Federal gov't disputes Sask. First Nation's claim that it was threatened with third party management
By Kerry Benjoe, Leader-Post (Regina)
The federal government disputes claims by the Peepeekisis Cree Nation.
On Monday, the chief and council held a press conference on the First Nation to announce that it will not sign the proposed amending contribution funding agreement (CFA) for 2013-14.
The First Nation said it would not sign the agreement because Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) included amendments to the CFA without consultation.
Peepeekisis Chief and council went on to add that AANDC did not respond to meeting requests and that they were informed that the First Nation would be placed under third party management if it refused to sign the agreement.
On Tuesday, AANDC released a statement disputing the claims by Peepeekisis.
It outlined three points:
- First Nations citizens and governments are free, like all Canadians, to assert their rights through the courts, including their right to challenge laws and government actions;
- Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed in Canada's Constitution;
- First Nations citizens and governments, like all Canadians, are bound by laws adopted by the Parliament of Canada, unless a court is persuaded that a law infringes on a constitutionally protected right.
AANDC added that if any First Nation is concerned with funding agreements, it should contact its regional office.
Peepeekisis, however, demanded a meeting with the Bernard Val-court, minister of AANDC.
An AANDC spokesperson added that AANDC officials are pre-pared to meet again with Council at their earliest convenience to further understand and discuss the exact nature of their concerns respecting the 2013-2014 funding agreement amendment. Adding that it welcomes the opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns, clarify the meaning of certain clauses and address concerns where possible.
AANDC said that Peepeekisis was not being forced into third-party management if it didn't sign the new funding agreement but that alternative approaches to program and service delivery are made to ensure the health, safety and continued delivery of essential services to the community.
On Monday, Chief Micheal Koochicum said it was unfair to place the First Nation under third-party management.
"Our Cree Nation is no where near having to be put under third-party management. We are in good financial standing and have strong administrative staff," he said. "This is the government's way of reprimanding us and forcing us to sign this agreement. We will stand up for what we believe in. It is our treaty right to govern ourselves and it is our inherent right."
Richard Ironquill, a Peepeekisis councillor, said a letter has been sent to AANDC requesting a meeting with the minister and until a response is received the First Nation will not sign any such agreement.
"If the regional office is willing to negotiate those changes on our CFA, which is to leave off amendments for this year and there was room for negotiation, which they already said they can't do at their office, I can't see what having a meeting with regional representatives will (do)," he said. "We already met with them three times."