Joint Statement from the National Chief Phil Fontaine and Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo)



    OTTAWA, Oct. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - National Chief Phil Fontaine and
BC Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo) today applaud the provincial
government for introducing the Tsawwassen Final Agreement into the BC
Legislature. This agreement, which is the first treaty to be ratified under
the BC treaty process, marks another important milestone on the pathway to
reconciliation and the establishment of a new relationship between Canada,
British Columbia and First Nations based on recognition and respect.
    This Final Agreement reflects the will of the Tsawwassen people. In
recognition of their autonomy and in the spirit of respect, we congratulate
the Tsawwassen people in taking this important step towards self-determination
and the reconciliation of their Aboriginal title with Crown title.
    However, today's introduction of the Tsawassen Final Agreement also
brings into sharp relief the significant hurdles that must still be overcome
as clearly demonstrated by the rally held outside the Legislature today and
the recent legal action commenced by the Sencot'en C'A,I, Newel regarding
their 1852 Douglas Treaty rights. First Nations, both in and outside the
process clearly remain frustrated by the unwillingness of Canada and BC to
adjust their policies and negotiator's' mandates to accommodate advances in
the courts.
    The federal government's comprehensive claims and inherent rights
policies are also a source of concern for First Nations. These policies appear
to require extinguishment of Aboriginal title and provide federal negotiators
with limited mandates to reconcile First Nations and Crown sovereignty.
    These factors have been the source of a great deal of frustration and
delay at treaty negotiation tables and First Nations in the BC treaty process
continue to press for changes to Canada and BC's treaty mandates.
    Failure to implement historic treaties has given rise to many specific
claims against the federal government and is source of frustration for those
First Nations in British Columbia who concluded historic treaties with the
Crown. The recent action commenced by the Sencot'en C'A,I,Newel clearly
underscores the urgent need for Canada, BC and First Nations to engage in
discussions regarding the implementation of both historic and modern treaties.
    Recent success by First Nations and the federal government in working
together to revise the federal government's specific claims policy clearly
demonstrates that when there is political will, significant progress can be
made to resolve an issue within a relatively short period of time.
    National Chief Phil Fontaine and Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo)
call on Canada and BC to take immediate steps to work with First Nations in
developing more effective policies, mandates and approaches to resolve the
many outstanding issues related to lands, resources and governance in BC.

    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; Nancy Pine,
Communications Advisor, Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789, ext 243,
cell: (613) 298-6382, npine@afn.ca; Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications
Officer, (613) 241-6789, ext. 336, cell: (613) 327-6331, jbellemare@afn.ca


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