Quebec sovereignty: First Nations will decide their future

WENDAKE, QC, March 14, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - "After the declarations made by political parties on another potential referendum on Quebec sovereignty, it is the time to set things straight. First Nations members are not Quebecers and are able to decide their own future", declared Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL). "The same applies to the State we want to maintain relationships with. It will be our decision."

The last referendum in 1995 had led to at least two parallel referendums among the Innu and Cree Nations. "These two processes have confirmed, very clearly, that only our peoples can decide on their common destiny", stated Chief Picard.

Based on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, our their status as Nations and applicable international laws, political parties should be aware that it is useless to talk about a referendum, sovereignty and independence while uncertainty about the place of Aboriginal peoples and their rights remain. "Let us be even more clear: Québec can decide what it wants in terms of its culture, its identity and its development, but it cannot claim sovereignty over a territory which is still, fundamentally, First Nation", indicated Chief Picard.

If, as suggested by some, Quebec had to mobilize and prepare the way to another referendum, First Nations would use all appropriate means to protect the interests of their members. "The arrangements we seek with the succeeding governments in Québec to ensure our place in the development of Québec do not give anyone the power to make decisions in our place. We have the right to self-determination and this right is not negotiable," concludes the AFNQL Chief.

About the AFNQL
The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec -Labrador is the political organization regrouping 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql-afnql.com.

ELECTIONS: THE DEBATE ON SOVEREIGNTY CANNOT EXCLUDE FIRST NATIONS

Ghislain Picard is Innu from the community of Pessamit and Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador.

As expected, the campaign has brought back the debate on the independence of Québec on the public stage. We cannot take anything away from those campaigning for this option but it is important to remember that we forget too quickly a fundamental reality which is that of First Nations rights and title throughout the Québec territory. It is also useful to come back to our traditional positions to the effect that any move towards an independent Québec will be confronted with the assertion of these rights by First Nations. Our opinions remain clear. The argument that Québec has all the attributes to become a country is not unique to Quebec. First Nations have their cultures, their languages, their history and territory. A territory which is still, shall we remember, burdened with a title that is not yet the subject of a sustainable peace treaty. By default, this debate, which may follow the campaign through to its conclusion, raises instead the too often neglected place of our issues.

When Quebecers were called to the polls the last time, we had challenged political parties to take a position on the inescapable reality of Aboriginal peoples within the Québec context, particularly with respect to the obligations of the Québec Government regarding First Nations' rights. The denial that persists with respect to our rights could seriously compromise the development of Québec if First Nations decide to put an end to the political indifference from one election to another.

My constant concern to avoid disruption, trying instead to find the good ground, the right time to promote commitment on both sides, in a discussion aimed at finding formulas to accommodate, may also be taken by thousands of members of our Nations who may well decide that our good faith has gone dry and that it only contributes to accumulate frustrations.

While the words seem to be always sincere, actions that follow unfortunately do not live up to the commitments pronounced at speech time. Too many times, I found myself before non-native politicians who have the reflex to take refuge behind the so-called complexity and scope of Aboriginal issues. It is fair to say that it takes a certain amount of "bravery" to engage in the field of agreements with First Nations. It was true with some Nations and it is even truer with other Nations living in the heavily populated Quebec voters' areas…

I make myself no illusions on our place in this campaign but I wish nonetheless that the newly elected government on April 7, 2014 will have the political courage, too often absent, to lay the foundations of a sustainable peace with our peoples. If this new government wants to initiate a movement towards the independence of Québec, it will necessarily have to face the issue of the territorial rights of the first peoples of this territory. Wanting to ignore this issue could ensure a complicated aftermath...

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador

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