Parties' commitments below expectations: First Nations resolute as election day nears



    MONTREAL, March 23 /CNW Telbec/ - The Chief of the Assembly of First
Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), Ghislain Picard, is disappointed by
the scant attention given to Native issues in the Quebec election campaign.
Québec Solidaire was the only party to acknowledge the First Nations' right to
self-determination and their Aboriginal rights concerning the use of their
territories and resources. He's ready to meet the new government firmly. "We
wanted to make sure during this election that the political parties knew about
the importance of the First Nations for the future of Quebec. Whatever party
is elected, we'll continue our work and we'll be stepping up our actions to
make sure the government finally does start moving on the issues," said Chief
Picard during a conference he gave at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).
    Despite the lukewarm commitments made by the parties concerning the First
Nations, Chief Picard is pleased with the AFNQL's own campaign, which got
underway on March 1 in Montreal with the launch of "Final Summon to the
Provincial Political Parities." The AFNQL worked non-stop to put First Nations
issues front and centre with the parties and the Quebec public. "Our campaign
marks an important milestone in Quebec elections. It showed that we could get
our message out to the voters, whether in Montreal, the Saguenay, Baie-Comeau
or the Gaspé peninsula," said Chief Picard.
    The highlight of the First Nations' campaign was a debate held in
Montreal on March 20. Participating in the debate were candidates from the
four main political parties as follows: Marjolain Dufour (Parti Québécois),
Geoffrey Kelley (Liberal Party), Caroline Pageau (Action démocratique du
Québec) and François Saillant (Québec Solidaire). At the debate, Chief Picard
expressed the hope that the four candidates would get back to their respective
party leaders and ask them to publicly announce their positions concerning the
First Nations before the end of the campaign.
    Except for Québec Solidaire, none of the main parties have articulated a
stance regarding First Nations issues, although the Québec Solidaire and
Action démocratique du Québec candidates announced during the AFNQL debate,
their formal support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples.
    "We can only deplore the failure of the parties to make any commitments,
only Québec Solidaire manifested itself. Apart from quick stops by Mr. Charest
in two of our communities, Wendake and Pikogan, the main parties have clearly
demonstrated that they have very little concern for Native issues," concluded
Chief Picard.

    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization representing the Chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and
Labrador. It has published a document entitled "Final Summon to the Provincial
Political Parties," which describes the challenges and issues for the First
Nations today and is available online at www.appelultime-finalsummon.com.




For further information:

For further information: Alain Garon, Communications Officer, (418)
842-5020, Cell-phone: (418) 956-5720


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