The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations says Canada’s laws deny indigenous people their inherent rights.
Perry Bellegard was the opening speaker of the 38th First Nations General Assembly in Regina. He says Canada’s laws must be re-written.
“All of those laws, from Bill C38 to Bill C45 to Bill C51 to Bill C27,” Bellegarde said during his opening remarks. “All of those laws were not written to respect the recognition of rights and title, but they are based on the termination of rights and title. And that’s gotta change.”
Chief Bellegarde says children will be a prime focus of the annual meeting. He says the Assembly will also be focused on recent deaths in First Nations communities.
“So while we are all working to make progress on important issues,” Bellegarde said. “Like clean water and better housing and better education and housing and treaty rights and inherent rights. Preserving and revitalizing our languages. And so many other important things. We also need to stop the terrible loss of life.”
Bellegarde was referring specifically to the Colten Boushie story. The 22-year-old aboriginal man was shot and killed last year on a rural property west of Saskatoon.
“We all remember how the laying of charges in Colten’s case triggered an ugly online firestorm of racism and hatred,” Bellegarde said.
Chief Bellegarde also mentioned other incidents such as the story of Tammy Keeash, who died recently near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The 17-year-old girl from North Caribou Lake First Nation died by drowning, according to police in that region.
“The prevalence of racism and violence is very troubling, Bellegarde said. “It’s a sad truth that safety is an issue for our children and families in many places.”
The Assembly will also see Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennet speaking to the gathering.
As well, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will speak on the issue of regulatory reviews.