AFN Chief calls for First Nations plan to address climate change

VANCOUVER – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other First Nations leaders and representatives met today with First Ministers in Vancouver, BC and urged the federal and provincial governments to act immediately on a First Nations plan to address climate change.

“We approach the problem of climate change with the best interest of all people in mind, not just our own peoples, for we are all of one mother – Mother Earth,” AFN National Chief Bellegarde said in his address to the First Ministers. “First Nations are the first to feel the impacts of climate change and we possess invaluable Traditional Knowledge to contribute to solving this crisis. We are anxious to share our Traditional Knowledge and experience to benefit all peoples. We know how to protect the lands and waters. To do so, we must be directly involved in the design, development and delivery of Canada’s climate change strategy.”

National Chief Bellegarde set out the key elements of a First Nations approach to mitigating climate change and helping Canada meet its commitments from the COP21 gathering in Paris, France last year. The action plan calls for:

  • Full inclusion of First Nations with federal, provincial and territorial governments.
  • Capacity building, including the creation of an Indigenous carbon fund to increase capacity for First Nations to advocate and address climate change.
  • Full recognition of First Nations rights and title.
  • Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the principle of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent”.
  • Balance, which requires slowing down developments that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and moving towards clean, green energy solutions that will create employment and wealth for all people.
  • Resumption of constitutional discussions with full collaborative participation to address outstanding issues on Aboriginal and Treaty rights. This is a necessary and overdue discussion that impacts discussions on climate change and all work on recognition, respect and reconciliation of First Nations rights, title and jurisdiction.
  • Addressing the issue of assumed Crown sovereignty and working with the title and rights holders to give life and recognition to First Nations title and rights.

“We must take action now because the crisis is real and it is upon us,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We must think not only of our children, and what we leave them, but we must think of the impacts of the decisions we make today, and the impacts for seven generations into the future.  We must not underestimate the urgency or the enormity of the challenge. But working together, we will succeed.”

The meeting is part of the follow up to the commitments made at the COP21 meeting on climate change held late last year in Paris, France. The National Chief and AFN representatives were involved in the COP21 meetings.

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