Assembly of First Nations National Chief commends new legislation regarding Specific Claims and the Kelowna Accord



    OTTAWA, June 18 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National
Chief Phil Fontaine applauded the government of Canada and all
parliamentarians for passing two bills (C-30 and C-292) through the House and
Senate. He noted that both bills are set to receive Royal Assent today. He
thanked all parliamentarians for their hard work to pass these Bills and
commended them for the spirit of cooperation and flexibility that was
demonstrated to allow these Bills to pass.
    "I am very pleased to see Bill C-30, The Specific Claims Tribunal Act,
become law today. The work that led to this very important legislation was a
truly collaborative effort on the part of the government of Canada and the
Assembly of First Nations. The all-party support for this Bill reflects the
role of First Nations in its development, which produced a more effective and
efficient process for dealing with the majority of specific claims," said
National Chief Fontaine. "I strongly encourage the federal government to use
this cooperative approach that directly involved us in all future attempts to
address policy or legislation that impacts the rights and interests of First
Nation governments and our citizens."
    Although negotiation remains the preferred approach to resolve
outstanding land claims, the independent tribunal will make binding decisions
where specific claims are rejected for negotiation or where negotiation fails
to achieve a settlement. The tribunal will consist of the equivalent of six
full-time superior court judges.
    "Another unique feature resulting from the joint development of this
legislation is the companion political agreement. It addresses the areas of
concern to the parties that could not be included in the legislation. The
agreement will guide the parties on the implementation of the legislation and
it outlines areas where further work is still required to settle specific
claims in more fair, just and timely manner. Work to address important items
in the agreement will begin immediately, including the selection of judges for
the tribunal," added Fontaine.
    The AFN is also pleased to see that Bill C-292 will become law today.
    "We are encouraged to see that Bill C-292, the Kelowna Accord
Implementation Act, will receive Royal Assent today. The AFN worked very hard
to negotiate the unanimous agreement obtained by all parties in support of the
Kelowna Accord in November 2005. We need to meet the targets and commitments
set out in the Accord to protect our children, invest in our future and to
demonstrate our mutual responsibilities to one another. Our collective efforts
to improve the lives of First Nations people are critically important for the
health and well-being of First Nation communities and for Canada," said
Fontaine.
    The Kelowna Accord provided all levels of government with a detailed plan
to close the socio-economic gap that exists between First Nations and the rest
of the Canada within ten years. The plan included ways to improve the health
status, economic opportunities, community safety, housing and infrastructure,
education and social services for First Nations and other Aboriginal
communities.
    "In the same spirit of reconciliation that was contained in the Prime
Minister's apology to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools last week,
we call on the government of Canada, all parliamentarians, and provincial and
territorial governments to actively work cooperatively with the AFN and First
Nations to resolve all historic grievances related to land and resources and
to implement the targets and objectives of the Kelowna Accord," concluded
Fontaine.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789 ext. 242, cell: (613) 324-3329, jmcewen@afn.ca


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