First Nations National President Rose Ann Archibald unveiled her organization’s top five demands for federal leaders in this election, and put a commitment from the winner to pursue the path of truth and reconciliation high on her list.
Archibald also said that the Conservative approach to Indigenous issues in this election was an improvement over what the party had done in previous elections. But she disagreed with Commander Erin O’Toole, who said it was time to raise the flags that had been lowered in honor of unmarked graves that had been identified at a number of boarding schools.
“I read somewhere that if we kept the flags half-fly every day for every kid we’ve discovered so far, the flag would stay half-fly for 11 to 17 years,” she said.
“I think the longer the flags stay at half mast really honors these kids, honors these little ones, honors our young children, honors our families, honors our communities.”
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Archibald said AFN’s top priorities fall under a theme called “The Healing Path Forward” and focus on five key issues including: truth and reconciliation, climate change, economic growth, respect for the First Nations mandate and rebuilding and strengthening Canada’s First Nations. .
“The topic, The Healing Path Forward, speaks to the need for a strategic direction toward evolutionary and positive change. There is a healing path forward, and we can achieve that by working together,” she said.
On the issue of pursuing truth and reconciliation, Archibald said federal leaders need to approve and properly fund a National Organization for Indigenous Healing, fully implement all calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report and provide resources to investigate unmarked graves. At residential school sites.
Supporting the ongoing search for unmarked graves remains at the top of the list of indigenous Canadians.
Ed Bitternose, a boarding school survivor from George Gordon First Nation, told CBC News he hadn’t seen enough from either party about it.
“I would like to hear from the government or politicians about what’s happening in First Nations in terms of small bodies or bodies on school sites, that there’s more partnership with their departments and that they’re talking about providing money or tools.”
Climate change and economic growth
On climate change, the AFN wants to include First Nations in policy discussions that affect land and water issues, support the creation of Indigenous Conservation Areas, and support the creation and implementation of Indigenous environmental regulations.
Archibald also said that the AFN would resist any government trying to reduce the role and influence of Indigenous voices when it comes to environmental assessment of natural resource projects.
WATCH: What would the Assembly of First Nations like to see from the leaders of the federal parties?
To boost Indigenous economic growth, AFN says it wants a post-pandemic recovery plan that will help First Nations become financially self-sufficient. AFN has also said it wants to give First Nations jurisdiction over the production and sale of cannabis and remove all regulatory hurdles.
The AFN also says it wants all autonomy agreements to be fully implemented and for the jurisdiction and sovereignty of indigenous peoples to be fully respected across the country.
Archibald said she would not support any party in the September 20 elections because she would have to remain independent in order to work with any party that went on to form a government.
“What I want to say is that there are many Aboriginals running across Canada, and I want to wish all the Aboriginal and First Nation candidates the absolute best in this election in their career… for any party no matter who they are,” she said.
The AFN national president also said that while her organization remains committed to working to get the Vatican to make a formal apology for its role in running boarding schools, she, as AFN’s chairwoman, will not go to the Vatican to request that apology. .
“The process of his invitation, I’d say we’re still working on it, but we’ve been very public that we want the Pope here in Canada to make this apology on Canadian soil,” she said.