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- Created: Wednesday, 09 October 2013 13:56
- Published: Wednesday, 09 October 2013 13:56
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By LAURA BEAULNE-STUEBING
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo says he fears the upcoming throne speech will feature the government's "paternalistic at best, and assimilationist at worst, approaches" toward aboriginal issues.
It's an approach "we've seen from every government. It's an annual activity," he said.
Taking questions from reporters on the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 Atleo said that -- with the arrival of UN special special rapporteur on indigenous rights, James Anaya -- now is the time to change the channel and set a different tone in the relationship between First Nations communities and the federal government.
Atleo outlined what he'd like to see in the throne speech, set for Oct. 16. The AFN, he said, wants four things: predictable and sustainable funding based on First Nations control; First Nations authority over education; a commitment to a full national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women; and reform of the comprehensive claims policy, which he says is "deeply flawed."
He added that First Nations are concerned about the upcoming and still yet unseen education bill, which some say could find itself in the throne speech.
Atleo said there's a shared sense among First Nations and the government about where the bill should go -- namely, that education shouldn't be in the hands of the minister for aboriginal affairs -- but not a shared sense of how to get there. The blueprint AANDC released back in July has been lambasted by communities, and by Atleo himself, as another example of paternalism on the government's side.
Monday marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 -- a document, seen by many as the "Magna Carta" for aboriginals in North America -- which laid the foundations for treaty-making between First Nations and the Crown.
Atleo said he welcomes statements made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston commemorating the proclamation's anniversary and noting its significance to Canadian history.
"It is an important moment," Atleo added. "What's even more important than the words that we're hearing, including the words that go back to the 2008 apology: it's time for action. Action on education, action on building our economies, action on supporting First Nations to develop and deliver a vision for sustainability for the living environment."
Days like Monday bring Canada's indigenous people to the international spotlight, as the country and its record on aboriginal issues comes under the microscope of the UN rapporteur, Atleo noted -- Anaya will tour Canada until Oct. 15.
Days like Monday also remind Canadians how little they know about aboriginal history.
"I think there's been greater support, perhaps, for many in Canada to understand the human rights plights of people in other parts of the world," Atleo said, noting an essay written by pollster Allan Gregg about the historic figure Tecumseh that picked up considerable attention this past weekend.
"I strongly encourage First Nations and all Canadians to participate in events here in Ottawa and across the country, to learn more about our shared history and our shared relationship, understanding that we all have responsibilities to uphold our promises to one another," he said.
"This is how we will move forward to realize the full potential of First Nations and Canada."
AFN regional chief Perry Bellegarde, from Saskatchewan, and other First Nations representatives are currently in London, U.K. to participate in events commemorating the Royal Proclamation.
After a reception at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Monday evening, Atleo will be heading to London as well for an event at the Canadian High Commission, putting emphasis on the relationship between First Nations and the Crown.
He will later to deliver speeches at Oxford University and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Laura Beaulne-Stuebing reports for iPolitics, where this article first appeared.