AFN Chief: Conservative Party Platform does not do enough to close the gap

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

OTTAWA, Oct. 14, 2015 /CNW/ – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said the Conservative Party of Canada election platform released on Friday, October 9 is a limited response to First Nations priorities as set out in the AFN’s Closing the Gap: 2015 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada.

“The Conservative Party platform does not do enough to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canada,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde.

“The platform identifies some new investments and these are welcome and necessary because our people and communities are dealing with chronic under-funding. Closing the gap, though, requires a comprehensive vision for long-term change and a commitment to a new relationship as set out in our Closing the Gap priorities document. If the Conservative Party wants a strong economy then they must invest more in strong First Nations and work with us for real change.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper released the Conservative Party of Canada platform last Friday in Surrey, B.C.. The plan focuses on the Canadian economy. The chapter “Supporting economic and social development for Aboriginal Canadians” includes commitments to opt-in private property legislation; limited follow-up on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, with support for suicide awareness and prevention, research funding for palliative care services in First Nations communities, rural broadband expansion, expanding anti-gang programming, and increased funding and support for Aboriginal languages; investments in Aboriginal skills and training and bursaries for post-secondary education; and work with “willing partners” on education. There are other commitments involving Indigenous peoples in other areas of the platform. It is notable that the chapter on “Responsible resource development” does not mention Indigenous peoples or rights or the principle of free, prior and informed consent as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The commitment to supporting First Nations languages is important and this needs to be done on an urgent basis to ensure our languages and our identities survive,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

“Overall, the platform is a limited response, especially compared to the comprehensive responses to our Closing the Gap agenda put forward by the Green Party, Liberal Party and New Democratic Party. All parties need to understand that our people matter, our priorities matter and our votes matter.”

The National Chief stated that the AFN will be releasing a summary of all party platforms and commitments to First Nations this week. The National Chief encourages all First Nations people to cast an informed vote in this federal election.

For more information on First Nation priorities for the federal election and Closing the Gap in quality of life between First Nations people and Canadians please visit:

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

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