(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement to mark Canada Day on July 1, 2016:
“Canada Day is an opportunity to consider the tremendous contributions of First Nations to this land and all the people who live here. Canada was founded on Treaties and our nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown, sacred promises based on peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and sharing.
These agreements and promises are not simply part of our past. They are living agreements that are part of our present and our shared future. That relationship is the way forward.
In this time of Truth and Reconciliation, I ask Canadians to support our efforts to work towards a new future and a new Canada, one where we close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and others, and one where we honour and respect inherent rights, Aboriginal rights, Treaty rights, and title as envisioned in our original relationship.
The path forward is the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada embraced without qualification at the United Nations in May of this year. Now we must act together to ensure the UN Declaration is enshrined in Canadian law. Together with the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the UN Declaration is our guide to true reconciliation and a brighter future for us all.
This must be our goal. A stronger, more just country for all of us will ensure that all the peoples of this land have reason to celebrate when we join together next year to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.”