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OTTAWA 24 Jan 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets First Nations chiefs

Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a long-awaited Crown-First Nations summit with chiefs of Canada’s aboriginal groups to

February 24, 2012 - NULL

OTTAWA 24 Jan 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets First Nations chiefs

Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a long-awaited Crown-First Nations summit with chiefs of Canada's aboriginal groups to talk about federal aboriginal policy, particularly regarding health, housing and education. The touchy issues include the 1876 Indian Act, the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, and a proposal that would allow natives to own private property within the communal land of reserves.

This gathering represents the first meeting for Harper with the collective First Nation leadership.

Describing the Indian Act in December as a "19th-century relic

OTTAWA 24 Jan 2012 Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets First Nations chiefs

Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a long-awaited Crown-First Nations summit with chiefs of Canada's aboriginal groups to talk about federal aboriginal policy, particularly regarding health, housing and education. The touchy issues include the 1876 Indian Act, the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, and a proposal that would allow natives to own private property within the communal land of reserves.

This gathering represents the first meeting for Harper with the collective First Nation leadership.

Describing the Indian Act in December as a "19th-century relic," First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said its "failed colonial policies" are the biggest obstacle to progress. The Act, which still governs First Nations, created reserves as communal plots of land owned and managed by the federal government for use by status Indians. If the change proposed by Conservative legislators comes about, according to the Globe and Mail, it would be easier for individuals on reserves to accumulate wealth and use homes as collateral when seeking bank loans to start businesses.

The proposal arrives as federal aboriginal policy is coming under close scrutiny because of conditions the newspaper terms "shameful" on dozens of reserves across Canada. In recent weeks, graphic images of poverty have come out of the tribal town of Attawapiskat, Ontario, highlighting the wider housing crisis for the country's aboriginals. The federal government has appointed a third-party manager to take over the First Nation's finances, another point of contention between the government and the chiefs.

The proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines are causing contention. A coalition of 130 aboriginal groups said in December it will create a human wall to prevent the proposed Northern Gateway, which would run from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, from going ahead. Many groups also oppose the proposed Keystone XL project, a Trans-Canada Corp. pipeline, which would connect Canada's oil sands to refineries on the United States Gulf Coast.

Other issues for the meeting include: education, clean drinking water, justice, health, treaty and land claim rights, residential schools, First Nations governance, environment and economic partnerships and social welfare.

Part of the Crown-First Nations summit will be webcast. The organizers are promising an "aggressive social media and online presence . . . to foster dialogue in the topics being discussed."(WRITTEN Dec 2011)

RELATED READING:

Ottawa proposes first nations property ownership (Globe&Mail 14 Dec 2011)
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-proposes-first-nations-property-ownership/article2271788/?cmpid=nl-news1

Atleo says Indian Act blocks First Nations progress (CBC 6 Dec 2011)
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/story/2011/12/06/pol-afn-special-chiefs-meeting.html

Canada's First Nations: a scandal where the victims are blamed (Guardian 2 Dec 2011)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/11/canada-third-world-first-nation-attawapiskat?newsfeed=true

Long-Awaited Summit Between Harper and First Nations Set for Jan. 24 (Indian Country 2 Dec 2011)
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/12/02/long-awaited-summit
-between-harper-and-first-nations-set-for-jan-24-65609

CONTACTS:

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or [email protected]

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-292-0857 or [email protected]

Date written/update: 2012-02-24