ENOCH CREE NATION, AB, Oct 7, 2015 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) convened an Open Forum on First Nations and the 2015 Federal Election today in Enoch Cree Nation, Alberta, gathering hundreds of First Nation leaders and citizens to discuss priorities, inform voters and mobilize the vote. New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair and representatives from the Liberal Party of Canada and the Green Party addressed participants.
"First Nations priorities are Canada's priorities and must be addressed in this federal election campaign," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton today. "We are holding this Forum to pressure all parties to set out their vision and their commitments to First Nations and to engage with us in real dialogue. We are telling every party leader and every MP now and in the future that they must listen to our voices and work with us to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians because our people matter, our priorities matter and our votes matter. The human and economic costs to maintaining the gap that exists between our peoples and the rest of Canada are detrimental to all of us. Investments must be made now. When First Nations win, we all win."
NDP leader Tom Mulcair launched the NDP Indigenous platform at the Forum, committing to a Nation-to-Nation relationship with First Nations, implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and action and investments to address the national crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women, education, infrastructure, housing, and Indigenous languages.
"The NDP Indigenous platform addresses many of the key commitments in the AFN's Closing the Gap document that sets out our priorities for this election," said National Chief Bellegarde. "We will do a more thorough analysis but the NDP Indigenous platform is comprehensive and commits to immediate and ongoing engagement between First Nations and the government at the highest levels to ensure we can set a strategic approach for progress and closing the gap."
The full day Open Forum featured presentations on party platforms and commitments from the NDP, Liberal Party candidate Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Green Party candidate Brenda Sayers. All representatives spoke to their party's approach to First Nations priorities and took questions to engage directly with First Nations participants.
National Chief Bellegarde and members of the AFN Executive Committee, including Elders, women and youth representatives were in attendance at today's Open Forum. Topics of discussion included specifics on identification requirements for voting and maintaining momentum to address priorities leading up to and after the election October 19.
On September 2nd National Chief Bellegarde released Closing the Gap: 2015 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada that sets out action items and a vision for change through themes of Strengthening First Nations, Families and Communities; Sharing and Equitable Funding; Upholding Rights; Respecting the Environment; Revitalizing Indigenous Languages; and Truth and Reconciliation. For more information on First Nations priorities for the federal election and on closing the gap visit: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/closing-the-gap.pdf
The AFN 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: Jenna Young Castro, AFN Communications Officer (613) 241-6789 ext 401 or (613) 314-8157 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or email@example.com