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BC Urgent Call for Federal Government Financial Support for Kelowna Accord

First Nations Leadership Council Joins with Premier Gordon Campbell and the entire Legislative Assembly of BC in an Urgent call for Federal Government Financial Support for Kelowna Accord Commitments

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For Immediate Release: May 4, 2006

(Coast Salish Territory) — The BC First Nations Leadership Council joined with Premier Gordon Campbell and the BC Government today in calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to live up to the financial commitments contained in the Kelowna Accord in order to address the critical socio-economic and infrastructure gaps suffered by First Nations.

The First Nations Leadership Council members were present in the BC Legislature today when a Special Statement on the New Relationship with Aboriginal People was tabled by Premier Campbell. The statement reaffirmed the BC Government’s commitment to the implementation of the Kelowna Accord and BC Transformative Change Accord. The statement also calls on the federal government to make available the long term financial resources necessary to uphold the honour of the Crown in addressing the disparate socio-economic conditions faced by First Nations.

The BC First Nations Leadership Council released the attached open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Hon. Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance and The Hon. Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The letter is in direct response to this week’s Federal Budget announcement which has provided a clear indication that the federal government is not willing to address the third world living conditions in Aboriginal communities by funding the commitments contained in the Kelowna Accord.

The First Nations Leadership Council’s open letter to Prime Minister Harper makes the following recommendations:

  • Your government uphold the honour of the Crown and fulfill the commitments made by Canada, provinces, territories and Aboriginal organizations made in the Kelowna Accord.
  • Your government amend the 2006 federal budget to include, at a minimum, the financial commitments set out in the Kelowna Accord (see enclosure);
  • A First Ministers’ Meeting on Aboriginal Issues be convened to address First Nations-Crown relations, fiscal imbalances faced by First Nations governments, Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada, and federal government responsibilities and legal obligations to provide services to First Nations peoples;
  • First Nations/Aboriginal peoples be fully represented in the federal/provincial/territorial Finance Ministers’ meeting to be held in the spring to consult on the federal government’s discussion paper, Restoring Fiscal Balance in Canada,
  • The full involvement and representation of Aboriginal peoples at the First Ministers’ Meeting to be held in the fall.

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The First Nations Leadership Council is comprised of the political executives of the First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC Assembly of First Nations. The Council works together to politically represent the interests of First Nations in British Columbia and develop strategies and actions to bring about significant and substantive changes to government policy that will benefit all First Nations in British Columbia.

For more information:
Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC (250) 490-5314
Grand Chief Edward John, FNS (604) 219-1705
Heather Gillies, BC AFN (604)837-6908

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May 4, 2006

Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Hon. Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Hon. Jim Prentice
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Honourable Ministers,

The BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs – together representing 203 First Nations in British Columbia and approximately 1/3 of the First Nations in Canada – are extremely disappointed with your government’s commitments to Aboriginal peoples in the 2006 federal budget. Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development made many public commitments to “put wheels on the Kelowna Accord,” and yet, your government has chosen not to uphold the honour of the Crown. Your government has reneged on this historic multi-government agreement, and has proceeded to unilaterally implement its own plan to address our issues without any consultations with us.

For the past two years, Aboriginal issues have finally been an important priority on the national agenda, including a First Ministers’ Meeting on Aboriginal Issues, which resulted in a significant ten-year plan to address the third world conditions in our communities. In this budget and recent Throne Speech, it is clear that Aboriginal issues are not a priority for your government.

The funds announced in your budget will do very little to remedy chronic under-funding or the crushing poverty and appalling socio-economic conditions of First Nations communities. True recognition, reconciliation and social justice with respect to lands, territories and resources, as well as and social and economic programs, are becoming even more distant goals.

Contrary to what your government has publicly indicated, the previous federal government confirmed that it had “booked” the Kelowna financial commitments in its fiscal framework. These were targeted to address critical socio-economic and infrastructure gaps as identified in the Kelowna Accord. The Kelowna Accord was the result of a collaborative process among the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and Aboriginal organizations across Canada, over the course of many months, to set out a long-term action plan to close the gap in standards of living of Aboriginal peoples. Your government has abandoned this Accord and your budget reflects only a fraction of the financial commitments already committed by the Government of Canada to help improve the quality of life for First Nations and Aboriginal Canadians.

Your government has committed to addressing the fiscal imbalance with the provinces, yet this budget does nothing to address the fiscal imbalance faced by First Nations governments. Spending on First Nations programs has been capped at 2% for the past ten years, and is far outpaced by rapid population growth and rising costs. Furthermore, the federal government has continued to offload both services and service delivery responsibilities to First Nations governments without requisite financial supports. We note also the commitment to offload services to provincial governments without consultation with, or the consent of, those governments or First Nations.

The federal government stated its intent to consult with provinces, territories and Aboriginal leaders to “develop a new approach”. The BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs support the “new approach” that was jointly developed over many months with provincial and federal governments, which culminated in the Kelowna Accord. In fact, in British Columbia, we have already created this new approach through the signing of the Transformative Change Accord by the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and BC First Nations (represented by the BC Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs).

Your government has stated that its new Aboriginal policy is to be based on “accountability and taking responsibility”. We strongly suggest that your government do the same, and uphold the honour of the Crown by fulfilling its commitments in the Kelowna Accord, and work with us in British Columbia to implement these commitments through the Transformative Change Accord.

The BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs recommend the following:

  • Your government uphold the honour of the Crown and fulfill the commitments made by Canada, provinces, territories and Aboriginal organizations made in the Kelowna Accord.
  • Your government amend the 2006 federal budget to include, at a minimum, the financial commitments set out in the Kelowna Accord (see enclosure);
  • A First Ministers’ Meeting on Aboriginal Issues be convened to address First Nations-Crown relations, fiscal imbalances faced by First Nations governments, Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada, and federal government responsibilities and legal obligations to provide services to First Nations peoples;
  • First Nations/Aboriginal peoples be fully represented in the federal/provincial/territorial Finance Ministers’ meeting to be held in the spring to consult on the federal government’s discussion paper, Restoring Fiscal Balance in Canada,
  • The full involvement and representation of Aboriginal peoples at the First Ministers’ Meeting to be held in the fall.

We await your positive response to this letter.

Yours truly,

FIRST NATIONS LEADERSHIP COUNCIL

On behalf of the FIRST NATIONS SUMMIT:
Grand Chief Edward John
Grand Chief Doug Kelly
Dave Porter

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS
Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Robert Shintah
Chief Mike Retasket

On behalf of the BC ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS:
Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo)

Encl.
cc. Hon. Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia
Hon. Carole Taylor, Minister of Finance
Hon. Tom Christensen, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Carole James, Leader of the Opposition
Bill Graham, Leader of the Opposition
Jack Layton, New Democratic Party Leader
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois Party Leader
Anita Neville, Liberal Critic – Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Dick Harris, BC Conservative Party Caucus Chair
Jean Crowder, NDP Critic – Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Marc Lemay, BQ Critic – Indian Affairs and Northern Development
National Chief Phil Fontaine, Assembly of First Nations
Jose Kusugak, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Clément Chartier, Métis National Council
Patrick Brazeau, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
Beverly Jacobs, President, Native Women’s Association of Canada
Hon. Ralph Klein, Premier of Alberta
Hon. Lorne Calvert, Premier of Saskatchewan
Hon. Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba
Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec
Hon. Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland/Labrador
Hon. Patrick Binns, Premier of Prince Edward Island
Hon. Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia
Hon. Bernard Lord, Premier of New Brunswick
Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier of Yukon Territory
Hon. Joe Handley, Premier of the Northwest Territories

 

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