Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 14, 2013

Meeting ‘a step in the right direction’: minister

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to a follow-up meeting in coming weeks regarding First Nations treaty relationships, after meeting with chiefs in Ottawa Friday afternoon.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on January 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to a follow-up meeting in coming weeks regarding First Nations treaty relationships, after meeting with chiefs in Ottawa Friday afternoon.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is also the minister for the North, told the Star Friday afternoon that that day’s meeting was generally “positive” and a “step in the right direction.”

The next step agreed to is a “high level” dialogue between the prime minister and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, she said. (Atleo said today he is taking a medical leave from his job.)

Aglukkaq noted that while there wasn’t agreement on all issues, consensus was reached regarding the importance of addressing key concerns.

Action on education is one area in which the minister felt progress was made.

A widespread consultation in First Nations communities for a First Nations Education Act is on the agenda, although Aglukkaq could not provide specific timelines.

Regarding the decision of some chiefs not to attend Friday’s meeting, Aglukkaq said, “That’s their call.”

“I’ve always said in order to address any issue it’s about partnership; it’s about working together to address the matters at the table. Their decision not to participate; that’s their decision.

“I’ve worked with many First Nations chiefs across the country and I have a very positive working relationship with them, and I’m doing my part to address their concerns,” said the minister.

“So (Friday), I was looking forward to the dialogue and hearing first hand from them and hearing what some of their challenges are.”

In a release Friday, Atleo commented that some progress had been made during the day’s meetings.

“The prime minister listened respectfully to chiefs and responded to all they brought forward and for the first time, provided a clear mandate for high-level talks on treaty implementation. Prime Minister Harper also committed to high-level discussions on comprehensive claims,” Atleo said.

“The prime minister agreed that more central and political oversight was necessary to improve the relationship with First Nations.

“He also committed to quick follow-up on all of these matters and to an ongoing dialogue,” the release continued.

Local Idle No More organizer Cherish Clarke was a bit more skeptical of the “progress” made at the meeting.

“It seemed like there wasn’t really very much accomplished,” she said in an interview Sunday afternoon.

“But you can’t really expect a lot of things to happen in a four-hour meeting. But the prime minister has agreed to meet with Shawn Atleo again.

“I’m a little disappointed that there weren’t any changes made to Bill C-38 or C-45,” Clarke added.

“I think the chiefs are trying to make a difference but I think there has to be an even greater response and more support coming from the federal government.”

Bills C-38 and C-45 were both omnibus budget implementation bills brought forward this year and the source of a fair level of controversy resulting in multiple protests.

Clarke hadn’t yet had an opportunity to speak with either of the Yukon’s representatives at Friday’s meeting.

However, she noted that at a grassroots level, there was support for both AFN Regional Chief Mike Smith’s and Little Salmon/Carmacks Chief Eric Fairclough’s attendance.

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