First Nations chiefs gather in Ottawa for special assembly

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Hundreds of First Nations chiefs from across Canada are gathering in Ottawa today for a special assembly.

The national meeting, hosted by the Assembly of First Nations, will discuss political strategy and policy on key issues, including the Trudeau government’s pledge to implement a bill harmonizing Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

New Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is to speak at the event later today, as are NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and B.C. Premier John Horgan.

Several other Liberal cabinet ministers will also address the assembly later this week, including Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Justice Minister David Lametti and Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.

But despite having attended chiefs assemblies last year, neither Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is on the schedule of expected speakers for the three-day event.

Trudeau and Scheer also skipped an AFN assembly earlier this year in Fredericton.

At an assembly in December, 2018, Trudeau touted his government’s work on Indigenous issues but faced pointed questions from some chiefs about the consultations with First Nations on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Scheer, meanwhile, was booed a few days later at the same assembly after he sidestepped a question from a participant about how he would differ former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper in his relationship with First Nations.

The meetings this week will have conversations among the chiefs and their designated delegates about safety and security concerns for First Nations women, since a national inquiry found earlier this year that violence endured by Indigenous women across Canada amounts to genocide.

Climate change, fiscal relations, economic and social development as well as inherent and treaty rights will also be up for discussion.

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