OTTAWA, Sept. 24, 2015 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that tonight's French-language debate demonstrates the need for greater focus on First Nations peoples and priorities during the election and the AFN is taking action to make this happen.
"First Nations priorities are Canada's priorities and this is why the AFN is convening its own Open Forum on First Nations and the federal election," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "It's time to talk about closing the gap to build a stronger Canada for all of us. Canadians know the current approach needs to change and the parties need to show leadership. We have been clear on our priorities and we want a discussion that puts our agenda front and centre during this election."
The AFN announced this week that it is holding an Open Forum on First Nations and the Federal Election to take place October 7 at the Edmonton Marriott at River Cree Resort in Enoch, Alberta. Invitations are being sent to all party leaders to engage with First Nations and there will be discussions on First Nations priorities, regional approaches and activities on voting and maintaining momentum throughout the election and beyond.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde said, "Our citizens are getting organized and they'll be voting in this next election. Our people matter, our priorities matter and our votes matter. It's time to put our priorities front and centre in the national dialogue during this election."
Tonight's debate, produced by a partnership of Radio-Canada, La Presse, Télé-Québec, CBC News, CTV News and Global News, together with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Google, YouTube and CPAC, was the first to bring together the leaders of the five major parties. The references to First Nations issues were entirely in the context of broader themes. Green Party leader Elizabeth May called for action on missing and murdered Indigenous women and the need to implement the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. May also pointed out that the budget surplus was achieved in part by denying First Nations much-needed funding. Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said that First Nations would have to be involved in any constitutional talks. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stated that First Nations must be partners in environmental assessments. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made no mention of First Nations peoples or priorities.
"The fact that First Nations issues were barely mentioned in tonight's debate is a missed opportunity and a disservice to all Canadians," said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "We want the parties and the party leaders to say where they stand on our agenda of Closing the Gap."
On September 2, National Chief Bellegarde released Closing the Gap: 2015 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada setting out a plan and vision for change to strengthen First Nations and Canada. The National Chief will be calling on all party leaders to provide a full and clear response to the plan. The plan is available on the AFN website at: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/closing-the-gap.pdf
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 [email protected]; Jenna Young Castro, AFN Communications Officer (613) 241-6789 ext 401 or (613) 314-8157 or [email protected]