Southern chiefs express disappointment in premier meeting
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/09/2021 (388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba southern First Nations say they’re not impressed with new, temporary Premier Kelvin Goertzen, arguing the PC party’s more collaborative tone needs to translate into actually changing its policies.
“I am afraid until a new premier and administration are in place, we are looking at the tragic legacy of Brian Pallister’s status quo,” Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels wrote in a news release Monday.
He was among senior chiefs who met Sept. 10 with Goertzen as the Progressive Conservatives try healing their relationship with Indigenous leaders.
Goertzen is premier for a two-month period as the PCs elect a new leader. Former premier Pallister resigned after some of the worst COVID-19 outcomes in Canada and comments about colonizers many deemed racist.
The premier’s office said it had a productive conversation with First Nations leaders, but Daniels argued it lacked substance.
He said the PCs need to rule out any legislation that could violate Indigenous people’s right to peaceful protest, after the government shelved a bill that sought to criminalize rail blockades.
First Nations want better consultation on issues such as hunting, and adequate funding for foster care and road repairs, Daniels said.
“For them to continue to ignore us will only serve to further exacerbate our seriously fractured relationship,” he wrote.
First Nations are also planning legal action over restrictions on smoking indoors and cannabis sales, which they believe violate their constitutional autonomy.
Daniels claimed Goertzen had no response when asked how he would help bridge the life-expectancy gap faced by First Nations. A 2019 report found it has been worsening, with non-Indigenous Manitobans living on average 11 years longer than First Nations.
Goertzen’s office did not refute that claim, instead saying the premier set up the meeting with the five most senior chiefs in the province “for an important and honest discussion” on Indigenous priorities, wrote spokeswoman Olivia Billson.
“The meeting was productive and premier Goertzen looks forward to continued dialogue on future opportunities and matters of concern.”
Before Friday’s meeting, First Nations and Métis leaders said they were pleased to speak with Goertzen shortly before he was sworn in as premier Sept. 1, but said they needed a change in policy.
Those leaders were also pleased Goertzen was open to implementing an Indigenous land acknowledgement in the legislature, but Daniels argued that’s insignificant.
“The interim premier and everyone in his caucus need to understand that repairing our fractured relationship goes way beyond public land acknowledgements or trotting out the minister of Indigenous reconciliation in a beaded vest for public appearances,” he wrote.