NAN sees Kelowna Accord as best base for closing gap

    THUNDER BAY, ON, March 22 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy agrees with Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice that
self-sufficiency is the key to First Nation progress, however the two leaders
disagree that the 2005 Kelowna Accord passed by Parliament yesterday is the
way to reach what Prentice calls "financial independence".
    "I agree that First Nations people need to become financially
independent, however it's the regulatory framework of both the provincial and
federal governments that prevents the people of Nishnawbe Aski from
participating in the country's economy," said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy.
"With billions of dollars worth of natural resources being extracted from our
territory annually, assisting in sustaining the prosperity of all Canadians,
you'd think First Nations wouldn't have to be perceived as asking for
    Beardy also agrees with Minister Prentice that the Kelowna Accord needs
further work to iron out details in terms of addressing the many underlying
issues, however says it's a comprehensive package that could improve the
on-reserve quality of life across the board.
    "I was hopeful coming out of the 2005 First Ministers Meeting that the
agreement would lead to meaningful discussion and implementation processes
that would prove to lessen the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
Canadians across the board," said Beardy of the Kelowna Accord which is the
basis of former Prime Minister Paul Martin's Private Member's Bill C-292
passed yesterday in the House of Commons. "The passing of Bill C-292 provides
a renewed hope, but without acceptance by the Conservative Government of
Canada we'll continue to see the gap grow and continued and increasing
frustration among First Nations, particularly the young people, who are
seeking quality education and sustainable careers."
    The Kelowna Accord, reached by the Government of Canada, provincial
Premiers, and Aboriginal leaders in Kelowna, B.C. November 2005, outlined more
than $5 billion over the next five years to close the gap between Aboriginal
and non-Aboriginal Canadians in the areas of education, health, housing, and
economic opportunities.
    "The Harper government had its chance to present Minister Prentice's
theory two days ago when they announced their 2007 budget," said Beardy. "If
the Government of Canada isn't going to accept a decision by Parliament, what
alternative will they present?"

    NAN is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation
communities across two-thirds of Ontario, including Kashechewan and Pikangikum
First Nations, which have made recent national headlines exposing Third World
conditions in the areas of housing, water, and sewer.

For further information:

For further information: Jenna Young, Director of Communications,
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, at (807) 625-4952, or (807) 628-3953 (mobile)

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