Chiefs concerned over length of planned meeting with PM, want in on talks with premiers

Meeting with PM Trudeau scheduled to run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. next Wednesday

(Vancouver skyline. APTN/file)

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Some First Nations leaders expressed concern Wednesday a planned Vancouver meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week is scheduled to run only two hours.

Trudeau is scheduled to meet with First Nation, Inuit and Metis leaders in Vancouver on March 2 to discuss climate change. The prime minister is meeting with premiers the next day.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Ontario regional Chief Isadore Day said two hours is not enough to discuss climate change with the prime minister and he would like to see First Nation leaders also sit at the table with the premiers the next day.

“Clearly two hours is not enough, we are definitely pushing for full inclusion,” said Day.

Day said the office of AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde’s office is currently trying to convince the PMO to expand the current parameters of First Nation involvement in next week’s climate change talks with Trudeau.

The Ontario regional chief said First Nations need to be directly involved in any discussions involving Ottawa and the provinces on climate change plans.

“We need to be fully engaged and in some of those cases we need to be leading some of those processes and discussions,” said Day. “We can’t take this position lightly.”

Currently, the March 2 meeting is tentatively scheduled to run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The AFN, the Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatam (ITK) are expected to attend with 1o delegates each.

The AFN is planning on holding preparatory meetings next Monday and Tuesday in Vancouver to allow the AFN delegation to hone its message and issues it wants to present during the meeting with Trudeau.

AFN Alberta regional Chief Craig Makinaw said he’s received no firm details on what’s planned for the meeting, but expressed concern a two hour meeting is just not enough time with the prime minister.

“I have been at previous meetings and two hours is never enough time to bring all the issues out,” said Makinaw. “You will get rushed and you don’t get enough time to bring your concerns out. That is the frustration I have when there are always two hour meetings.”

Metis National Council President Clement Chartier said he had no concern with the Trudeau meeting running only two hours.

“They are usually not overly long,” said Chartier. “Certainly being there is sufficient as a start.”

Chartier said the Metis National Council needs Ottawa to help improve its capacity to deal with issues like climate change.

“The Metis National Council doesn’t have the capacity to deal on all these issues that are cropping up,” he said.

The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) has also tried to create a minor controversy over its exclusion from the meeting. CAP and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) have written to the premiers asking to be allowed to participate in the meetings.

Chartier said CAP should not be part of nation-to-nation talks with Ottawa.

“They are not invited because they do not represent nations or any governments,” said Chartier.

Day said he didn’t want to comment directly on CAP or NWAC. He said the Ontario delegation traveling to Vancouver includes three women.

ITK representatives were not available to comment.

Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to repeated request for comments.

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