AFN Says Government Legislation on Matrimonial Interests On-reserve Does Not Provide Access to Justice: Calls on First Nations to Pass their Own Laws

OTTAWA, Sept. 28, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said today that legislation introduced by the Conservative government dealing with matrimonial interests on-reserve will not provide access to justice for First Nations citizens affected by marital breakdown and called on First Nations to work with their citizens to pass their own laws and develop their own codes in this area.

"The legislation introduced today does not provide the necessary tools or capacities for First Nation governments to deal with the issues that arise when marriages break up," said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "This is rightfully a matter of First Nation jurisdiction and we must have this capacity. We are willing to work with the government on a better, effective approach and, in the meantime, we are urging First Nation governments to work with their citizens to enact their own codes on laws in this important matter and to occupy this ground before the federal government does."

The legislation was originally introduced in 2008 and has been opposed by the AFN as well as organizations like the Native Women's Association of Canada.  First Nations want to see the capacity and tools at the community level to deal with issues related to matrimonial rights and interests. Under the federal approach, First Nation citizens in communities that lack this capacity will be left relying on provincial courts, which are often too expensive or too difficult for citizens in remote communities to access.

"First Nations have repeatedly and forcefully called on the government to work with us on an approach that will truly give our people in our communities access to justice," said National Chief Atleo.  There are already First Nations that have put their own laws and approaches in place on this matter.  These must be respected and a similar approach must be supported for all First Nations."

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


For further information:

Don Kelly, Assembly of First Nations A/Communications Director
613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or email

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or email

Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-2920857 or email

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