Treaty 8 First Nations chiefs walked out of a meeting Wednesday with Premier Jason Kenney at Government House in Edmonton.
The meeting was held to discuss children in care and federal Bill C-92.
The ability for First Nations to take charge of their own social services came into effect on Jan. 1 under Bill C-92. The goal of the federal legislation, passed in June, is to improve the health and outcomes of Indigenous children under government care.
Chief Allan Adam with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said the walk-out was in response to the Alberta government not taking meetings with First Nations seriously.
“It’s just a check-box for Jason Kenney and his government to say, ‘Look, I’ve talked to the First Nations and everything is good,'” Adam said.
When asked to respond to Adam’s comments, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson said, “They’re a great bunch of guys and I actually made friends with most of them, and probably all of them.
“They just thought they had some different issues that they needed to address separately. It actually worked quite well because literally every chief got to speak directly with the premier, and the minister and got their ideas for how we can move forward.”
Adam also recently called out the UCP over its failure to consult and take meaningful action on environmental concerns around the Teck Frontier mine project.
In a public letter sent to the federal government and other chiefs, Adam said the Alberta government should be providing a share of tax revenue from major industrial projects with First Nations.
The letter also specifically asked chiefs to “send a strong message to the premier at the upcoming all chiefs meetings on Feb. 12.”
Athabasca Chipewyan is one of 14 First Nations and Metis communities that have signed participation agreements on the Teck mine.
After Wednesday’s walkout, Adam said the Treaty 8 First Nations fully intends to establish its own governance when it comes to children in care.
“We don’t want to put our kids in jeopardy anymore,” he said.
“I have for the past eight or nine months met with the first nation leaders across this province. Today, we heard a lot of the same feedback that I’ve been hearing over the last number of months.
I’m happy to meet with any leader who wants to sit down and discuss either specific nations concerns or as a group,” minister of children’s services Rebecca Schulz said.
Leaders from Treaty 6 and 7 First Nations stayed in the meeting.
“I feel like having dialogue was a good start, but (it’s) how the production goes from here,” Alexander First Nation chief Kurt Burnstick said.
“What happens next? If nothing is going to happen, with Alberta trying to change the way children are apprehended and put in care, then it’s really a waste of time.”
— With files from The Canadian Press