Alberta Premier Danielle Smith does not respect nor understand Treaty rights, the Confederacy of Treaty 6 Nations said after meeting with her.
Smith met with Treaty 6 chiefs for the first time since being elected on Wednesday morning — a meeting the chiefs said was scheduled before the transfer of provincial leadership in October.
In a statement afterwards, the Confederacy of Treaty 6 Nations said the meeting does not constitute Smith’s duty to consult Indigenous peoples on matters of mutual concern.
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The chiefs also urged Smith to withdraw Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, because it asserts jurisdiction over Treaty lands and peoples.
Treaty 6 territory covers the central portions of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The treaty says each First Nation is its own governing entity, and respect and recognition must be given to the authority of each First Nation government.
The treaty also states that First Nations never relinquished their right to nationhood, nor did they allow any foreign government to govern them. This means they have an inherent right to determine their own destinies.
“It was clear from our discussions that Premier Smith does not understand Treaty or our inherent rights nor does she respect them,” the statement read.
“We do not agree that an invitation on the day of the Throne Speech is an inclusive approach to hearing Albertans and Indigenous voices in a meaningful way for such a dangerous piece of legislation.
“The premier will not dictate how we will be consulted — we point her once again to the duty to consult to learn more about how to engage and work with us appropriately.”
The meeting comes after Indigenous leaders across Alberta called on the premier to withdraw the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, which was passed on Dec. 8.
The bill would allow Smith and her cabinet to pursue a more confrontational approach with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government on a range of issues deemed unconstitutional or an overreach in provincial areas of responsibility.
Concerns over the bill were raised by Treaties 6, 7 and 8 chiefs in Alberta after they said there has been no consultation with First Nations when it comes to the act. It’s yet another barrier to Truth and Reconciliation, they said.
The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations has also called for it to be withdrawn.
Indigenous leaders also said the act is an infringement on treaty rights and previously asked Lt. Gov. Salma Lakhani to step in.
However, Wednesday’s meeting was not considered “appropriate consultation” in regard to the Sovereignty Act.
“This is the first time Treaty 6 chiefs will meet with Premier Smith. This meeting will not be considered appropriate consultation in regards to the Sovereignty Act,” read a news release issued before the meeting.
Alberta’s Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson previously said he’s heard the concerns about the Sovereignty Act and the province “will continue to work with the chiefs.”
“Should we have done more consultation? Absolutely,” Wilson said in the legislature on Dec. 7.
“So we’re continuing to work with the chiefs.
“I’ve met with other Indigenous leaders who didn’t have the same concerns, who felt that it actually might help them with their natural resources, to make sure they can get them out.
“We have to really listen to the chiefs. They do have Treaty rights and we have to respect that. And that’s why we put the clauses in there that we will respect their Treaty rights.”
When asked for a response to the chiefs’ statement that Smith doesn’t understand or respect treaty rights, the premier’s office said:
“Earlier today, the premier had a meeting with the Treaty 6 chiefs to continue building and strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities across Alberta. We look forward to continued engagement as we work together towards reconciliation and addressing the issues faced by our Indigenous and Metis communities.”
— With files from Emily Mertz and Jessika Guse, Global News