The northern First Nation Chiefs of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Prince Albert Grand Council meet with Premier Brad Wall



    REGINA, Oct. 28 /CNW/ - Saskatchewan's northern First Nations are seeking
to expand the role they play in the economic expansion currently being
experienced in Saskatchewan.
    The 21 northern First Nations of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC)
and the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) met with Premier Wall in Regina
today to follow-up on the Leaders' Forum between the Chiefs and Provincial
Cabinet Ministers on October 6, 2008. Both meetings focused the Duty to
Consult and Accommodate and accommodate. The Courts have stated that if there
are or may be infringements on treaty rights then the Crown (province) is
obligated to consult and accommodate.
    More specifically, today's meeting dealt with the reconciliation of
outstanding issues identified by the northern First Nations regarding the
province's review of their Duty to Consult and Accommodate policy. The issues
emerged from a series of discussions among the northern Chiefs in an effort to
ensure fair, equitable and meaningful consultation and accommodation takes
place.
    "Today the Chiefs of Northern Saskatchewan met with Premier Wall to
address the issues we had discussed earlier this month with members of his
Cabinet. We view today's meeting as a positive step but we remain a long ways
from a resolution of the issues at hand," said Helen Ben, Tribal Chief of the
Meadow Lake Tribal Council.
    "The Chiefs urged the province to be more flexible and innovative in
finding substantive solutions. The only way we can achieve this is through
continued discussions with an eye to achieving real objectives. At this point
we are disappointed by the Premier's position on resource and revenue sharing
but we will not give up," she added.
    "Today's meeting did, however, open the door to continued discussions
and, hopefully, will lead to principles for working together on formulating
the rules for discussion of the duty to consult and accommodate," explained
Grand Chief Ron Michel. "But we remain adamant that the current approach,
employing a 'business as usual' policy keeps First Nations as observers, not
participants in development. There is a need to establish a framework for
action so the province and the northern First Nations can benefit from
resource development in the north. The details and specifics now need to be
worked out."
    Today's meeting builds on the momentum established in earlier meetings
between the northern Chiefs and the provincial government.
    "Our hope was that this dialogue would take us farther, faster. We once
again encourage the premier to reconsider these suggestions as we know that
similar approaches that have already been adopted in other provinces," Tribal
Chief Ben stated. "First Nation members and other northerners will benefit
from a robust economy and contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of the
province as a whole. If we are participants in the development process our
communities will prosper. A strengthened wage economy will establish a more
vibrant north and a more vibrant Saskatchewan."
    The issues discussed with the Premier dealt primarily with the desire of
the northern Chiefs to have a consultation and accommodation policy that is
proactive and affords them an opportunity to participate in the resource
developments of the north.
    "Northern First Nations want to participate in a balanced approach to
development and environmental stewardship," said Tribal Chief Ben. "We do not
want to be ignored or sidelined as passive observers to resource development.
Northern First Nations want to be partners and work together. What we are
asking for is a sense of fairness and a demonstration of political will upon
which we can both agree."
    The First Nations leaders are confident that the two sides can seize the
opportunity to change the approaches of the past with political will and
vision.
    This has the potential to be a win-win for the entire province, according
to the First Nations leaders.
    "We live in the north. This is our home. We don't have to be recruited.
We are here and available to invest in business ventures, and to participate
in employment and training opportunities. We have a proven track record. We
can get things done. The province should seriously consider a form of revenue
sharing in a more comprehensive manner than revenue sharing approaches
initiated by former governments in this Province," Grand Chief Michel stated.
"There are innovative and cutting edge initiatives in other provinces that can
guide the Province of Saskatchewan in formulating a progressive consultation
policy. A progressive northern strategy should not be imposed by the courts
but developed in collaboration with the province and northern First Nations
and all northern residents."
    The Chiefs look forward to additional meetings with the Government of
Saskatchewan where they can focus on substantive issues in the process of
finalizing a new progressive policy on consultation and accommodation, a
policy that will benefit all of Saskatchewan.





For further information:

For further information: Meadow Lake Tribal Council (306) 236-5654 or
the Prince Albert Grand Council (306) 953-7200

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MEADOW LAKE TRIBAL COUNCIL

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