The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations has dissolved a protocol agreement it signed with Alberta’s UCP government last December that was supposed to help the two governments work together to address economic and social issues.
When it was signed, the two sides called it a solid foundation for genuine dialogue and a collaborative relationship to work on mutual priorities, but Grand Chief Okimaw Vernon Watchmaker says it didn’t work out that way.
“Signing that agreement was in good faith to work together, not one party to determine the other party’s future,” Watchmaker said in an interview with Global News on Wednesday.
Watchmaker said the UCP government has passed several pieces of legislation and introduced new policies that impact First Nations without any consultation, pointing to Bill 1, which prohibits protests on pieces of infrastructure deemed by the government to be critical, and the removal of the coal policy.
“We see a lot of things affecting our treaty position. Again, no consultation, no engagement,” Watchmaker said.
While the decision was made during an assembly meeting on May 12, it was publicly announced after Premier Jason Kenney made comments lamenting what he calls cancel culture as Canadians discuss removing names like Sir John A. Macdonald from public buildings.
“I think Canada is a great historical achievement. It is a country that people all around the world seek to join as new Canadians,” he said when asked his opinion during a media availability on Tuesday.
“It is an imperfect country, but it is still a great country, just as John Macdonald was an imperfect man but was still a great leader. If we want to get into cancelling every figure in our history who took positions on issues at the time that we now judge harshly and rightly in historical retrospective — but if that’s the new standard, then I think almost the entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled.”
Watchmaker called the comments appalling and insensitive.
In a statement, the government said it was disappointed with the confederacy’s decision to end the protocol agreement.
“Alberta’s government entered into this agreement in good faith, with the idea of working together in a spirit of respect and partnership to move forward our shared social and economic priorities,” the statement read.
“Protocol agreements chart a course for meaningful discussions, information sharing and a way to explore issues of mutual concern. It is our best path forward, and we will continue to work with the grand chief to find a solution that is good for us all.”