The First Nations of Quebec wish to make themselves known and recognized - "Building bridges, not blocking it" - Ghislain Picard

    QUEBEC, June 21 /CNW Telbec/ - "We do not want to blockade bridges, we
wish to build some" stated today, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard to the hundred or so representatives
of organizations who strive in various sectors of Quebec. Gathered at the
Centre des sciences de Montréal, the participants in this "Open House on the
First Nations" event widened their knowledge on the First Nations, and on the
myths and realities which concerns them, as well as on the contemporary life,
its stakes and challenges.
    It is with this public activity, aiming at creating new alliances with
the Quebec organizations, that the First Nations of Quebec wanted to celebrate
the National Aboriginal Day, on this June 21st.
    "The First Nations are not elements of the past. They are not privileged
people or troublemakers. They are distinct Aboriginal peoples, with distinct
rights and they are essential to the future of Quebec. For too long, our
rights have been denied, for too long, we were the victims of spontaneous
prejudices and discrimination. This situation must change, and in order to
carry this challenge, which awaits us collectively, through to a successful
conclusion, it will be essential to have a good knowledge of our rights, and
most of all, to recognize them properly. In order to contribute to a better
understanding of the stakes and concepts, we decided to take the initiative
and meet directly with the organizations of Quebec. I am convinced that,
through an enhanced awareness of our interests and concerns, Quebecers will
respect us more and, incidentally, our relations with the governments will
improve", stated Chief Picard.
    For that matter, Ghislain Picard specified that the actions of the First
Nations on the June 29th "National Day of Action" will be peaceful and they
are intended to raise public awareness on the main stakes faced by these First
Nations on a daily basis. "Any attempt of blockade or demonstration of civil
disobedience will be severely denounced", warned Chief Picard.

    Political Declaration

    At a press briefing, Chief Ghislain Picard presented a Political
Declaration adopted by the Assembly of Chiefs, held on June 12, 13 and 14, in
Quebec City. This Political Declaration is intended to be an answer to the
arrival of new groups who pretend representing aboriginal interests, including
the "Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada and the Confederation of
Aboriginal People of Quebec"; it is also a reminder of certain fundamental
principles advocated by the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec.
    In this declaration, the AFNQL assert that "the First Nations of Quebec
and Labrador are all administered by a Council which is duly elected by
universal suffrage, and which assumes the responsibility of local governance.
The Councils are supported by a public administration dedicated to the
interests of First Nations members, regardless of their place of residency.
    The AFNQL considers as fundamental the exclusive jurisdiction of these
First Nations governments to recognize, represent and serve all First Nations
citizens, independently of their place of residency, be it on or off reserve,
or outside the communities of the First Nations which do not carry the status
of reserve."
    The declaration emphasizes that "the rights of the Aboriginal peoples in
Quebec, particularly those protected by the Canadian Constitution, are only
those held by the Inuit Nation and the First Nations". To conclude, the
Declaration reasserts that "the First Nations have a right to self-governance
on their traditional territories, or on lands possessed, occupied or used
otherwise by these First Nations. They have the right to decide on their own
social, economic and political institutions, and to ensure the integrity of
their societies and territories.".
    "Quite obviously, it is our duty to make our rights better known, so that
these rights get a better recognition", concluded Ghislain Picard.

    The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional
organization which represents the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and

For further information:

For further information: Alain Garon, Communication and Information
Officer, AFNQL, (418) 842-5020, Cell.: (418) 956-5720

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