Harper government following "ways of the past" by "tinkering" with Indian Act: Atleo

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo says the Harper government-backed private members bill to repeal sections of the Indian Act represented the “ways of the past.”

APTN National News
OTTAWA–
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo says the Harper government-backed private members bill to repeal sections of the Indian Act represented the “ways of the past.”

Atleo issued a statement in response to Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan’s announcement that the government was backing Conservative MP Rob Clarke’s proposed Bill C-428, the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act. The proposed bill would strike down several sections of the Indian Act including those dealing with residential schools, wills and estates and band bylaws.

“We all agree we need to move away from the Indian Act, but any efforts must be led by First nations and done with First Nations, not for First Nations,” said Atleo, in the statement. “This proposed legislation contains a number of piecemeal amendments to the current Indian Act. Tinkering with the existing Act continues the ways of the past, whereas First Nations want to move forward based on their rights and responsibilities.”

Atleo said any moves to replace the Indian Act must be done with Treaties playing the central role.

“The Treaty relationship of mutual respect and partnership is essential and fundamental to drive new approaches that respect and implement our rights to our economies and to decision-making affecting our lives,” said Atleo’s statement.

In a speech Thursday at Ryerson University in Toronto, Atleo also voiced frustration with the Conservative government.

During the Crown-First Nations gathering held in January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the government had no plans to unilaterally alter the Indian Act.

“Much was promised by Prime Minister Harper and his ministers, much less has been delivered thus far,” said Atleo, according to his speaking notes. “We all know the cycle: promises made, promises broken, anger builds, confrontation (and) then an embarrassed government sets up a task force or commission. It makes recommendations and new promises are made. My people are fed up with this vicious circle.”

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