NIAGARA FALLS – On the first day of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 37th Annual General Assembly in the neutral territories of the original nations of Indigenous peoples, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) called on the Chiefs across Turtle Island to support the campaign being led by Manitoba Chiefs calling on the federal government to implement its “new relationship”.
The Manitoba resolutions, moved and seconded by established Chiefs from the South and North of Manitoba, were presented in dramatic fashion with supporters wearing bright ‘Road to Niagara; Return to the Spirit and Intent of our Treaties” t-shirts lining the main stage, while Grand Chief Nepinak explained the campaign which brought them to Niagara Falls in a motorized caravan of buses, automobiles and motorcycles from treaty one territory.
Citing the main goals of a New Royal Proclamation (as recommended by both the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, 1996 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls-to-Action) and a process for constitutional change, the Grand Chief referred to the ‘unfinished business’ of the First Ministers Conference on Constitutional reform of the 1980s.
The Road to Niagara campaign highlighted the need for the process that Justice Minister Wilson- Raybould referred to as getting rid of the ‘Shackles of the Indian Act’.
“The Prime Minister has said he wants to apply the United Nations Declaration Rights of Indigenous People in creating a just relationship with Canada’s First Nations. Our relationship with Canada is with our Treaties. If we are to ‘breathe life into section 35’ the spirit and intent of our Treaties must be respected and the constitution amended, as may be necessary to reflect our consent,’ stated Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
Recent court cases have created a new constitutional landscape that requires a new agreement on how we are to live together.