Canada Can't Afford to Ignore First Nations in Looming Economic Storm Says AFN

    OTTAWA, Oct. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - With mounting domestic and global concern
about the economic crisis in the United States spilling over to the Canadian
election, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine is noticing a
serious absence in the political discourse on the economy.
    "First Nations have been ignored during good economic times and now
upcoming tough times may be used as an excuse for more of the same. This sends
a chilling message to some of Canada's poorest people. The suggestion that the
fundamentals of Canada's economy are fine cements the exclusion of the poor,
many of whom live in developing world conditions here in Canada. The
eradication of poverty should not be a partisan issue, it is a Canadian
issue," said National Chief Fontaine.
    Fontaine notes that complacency is not an option. Leading Canadian
economists have concluded the same in their open letter: "Complacent
expressions of faith in our "fundamentals," and other varieties of economic
denial, will not protect Canadians from the coming storm."
    The National Chief added, "It can't be news to our political leadership
that any downturn in the economy will punish the poor the harshest. Those who
are most vulnerable can't be an afterthought, or worse, completely neglected.
Canada's identity as a compassionate and socially just country is at stake.
Given the high rate of poverty in First Nations communities, investments are
needed to protect them from what is coming. We can't turn a blind eye and
ignoring the problem won't make it go away. In fact, it will be even more
costly in the long-run to ignore it now."
    Noting the absence of serious discussion regarding poverty in Canada
during the campaign, the National Chief highlighted the volatility of the
economic situation and its potentially devastating social impact. "There must
be action. There must be a plan. There must be a serious commitment to ensure
that no one is falling through the cracks, that children have the basics, that
adults have hope, and that everyone has a decent opportunity to make a better
life," said the National Chief.
    "The future of First Nations and Canada's future are intricately linked.
We can invest in youth now so they are ready to contribute tomorrow. We can
cooperate on resource development projects. We can contribute to Canada's
economy and be part of the solution. Or we can be left behind, our rights
denied and Canada will be the worse for it. The risk in failing to act carries
too high a price."
    "I am impressed with what I have read from the parties that have
responded to our questionnaire on election issues that are important to First
Nations. I encourage everyone to visit our website to view those responses.
However, I am really concerned that the Conservative platform has no
investment at all in Canada's most vulnerable people and that the Prime
Minister did not respond to the letter and questionnaire I sent him," National
Chief Fontaine concluded.

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

For further information:

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Health Communications, (613)
241-6789 ext 210, (613) 292-1877,; Gina Cosentino, Government
Relations, National Chief Office, (613) 314-2661,

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