Alberta’s new Indigenous relations minister said Tuesday that he hasn’t heard concerns about an apparent lack of acknowledgement of Indigenous land when members of his government speak at functions.
He spoke about the issue after a prominent First Nations leader raised concerns about an apparent change in policy on the matter.
“I haven’t heard that at all,” Rick Wilson told reporters. “In my area, what they’re really concerned about is the economy and I’m hearing that strong from all the chiefs.
“They want to be involved with us. They want to partner with us on the economy.”
Ted Bauer, a spokesperson for Wilson’s department, said “there is no official policy,” when asked for clarification from Global News.
On Tuesday, Wilton Littlechild, the grand chief of Treaty No. 6, issued a news release saying he read an announcement from the new Alberta government that Indigenous land acknowledgements, which had been common practices among NDP MLAs when they formed government, would now be a matter of personal preference for UCP MLAs.
“[It’s] disrespectful,” Littlechild said.
The chief, who is a former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada, pointed out that the TRC Report says that “all Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships” and practise doing so in everyday life and in government.
“I think it’s a very serious mistake and sets back all the good faith efforts by many across Alberta who have advanced reconciliation by this simple gesture of acknowledging the historical fact that Treaty territories existed before Alberta became a province,” he said. “I would urge both Premier Kenney and Minister Wilson to rethink this decision and withdraw it if they are serious about wanting to work with us as partners.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Truth and Reconciliation.
Wilson is the MLA for Maswacis-Wetaskiwin, which has a number of First Nations in the constituency.
“I personally do the land recognition,” he said. “It’s a part of my constituency as Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin, so for me, I do it.”
In the legislature earlier this month, former Indigenous relations minister Richard Feehan, the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, asked Wilson if the UCP government acknowledges “the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which outline the right of Indigenous people to free, prior and informed consent with matters regarding their treaty rights outlined in six, seven and eight?”
Wilson thanked Feehan for the question and said he would look into it.