Leaders from the three national Indigenous organizations will skip the meeting with premiers in Edmonton this week, saying the format does not adhere to the spirit of reconciliation.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed and Métis National Council President Clément Chartier told reporters in Toronto that the current format subjugates Indigenous issues, because they cannot participate in meetings as full members of the Council of the Federation with province-like powers to be at the table for all talks.
Bellegarde said there have been “attempts to sideline and segregate the AFN from participation in federal-provincial-territorial intergovernmental tables,” and limit and “marginalize” Indigenous involvement.
“We are not just another special interest group. An effective process for intergovernmental participation must reflect our status under the Constitution and international law as peoples and nations with inherent rights, title and jurisdiction,” Bellegarde said.
“First Nations will not accept an exclusionary and disrespectful approach.”
Bellegarde said there have been efforts by some provincial governments to block Indigenous groups from participating fully in climate change discussions, and health-care talks, for example. He would not specify which provinces were behind the alleged push for exclusion.
Indigenous organizations met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers at a first ministers’ meeting in December, where the national climate change strategy was signed by nearly all provinces. But they were not invited to partake fully in the day’s activities.
One leader told CBC News at the time that it felt like Indigenous leaders were put at the “kid’s table.”