AFN National Chief addresses FSIN

By Bryan Eneas
May 18, 2017 - 5:00pm

An aged doctrine, a lack of communication and a slow-moving bureaucracy are three challenges First Nations are facing according to Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

The chief spoke of the issues in his address to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations' Spring Assembly. 

On land title

Bellegarde told paNOW the current issues of today's land title stems from the Doctrine of Discovery — a contract signed by the Pope in the 1400s to divide land amongst European countries. 

He told paNOW he will lobby the Catholic church and the United Nations to rescind it.

“It's the truth in Canada,” Bellegarde said. “We have a Treaty relationship with the Crown and everybody in Canada [are] treaty people and we're to mutually benefit from sharing the land and resource wealth.”

He said the AFN hopes to bring the Pope to Canada in 2018 to address the doctrine and to make a formal apology to residential school survivors on behalf of the Catholic church.

Currently, all of the churches involved in the residential school era have issued apologies except for the Catholic church.

On Missing and Murdered

During his speech to the FSIN chiefs and delegations Bellegarde touched on the ongoing inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Recently the inquiry has faced criticism about a lack of communication with family members.

“If family members are concerned, I'm concerned,” Bellegarde said.

He said as the AFN National Chief, he hopes to work with the commissioners to aide their cause, adding he's willing to help lobby for time extensions or resources if needed.

“It's about ending violence, coming up with recommendations to end violence in our communities,” Bellegarde said.

On resources

Bellegarde said investing in education, daycare, transportation or wellness centres can be accomplished prior to the completion of the inquiry to benefit Indigenous peoples on and off reserve.

In 2015, the then newly elected Liberal government announced an $8.2 billion funding increase in their first budget directed to Indigenous peoples. During the National Chief's speech, he said the money isn't flowing through to communities as fast as they'd like to see.

“We might have all these dollar figures made in the federal budgets but we have to find means and ways to get them out to communities in a more effective way,” Bellegarde said. “Government says one thing, cabinet says one thing, but the bureaucracy is the other one that needs to catch up to speed.”


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