Treaties must be the foundation in effort to renew the First Nations-Crown relationship

TORONTO, Jan. 25, 2012 /CNW/ - Yesterday, in Ottawa, a selection of First Nations leaders from across Canada met with Prime Minister Harper and members of his cabinet to discuss the state of the First Nations-Crown relationship and to consider options for improving the economic and social conditions of First Nations.

"The fact that the federal government agreed to this meeting was a positive first step. However, what really matters is how the Government demonstrates that they understood the messages that were delivered yesterday.  Our people delivered a strong message yesterday, we are fed up with Canada's disrespectful approach and require a return to our original treaty based relationship with the Crown and respect for our right to self-determination" stated Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.

The Regional Chief indicated that the remarks of the Governor General on the need to affirm the original Treaty relationship were welcome but there was disappointment that Prime Minister Harper failed in his remarks to reaffirm the original Treaty relationship. The Regional Chief emphasized that the First Nations in Ontario will continue to do their work to ensure that Treaties are the basis of the First Nations-Crown relationship.  He indicated that the federal government has failed to honour the true spirit and intent existing in the Treaties and instead they have interpreted them to their advantage and to the great detriment of First Nations.

"Our focus is on the Treaties and we will not be swayed from this. Rebuilding a relationship with Canada based on mutual respect, autonomy, and friendship, as envisioned in the Treaties, will put First Nations on the path to achieving a more promising future for our children and grandchildren" said the Regional Chief.

First Nations put the federal government on notice that we will continue to assert our inherent and treaty rights as Nations. "We will not be dictated to or accept the willful disregard for our rights. To survive as Peoples, we must have full control over our lives. Only we have the answers and solutions to the challenges we face." stated Regional Chief Toulouse.

The First Nations in Ontario expect the federal government to respect their basic collectively held human right to self-determination. And when required to work with them as equal partners in developing plans to address the challenges that exist and to eliminate the barriers that prevent First Nations individuals and nations from fulfilling their potential.  This includes overcoming the colonial system and approach, phasing out the Indian Act, establishing new fiscal arrangements and the creation of government-to-government mechanisms.

"The current approach of the federal government is to develop legislation in isolation and then to engage First Nations in a meaningless process of consultation. It is not respectful of the treaty relationship when one party unilaterally continues to dictate to the other" said the Regional Chief.

Regional Chief Toulouse noted that the First Nations in Ontario feel the meeting with the federal government was a step in restoring a relationship with Canada.  First Nations will require an ongoing dialogue and joint effort focused on achieving progress for First Nations, which includes a plan to facilitate understanding of basic treaty relationship principles and implementation, greater First Nations control over resource development on traditional lands and building sustainable First Nations economies which will provide direct benefits to First Nations citizens and all Canadians.

"Yesterday our leaders and citizens stood and walked together to deliver this message - Treaty violations must end.  We will be watching closely to see what results from this Gathering. Grand statements and gestures are useless without a change in actions. Our people are watching --- our youth are watching --- to see what comes next and we will consider all options available to us to ensure the Crown upholds its responsibilities as embodied in the treaties," stated Regional Chief Toulouse.

SOURCE Chiefs of Ontario

For further information:

Andre Morriseau, Communications Officer
Ph: 416-580-9320
Email: andre@coo.org

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