PLAN NORD : "INCOMPLETE PROCESS FOR FIRST NATIONS" - CHIEF GHISLAIN PICARD

WENDAKE, QC, May 9 /CNW Telbec/ - The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), Ghislain Picard, will not participate in the unveiling of the "Plan Nord", today in Lévis. "I refuse to participate in a process which does not yet adequately meet the expectations of all concerned First Nations," he said.

Chief Picard particularly deplores the lack of genuine consultation with some First Nations, which are simply left aside in this process which will nevertheless have major impacts on their rights. "How can the Government launch the Plan Nord without having tried to obtain the consent of all First Nations involved? This process is incomplete and very disappointing", he says.

The AFNQL particularly wishes to recall that under the Canadian Constitution and the Supreme Court decisions, the Government of Quebec has an obligation to consult and accommodate all First Nations affected by the Plan Nord. It must also respect the obligations of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples which Canada has recently endorsed. In particular, article 32 of the Declaration stipulates that " States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources." "In other words, we do not consult First Nations as we consult a Chamber of commerce or a municipality", states Ghislain Picard.

Breach of the commitments
Chief Picard recalled that Jean Charest has still not fulfilled his commitments taken in his 2003 election for the consideration of the land rights of non-Treaty First Nations. "In 2003, when signing the mutual political agreement, Jean Charest promised to discuss the issues affecting the territory and the development of resources. In 2006, at the First Nations socioeconomic Forum, he reiterated his commitment to establish relations respectful of our territorial rights. However, the Premier never upheld his promises and continues to deny our ancestral rights. How can we believe him today, when he again promises to take into account First Nations in the implementation of the Plan Nord? ", questions Ghislain Picard.

"The Government of Quebec has not only the obligation to take into account the rights of all First Nations affected by the Plan Nord, but it also has the responsibility to engage in true dialogue with all First Nations in Quebec, including subjects like wealth-sharing, co-management and royalties. I am still waiting for a phone call from Jean Charest," concluded Chief Picard.

About the AFNQL
The AFNQL is the regional organization regrouping the 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. For information: www.apnql-afnql.com.

SOURCE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS OF QUEBEC AND LABRADOR

For further information:

Éric Cardinal
Communications adviser
Cellular: 514 258-2315
eric@cardinalcommunication.com

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