OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Thursday that a Crown-First Nations Gathering will take place on January 24, 2012 in the National Capital Region.
During the Gathering, the Prime Minister, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan and other representatives of the Government of Canada will meet with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and a delegation of First Nation Chiefs to discuss key priority areas. The announcement was made today following a meeting in Ottawa between Prime Minister Harper and National Chief Atleo.
“Our Government is taking real action to address important and pressing issues in First Nations communities,” said Prime Minister Harper. “I look forward to meeting with First Nations representatives early in the new year to determine how we can work together to further improve the quality of life and long-term economic prosperity of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.”
“It is more and more evident to everyone that we need action to deal with the long-standing problems facing First Nations and Canada,” National Chief A-in-chut Atleo said. “We have communities in crisis that need action now, but we must stop lurching from crisis to crisis. This requires action and commitment to address systemic problems, and it requires that we work together. It is time to reset the relationship to the one formed at the time of Treaty – based on partnership and respect.”
The Crown-First Nations Gathering will be an opportunity for the Government and the First Nations to discuss and identify ways for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples to benefit from increased social and economic participation in Canadian society and improved living conditions in First Nations communities. The opening remarks and plenary closing sessions will be webcast, and interactive breakout sessions will allow First Nations leaders from across the country to participate in real-time using webinar technology.
“First Nations are diverse and face many challenges, but by focusing on key critical issues we can set out a long-term strategic plan for progress and prosperity,” National Chief Atleo stated. “We must strengthen our relationship and give life to our Treaties as the foundation to build strong First Nation economies, boost First Nation education and foster healthy citizens and safe communities. This will unlock the tremendous potential of our people and create a stronger country for all of us.”
The announcement comes as First Nations from across the country are preparing to convene for the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly next week in Ottawa. National Chief Atleo said a special session on the Crown-First Nations Gathering will be added to the agenda to share information. First Nations have already put forward detailed, workable plans in key, critical areas like education, building economies, implementing the Treaties, improving housing and infrastructure, strengthening First Nation governments and other key priorities.
The Gathering will build on the Canada-First Nations Joint Action Plan that was agreed to by the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations in June 2011. Both the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations committed to advancing a constructive relationship based on the core principles of mutual understanding, respect, ensuring mutually acceptable outcomes and accountability.