SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, May 21 /CNW/ - A candidate for the office of
National Chief hopes to revive the Kelowna Accord, a $5-billion commitment by
the previous Liberal federal government to substantively address First Nations
issues in Canada.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage feels the deal, struck with the
Government of Canada and the First Ministers in November 2005, can be revived
as a means of addressing First Nations poverty and improving health,
education, economic, and social conditions in First Nations.
Beaucage raised the issue in addressing a gathering of the Assembly of
Manitoba Chiefs in Sagkeeng First Nation.
"Parliament needs to set aside partisanship and re-commit to the
principles of Kelowna," said Beaucage. "All the political parties understand
what needs to be done. The First Ministers know what needs to be done. First
Nations know what needs to be done. It's time to get it done."
Grand Council Chief Beaucage played a key leadership role in planning the
First Ministers meeting that led to the tabling of the Kelowna Accord. He
co-chaired two of the five First Ministers' Working Groups, including Housing
and Relationships. The other tables were Education, Health and Economic
Development. Federal and provincial First Ministers achieved rare unanimity in
approving a plan that committed over $5 billion to First Nations and various
national aboriginal organizations.
"Kelowna was a watershed moment in Canadian history, marking the first
time that First Nations, Métis, Inuit and all levels of government agreed to
making aboriginal issues a priority," said Beaucage. "A renewed focus and
renewed effort is needed to improve the conditions in First Nations
communities. We can only succeed if we work together."
The Conservatives killed the First Ministers deal when the Harper
government was elected in 2006.
According to Beaucage, there have been a number of factors that indicate
a willingness to revive Kelowna:
- The Harper government has made overtures, commitments and funding
announcements in housing, education and economic development.
Beaucage has met with the Government of Canada on a number of these
priorities in recent weeks.
- Given the support that Kelowna still receives among many Liberal Party
members, Beaucage intends on meeting with leader Michael Ignatieff
regarding the Accord.
- The New Democratic Party is consistently receptive to First Nations
perspectives on issues, especially in the area of social policy and
Beaucage is calling for a First Ministers Summit on aboriginal issues,
involving all provincial premiers and territorial leaders, and leaders of all
Parliamentary caucuses, including the Prime Minister.
"Given these recent cycles of minority governments, we need to find new
ways of doing things including finding consensus among Parliamentarians, First
Ministers and aboriginal leaders," said Beaucage. "The resolution of the
systemic issues that continue to impede the progress of First Peoples requires
a non-partisan approach."
"A National Chief must be able to make political in-roads and achieve
meaningful solutions no matter which party is in power."
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the National organization
representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation
communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast
their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.
Grand Council Chief John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First
Nation, and has led the 42 member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation in
Ontario since 2004.
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