APTN National News
The United Nations is paying for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to attend one of the most anticipated environmental conferences in history.
Through the UN Development Programme, National Chief Perry Bellegarde and AFN NWT Regional Chief Bill Erasmus are confirmed to attend the COP 21 gathering in Paris.
For months the AFN has been preparing to contribute to international talks on climate change.
According to a statement from the AFN, the organization has been involved in a number of activities leading up to COP21,
“And we will be there (in Paris) to raise our voices to ensure there is a real commitment to action and an approach that protects our lands and respects our rights.”
There are just 34 days left until the start of the gathering in Paris where world leaders will come together to develop a strategy to combat the threat of climate change.
According to COP21 officials, “for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.”
Last July the AFN adopted a resolution specifically referencing COP21 that called on Canada and Member States along with UN agencies, funds and programmes to support Indigenous representation in Paris.
According to the Liberal party, Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau plans to invite Indigenous leaders to join the Canadian delegation to Paris, however it’s not clear when the invitation will be sent out or who will be invited.
Canada is scrambling to develop a strategy of its own to participate in the event.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told APTN National News that Canada is not ready.
She said the former Harper Conservative government allowed the issue to fall on the back burner.
May said the last draft she saw of Canada’s negotiations for Paris were “awful, weak and not nearly enough of anything to deliver what the world needs.”
May flew to Ottawa last week for a meeting with Trudeau.
He has since invited Canada’s premiers and environmental leaders to join the Canadian delegation going to Paris as well as committing to a meeting with provincial leaders within 90 days of the UN event to follow up.
The new Liberal government has said it plans to begin working on building a nation to nation relationship with Canada’s First Nations as well as adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
According to UNDRIP, industrial development activities that threaten the livelihood of Indigenous Peoples is a violation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
Bellegarde said First Nations must be taken seriously on the issue of climate change.
“First Nations must be part of dialogue and decision-making on climate change at all levels. Indigenous peoples are often the first to feel the effects of climate change and we have traditional knowledge that should inform the discussions and Indigenous rights must be respected in any plans and agreements.”