Editor’s note: This story originally stated the AFN supports the federal government’s proposal for a new legal framework for Indigenous people. However, the AFN has made it clear it does not support the framework process. We regret the error.
A group of protesters gathered outside an Edmonton hotel Wednesday, where an Assembly of First Nations meeting was taking place.
Inside the Edmonton Inn & Conference Centre, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde was addressing a couple hundred delegates at the Four Policies and Nations Building Forum.
Outside the hotel, a large crowd chanted and held up signs.
The protesters are opposed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proposal for a new legal framework for Indigenous people.
One of the concerns appeared to be over what demonstrators called the Canadian government’s “White Paper 2.0.”
The 1969 White Paper (officially entitled Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian policy) was a proposal by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his then-Minister of Indian Affairs Jean Chrétien, which would have abolished the Indian Act, and all existing treaties within Canada, and eliminated Indian Status.
Reserve status would have been abolished and the laws of private property imposed in Indigenous communities. The White Paper was met with widespread criticism and its proposal was withdrawn in 1970.
The AFN said in a tweet that forum delegates were “gathering to discuss the tools required to implement rights and enforce jurisdiction.”
A news release from the AFN said the forum would be looking at ways to advance and deal with obstacles on the four key federal policies that require fundamental change: the Specific Claims policy, the Additions to Reserves policy, the Comprehensive Land Claims policy and the Inherent Right policy.
Those in the crowd said they are being left out of critical discussions and proposed policy changes that will affect their treaty rights.
A number of elders and band members took their message inside Wednesday’s forum, saying both the AFN and federal government aren’t doing enough to consult with Indigenous people.
“We’d like the full information but we’re not getting that,” protester Rachel Snow said. “AFN has not critically analyzed any of the things that the federal government is doing. Instead, they’re spinning yarns that these are going to actually be good for our people in the long run.”
Bellegarde said he has similar concerns, that government policies need to be fixed with consultation and time.
“I would say they’re saying the same things we’re saying. It’s First Nations people saying the same thing,” Bellegarde said. “We want to make sure it’s a First Nations-led process. We want to make sure there’s adequate time for people to understand what’s going on.
“We’re also saying and agreeing that June is too tight a time frame. So we’re saying the same things. We have to work together collectively to make sure we get things done in a proper manner.”
Trudeau laid out the proposed framework in April in the federal budget.
The protest appeared to have wrapped up by 12:30 p.m.