Treaty Rights a Top Priority for Indigenous Caucus

Author:Thompson, Isha
SUMMARY

"Our government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws," read [Jean]. Alexis agreed the statement is a step in the right direction. Many Aboriginal groups believe the UN declaration sets out an important minimum standard of treatment of First Peoples. However, the chief is not comfortable with the federal government... (see full summary)

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Recognition of treaty rights is a central theme in a report that will represent the integral issues of Aboriginal peoples from across North America at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City from April 19 to 30.

Alberta's Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation hosted the fifth annual North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus at the beginning of March. There delegates from across the country discussed the major concerns that First Nations representatives will share with the Permanent Forum.

Chief of the host nation, Cameron Alexis, said that by the end of the two-day meeting, the forum agreed that First Nation treaties could no longer be "at the bottom of the barrel."

First Nations governments are meant to be at the same level as the federal government, Alexis explained, but many nations are pushed aside.

"It appears that more and more we are being downgraded to a municipal government, which is not the way it is supposed to be," said Alexis.

The caucus gathering, held within Treaty 6 territory on March 6 and 7, followed closely on the heels of the federal government's Speech from the Throne.

On March 3, Canada's Governor General Michaëlle Jean read the 23-page speech, which included a few positive statements towards Canada's intention to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"Our government will take steps to endorse this aspirational document in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws," read Jean. Alexis agreed the statement is a step in the right direction. Many Aboriginal groups believe the UN declaration sets out an important minimum standard of treatment of First Peoples. However, the chief is not comfortable with the federal government referring to the declaration as "aspirational."

"We don't aspire to be Indians. We don't aspire to be First Nations," said a frustrated Alexis. "We didn't like some of the language in there."

Discussion of the careful wording used during the Throne Speech was only one portion of the caucus meeting.

Debra Harry, coordinator...

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