Indigenous groups won’t meet provinces under current rules: Inuit leader

EDMONTON — Canada’s national Inuit leader says Indigenous groups are unlikely to appear at future provincial and territorial meetings under rules the premiers have developed.

“If nothing changes, we would not participate next year,” Natan Obed of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said Tuesday.

Three of Canada’s main aboriginal organizations chose not to attend a meeting with the premiers on Monday before the leaders convened for their annual summer gathering. Those sitting out included Obed’s group, the Assembly of First Nations and the Metis National Council.

Obed said the boycott was due to ground rules set out in a letter from Yukon premier and council chairman Sandy Silver to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, said the premiers would only meet with aboriginal groups outside the formal premiers meeting. It said the premiers would set an agenda and determine who would attend. It also stipulated the premiers would not share documents with Indigenous leaders.

“As appropriate, consideration can be given to the inclusion of representative lndigenous leaders and organizations outside of the formal setting of (federal-provincial-territorial) meetings (eg., pre-meeting events),” says the letter dated April 5.

That’s not good enough any more, said Obed.

“We won’t accept to be add-ons to the process,” he said. “We feel we were participating at the discretion and under the rules of the public government leaders.

“Making decisions together is not something that some premiers are willing to do.”

Indigenous leaders recognize the premiers have a different role, Obed said, and the three groups that didn’t attend were only asking for a half-day within the formal council agenda.

He said they hope the federal government will put pressure on the provinces to change the rules around Indigenous participation.

“The federal government will also play a very key role. We have confidence in this progressive government.”

Obed said he expects the provinces will change their approach.

“We hope we won’t be in a similar situation next year.”

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