Ottawa, ON – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement:
“For First Nations, the past 150 years has been a history of colonialism marked by a tragic and avoidable shift in our relationship from partnership to colonialism. As peoples, we have endured the genocide of the Indian Residential Schools system and the oppression of the Indian Act.
There continues to be many forms of exclusion and denial of Indigenous rights and title. And there are serious issues of systemic discrimination to address in the laws and policies that reflect racist legal doctrines like the doctrine of discovery. Yet, we have persevered. Our cultures and ceremonies persist and prevail. Our languages are still spoken and we are determined to secure the support they deserve to be protected, preserved and promoted, Every day, First Nations are reasserting inherent jurisdiction and Treaty rights.
We are nations by virtue of possessing our own unique laws, languages, lands, citizens, governance and spirituality. Our presence as nations is literally as old as human memory in this land.
We respect and embrace those who want to acknowledge our resilience on this day, and those who choose not to participate. We hold up First Nations youth and Elders and the many who are seizing this opportunity to create dialogue and educate Canadians on the history of our relationship and the need to renew that relationship based on rights recognition and implementation.
We all demand action, recognition and reconciliation. We all must stand up for Treaty and inherent rights. We can make progress through joint work and tangible, concrete measures to close the gap between First Nations and Canadians.
My message today is that we are still here, our voices are getting louder and we are getting stronger.”