The meeting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been promising with First Nations leaders will materialize on January 24, his office announced on December 1.
At this Crown–First Nations Gathering, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and a delegation of First Nation chiefs will meet with Harper, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan and other government representatives. It will be held somewhere in the National Capital Region, Harper’s office said.
Atleo welcomed the long-awaited announcement, which came after he and Harper met at the Prime Minister's offices on Thursday. He called it an opportunity for the federal government to “reset” its relationship with First Nations “to the one formed at the time of Treaty – based on partnership and respect,” he said in a statement.
“It is more and more evident to everyone that we need action to deal with the long-standing problems facing First Nations and Canada,” Atleo said. “We have communities in crisis that need action now, but we must stop lurching from crisis to crisis. This requires action and commitment to address systemic problems, and it requires that we work together.”
The meeting has been talked of since last December, when the blue-ribbon panel on aboriginal education was announced, and was mentioned again at the release of the Canada-First Nations Joint Action Plan in June, in which the government and the AFN set out a framework of mutual understanding, respect and accountability for moving their relationship forward.
The announcement came as the U.S. was holding its third official White House–Tribal Summit between American Indians and President Barack Obama.
Part of the Crown–First Nations Gathering will be webcast, and First Nations leaders who cannot attend in person will be able to participate via web in interactive breakout sessions, Harper’s office said.
“Our Government is taking real action to address important and pressing issues in First Nations communities,” said Prime Minister Harper. “I look forward to meeting with First Nations representatives early in the new year to determine how we can work together to further improve the quality of life and long-term economic prosperity of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.”