HALIFAX _ First Nations leaders from across Canada are gathering in Halifax today for a regional summit on self-governance, with a focus on finding a pathway to nationhood for Indigenous Peoples in the Atlantic region known as Mi’kma’ki.
In a keynote address to hundreds of delegates, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said an overriding goal for First Nations is to exercise the right to self-determination.
He says it’s time to move beyond the Indian Act and recognize treaties _ intended to jointly benefit both settlers and Indigenous Peoples through shared land and resources.
Bellegarde says First Nations sovereignty will help address a yawning gap between the quality of life of First Nations compared to the rest of Canada.
Regional Chief Morley Googoo says First Nations never gave up the ability to govern themselves, and that the federal government is continuing to fail Indigenous communities.
He says the inaugural summit is an opportunity to examine different approaches to self-government taken in other areas, and the lessons learned.
“We need to improve the quality of life of our people, and get rid of the stigma that we’re getting so much money and just a taxpayer burden,” he says. “It’s crucial we work together as communities.”
The three-day summit at the Halifax Convention Centre features First Nations speakers from across the country, as well as a trade show with local Indigenous artisans.