AFN National Chief Tells World Leaders at UN Conference that Acting on Indigenous Rights Most Effective Way to Combat Climate Change

PARIS, France, Dec. 2, 2015 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde told world leaders, Indigenous leaders and representatives, and other delegates at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that action on First Nations rights is the most effective way to combat climate change.

"I have been meeting the Canadian delegation, international delegates and Premiers at COP 21 to present a clear message that the rights of Indigenous peoples must be recognized in the final text of the treaty being negotiated here and all follow up actions," said National Chief Bellegarde.  "Our rights must be respected and protected.  States must understand that giving life to Indigenous rights is the most effective way to combat climate change.  When we have control over what happens in our traditional territories we will make decisions that are responsible and sustainable."

National Chief Bellegarde was invited to be part of Canada's official delegation to COP 21 by the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.  The parties at COP 21 are working on a global instrument to address climate change.

The National Chief, alongside Prime Minister Trudeau, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Foreign Affairs Minister represented Canada at the opening plenary for the COP 21.  The  National Chief also addressed delegates on Monday as part of an event with COICA (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica or Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin) to demonstrate the global nature of climate change and the spirit of solidarity and cooperation shared by Indigenous peoples worldwide.  The AFN and COICA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012.

Canada's statement to the opening plenary, delivered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, emphasized the importance of the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples as part of effort to deal with climate change.

National Chief Bellegarde stated: "It is notable that the Prime Minister recognizes us as Indigenous peoples with all the rights articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that he understands that Indigenous peoples and our traditional knowledge are essential in finding solutions to combat climate change.  We are the first to feel its effects and our voices and recommendations must inform the path forward.  We fully expect that the final treaty negotiated here will reflect that."

The National Chief has been in Paris, France since November 27 and returned with some members of the Canadian delegation on Monday, November 30.  AFN Northwest Territories Regional Chief Bill Erasmus is also attending COP 21.

COP 21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, brings together close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.  There is more information on the official COP21 website at

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or; Jenna Young Castro, AFN Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or

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