(Manitoba Grand Chief David Harper meets with reporters before start of Crown-First Nations Gathering APTN/Photo)

APTN National News
Chiefs, cabinet ministers, MPs and Senators arrived at Ottawa’s old city hall building Tuesday morning under light drizzle and warm temperatures for the opening of the Crown-First Nations gathering.

Gov.-Gen. David Johnston, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are scheduled to deliver speeches after the 45 minute opening ceremonies which will include a grand entry, an honour song, the singing of O Canada, a smudging ceremony, an exchange of gifts and a prayer chant.

Chiefs will be listening closely to what Harper says in his speech after a meeting Monday night with a small delegation left First Nations leaders underwhelmed and wondering if the prime minister is really interested in working with them to find lasting peace with the country’s Indigenous population.

“The hope is that the national chief and the prime minister are able to advance a constructive agenda,” said Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day. “If the meeting with the prime minister yesterday is any indication of the speed and resolve by which he will advance First Nation issues, we will be disappointed and plans will commence to respond.”

Day said Ontario chiefs planned to turn over their historic two-row wampum belt during the morning ceremony to signify the relationship between Canada and First Nations needed mending.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper said Manitoba chiefs are hoping Harper responds to their call for a first ministers meeting to follow Tuesday’s gathering.

“We are going to wait until after the meeting and come back together and look at ways of how we are going to move forward,” said Harper. “We have always brought solutions to the table, we know what is best for our communities and our people. That is going to be the main key, that they hear us.”

Gitanmaax Chief Marjory McRea said her thoughts were with her community members as she prepared for the day’s events.

“I am here asking for an opportunity to create change for my people back home,” said McRea.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, whose files include some potential flash-points in regards to resource development and First Nations, said on arriving that he was hoping to have a broad discussions about the importance resource development can have on First Nations communities.

“We are very hopeful that the benefits of the development of natural resources will be a boom for Aboriginal communities economically and socially,” said Oliver. “It is a moral and constitutional responsibility for the government of Canada to enter into consultations with Aboriginal people.”

Environment Minister Peter Kent said he was also looking to discuss the pressing issues of the day involving his portfolio with First Nations.

Kent said he was hoping talks with First Nations leaders would help strengthen partnerships.

“That is why we are here is to try to move the story forward. Dialogue is very important and consultation is a prime consideration in all First Nations matters,” said Kent.

Cabinet ministers, including Kent and Oliver, are expected to participate in private sections with chiefs following the opening speeches and ceremonies.

The sessions will include discussions on improving the relationship between Canada and First Nations, economic development and education.

According to the day’s agenda distributed to the press, no speakers have yet been chosen for the closing speeches.

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1 thought on “Chiefs, cabinet ministers, MPs arrive for historic gathering

  1. Joe Oliver’s comment, ” the importance of resource development”…..First Nations People have watched Canada “develop” our resources for years.u00a0 As we watched our resources be extracted in the name of National Interest; we watched our food sources destroyed and depleted.u00a0 First Nations oppose Enbridge pipelines – There is no room for negotiations!

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