(Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam who was not invited to the meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pleads his case to AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. Photo: Brandi Morin)
APTN National News
Chiefs from across Canada, the Metis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami met in Vancouver Monday, ahead of a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premiers to discuss climate change.
A delegation ten from each organization will sit down Wednesday afternoon.
It is an issue that chiefs need to form a collective position on in order to survive, said Assembly of First Nation Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.
“We need to send a very strong message because this is about life and death right now,” said Day. “Let us not lax. Let us not be weak in our resolve about this meeting that’s going to be happening.”
Some First Nation communities in Northern Ontario are feeling the repercussions of climate change via the early melting of winter ice roads leaving them cut off from the outside world.
The problem will only continue to get worse as the planet warms, said Day who is recommending that the AFN develop a Climate Change Accord that will see First Nations, federal and provincial governments sign off on.
Day said the meeting will be a test as to the nation to nation building promises made by the Trudeau government.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde thinks the meeting is a good start, but he’s more concerned about what will come out of it.
“It’s more important now to have Indigenous Peoples at every decision making table going forward so that our worldview and our respect for the land and water is front and foremost so that we leave and protect things for future generations,” said Bellegarde.
He said the government is caught between a rock and a hard place.
The conflict between working to cut greenhouse gas emissions while continuing to push for oil and gas developments is a result of a global over dependence on fossil fuels.
“We know we can’t immediately put a stop to oil and gas development but we sure as heck can put in a plan and strategies to transition,” said Bellegarde. “We have to start moving very rapidly to strategies that look at clean energy – solar, wind, geo-thermal, hydro. And those jobs that are lost from the economy, from oil and gas, those can be picked up in other sectors. Let’s put our minds and heads and hearts together and find the common ground so that future generations will have something left.”
Bellegarde called climate change an international issue and said Indigenous voices need to play a role in finding the solutions.
“We need to get the whole world to understand that Indigenous Peoples are affected first and foremost by climate change,” said Bellegarde. We haven’t been part of the problem, but I know we are and will be a part of the solution to this huge international issue.”
Representatives from the Metis National Council also met in Vancouver to prepare for the meeting.
MNC President Clement Chartier said climate change impacts are critical to the livelihood of the Metis Nation.
Even though Metis have unique challenges with governments recognizing rights due to being dispossessed from lands and resources, many live in their traditional territories which makes them have every right to be at the table.
“It’s not a matter of some governments coming to the table talking about dollars and cents and the economy and so forth, but it’s that they’re actually taking seriously Indigenous Peoples,” he said.
“But they’re also following through with the international community on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which recognizes the role that Indigenous Peoples and governments must play in terms of climate change and other matters,” said Chartier. “I respect the Trudeau government for inviting us here to be a part of this conversation.”
The meeting takes place Wednesday afternoon following a speech by Trudeau at the 2016 Globe conference on sustainability and economic development.