Assembly of First Nations National Chief Welcomes Eyford Report and Calls for Action Recognizing First Nations rights and role in Energy Development

OTTAWA, Dec. 5, 2013 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today commented on the report "Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships" prepared by Douglas R. Eyford and presented to the Prime Minister.  The report focuses on First Nations and Energy Development.  

"Mr. Eyford's report reflects some key concerns and perspectives of First Nations as they relate to energy development and resource development and addresses these with some important recommendations," said AFN National Chief Atleo. "As we have said, in order to ensure prosperity for Canada and First Nations, Canada must recognize First Nation rights, support First Nations through capacity support, access to capital, and engage in environmental planning that incorporates First Nations  traditional knowledge and principles and must facilitate shared decision making that is respectful, inclusive and accountable."  

National Chief Atleo added: "The reality is that the federal government and all parties must understand that First Nations are not simply another interest group in this work.  We have constitutionally protected rights and title and there is a legal obligation on the part of government to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations.  For too long these realities have been ignored and they are holding all of us back.  Now is the time for action.  First Nations are not anti-development but if any project is going to proceed it must be responsible, sustainable, we must be involved, our rights must be respected and there must be meaningful engagement consistent with the principles of free, prior and informed consent as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."  

The report makes recommendations across four broad themes: Building Trust, Fostering Inclusion, Advancing Reconciliation and Taking Action.  Amongst other recommendations, the report calls for a "Crown-First Nations tri-partite energy working group" comprised of the federal and provincial governments and First Nations.  The report places development work in the broader context of reconciliation, noting this activity must not be seen as separate from action on First Nations education, employment, land issues and rights.  

AFN BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould stated, "We are pleased Mr. Eyford's report was made public as it provides a welcome insight into the hard work ahead of us to ensure true reconciliation can occur between our Nations and the Crown. Canada must ensure that our Nations are full partners in the decisions that affect our lands and resources including, and where our Nations support development, benefiting in a meaningful and substantive way from energy development. However, resource development for First Nations is a means to an end and not the end in itself.  Accordingly, seeking First Nations support for resource development cannot be divorced from the broader issues of reconciliation to address long standing grievances and where the objective of our Nations is to ensure our peoples have an improved quality of life with practicing and thriving cultures. With so much at stake for not only our peoples but all Canadians, I truly hope that Mr. Eyford's recommendations will be given the serious consideration they deserve and that the Prime Minister will continue to ensure a high level of oversight in the development of a new reconciliation framework for Canada that goes beyond the limitations and restrictions of the existing federal 'comprehensive claims policy.'"  

AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis said: "I welcome this report as action is needed for both the Alberta and BC regions on these issues. I was disappointed when Premier Redford and Premier Clark signed a pipeline agreement and did not consult with First Nations from both our respective regions. I believe that now is the time that all interested parties work together to finally achieve an agreement that can be consistent with the expectations of Treaties 6, 7 and 8."   On March 19, 2013, the Government of Canada appointed the Special Federal Representative, Douglas Eyford, to engage with First Nations communities and governments in British Columbia and Alberta on future energy infrastructure development.  

The National Chief stated: "The AFN has been pressing for action on these matters for some time and it is important that this report help compel immediate action on these fundamental issues."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca

Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca


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