VANCOUVER, April 2, 2015 /CNW/ - The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) today welcomes the federal government's Ministerial Special Representative Doug Eyford's final report titled, A New Direction: Advancing Aboriginal and Treaty Rights (the Report). The Report makes 43 recommendations for the Minister's consideration with respect to moving forward with reconciliation with First Nations and getting beyond the limitations of Canada's outdated and inappropriate comprehensive land claims policies (CCP). Mr. Eyford's appointment last year coincided with Canada's release of its unilaterally developed interim policy, Renewing the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy: Towards a Framework for Addressing Section 35 Aboriginal Rights.
Highlighting the most important of the recommendations, Chief Maureen Chapman, BCAFN Board member and Spokesperson stated, "These recommendations speak directly to the need to develop a new federal reconciliation framework, not simply a renewed federal Comprehensive Claims Policy that supports the status quo." She continued, "After numerous court victories by our Peoples and the failure of the current treaty-making process in BC to deliver significant results, Canada must move away from a policy of First Nations making claims to the Crown by fully embracing the need for real recognition followed by true reconciliation. Both the future of First Nations and the national economy depends on it." She continued, "A cross-government reconciliation framework, developed jointly with First Nations, is something that we have strongly urged the Prime Minister and the federal government to pursue since discussions began with the Prime Minister's Office at the Senior Oversight Committee on Comprehensive Claims in 2013 which followed the Idle no More protests of that year."
Mr. Eyford's Report considers the need for more options or mechanisms outside of the current BC treaty-making process for reconciliation. While not specifically laid out in the Report, this would necessarily require a far greater focus on recognition of First Nations' governance today and not simply as a possible outcome of an uncertain treaty process. The on-going work of First Nations in BC and indeed across Canada to move out from under the Indian Act and to build or rebuild strong and appropriate governance is a necessary precursor to achieving lasting and durable agreements with First Nations whether inside or outside of any treaty-making process. It is a critical component to achieving reconciliation with respect to land rights and resolving the so-called "land question".
Chief Chapman concluded, "The observations and recommendations in Mr. Eyford's Report will now, of course, need to be reviewed thoroughly by all parties. There is a need for self-reflection and there is a need for action. The BCAFN calls on the government of Canada to work collaboratively with First Nations, their representative organizations and, where appropriate, the provincial governments on next steps to developing a broader federal reconciliation framework." She concluded, "The path forward must be mutually determined and take into account Indigenous perspectives, with First Nations as full partners. Our collective future and prosperity depends on it."
SOURCE BC Assembly of First Nations
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Director of Operations, BCAFN