OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the federal government’s Working Group of Ministers responsible for a review of laws and policies related to Indigenous peoples must work in partnership with First Nations to fully respect the rights of First Nations.
“A joint effort with Indigenous peoples to de-colonize Canada’s laws and policies is essential to fully realize our Treaty rights, our inherent rights, title and jurisdiction recognized and affirmed by Constitution and in international law,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Respecting those rights means this work must be done in full partnership with First Nations. Reconciliation requires a new approach to ensure federal laws and policies are consistent with all of our rights including those in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. First Nations must be engaged as equal partners and nations in this important work. The AFN sees this work as a key part of the permanent ongoing bilateral process with the AFN that the Prime Minister committed to establish on December 15, 2016.”
During the 2015 federal election, the AFN released Closing the Gap: 2015 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada. The priorities included a call to: “Review existing policy and legislation and create a framework for future policy and legislation to ensure consistency with s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” Since that time, the National Chief has continued to press the Prime Minister and his colleagues to work with First Nations to realize this vision.
The Prime Minister today announced a Working Group of Ministers, stating it “will examine relevant federal laws, policies, and operational practices to help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights; adhering to international human rights standards, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The Working Group will work with Indigenous leaders, youth, and experts on various legal and policy questions relating to Indigenous Peoples.” The Working Group will comprise six cabinet ministers and be chaired by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould.