(Ottawa, ON): Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today called for First Nations involvement in the design, development, and delivery of Canada’s Climate Change plan to ensure any strategy respects and upholds First Nations rights. The National Chief made the comments in advance of tomorrow’s meeting of National Aboriginal Organizations and First Ministers on Climate Change taking place in Vancouver, BC.
“First Nations are the first to feel the impacts of climate change and we have an invaluable contribution to make to these discussions, but we must be at the table as partners,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Actions aimed at mitigating climate change must respect the fact that we have rights as well as responsibilities to our traditional territories.”
The National Chief has been meeting in Vancouver over the past two days with First Nations leaders and experts to confirm the AFN’s plan and approach for the First Ministers Meeting on March 2. First Nations representatives from across the country participated in discussions and provided input to the AFN’s approach, developed at a number of assemblies and gatherings over the years. Participants put forward recommendations, including implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as part of this work.
“Delegates spoke passionately about the need to protect our lands and waters, traditional foods and sacred places for future generations,” added National Chief Bellegarde. “The AFN represents First Nations rights holders – our citizens and our governments – and it is essential that as rights holders we have a say at any gatherings where our rights could be affected. That includes First Ministers Meetings. I commend the Prime Minister for recognizing this reality.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in February that he and the Premiers would meet with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis leaders on March 2, 2016. The meeting is part of the follow up to the commitments made on climate change held late last year in Paris, France. The National Chief and AFN representatives were involved in the COP21 meetings.