First Nations Summit: What Stephen Harper And National Chief Shawn Atleo Said (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to First Nations chiefs from across Canada Tuesday morning.
He called for creative changes to the Indian Act but said he had no plans to abolish the document that some First Nations leaders call an outdated relic which fosters a relationship of dependency.
While Harper’s speech was met with polite clapping, the chiefs gave their own leader, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations’ Shawn Atleo, a standing ovation for his comments.
What did both men say?
Here’s The Huffington Post Canada’s version of he said, he said.
ON THE WAR OF 1812
HARPER: Noted aboriginal participation.<br><br> "We have the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, this year, in which aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples joined under the Crown. Ultimately laying the basis for a distinct country in the northern half of this continent," he said.<br><br> ATLEO: Said British North America would not have won the war against the United States without the participation of First Nations.<br><br> "It is no exaggeration to say that without the courage and military skills of First Nation leaders and warriors in the War of 1812 that followed, Canada might be a very different place today. Our ancestors were central to every campaign and to the ultimate victory," he said. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
ON ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
HARPER: Suggested that First Nations people work with the oil sands industry to achieve a quick path to prosperity.<br><br> "With inspired leadership, energy and enterprise, some bands have already shown that First Nations people are as quick to prosper, as capable of excellence and as able to enjoy all that Canada's vibrant economy has to offer them. I think of B.C.'s Haisla First Nation, partners in the massive Kitimat LNG project that will deliver training, employment and rich economic and social benefits to the community for decades to come. Or the Alberta First Nations, whose band-owned companies, do hundreds of millions of dollars a year in business with oil sands producers, employing thousands of aboriginal people in skilled, high-paying jobs."<br><br> ATLEO: Suggested First Nations invest in greener energy.<br><br> "Many of our communities are already moving forward, taking economic matters into their own hands, in sectors like clean energy and technology." (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
ON HARPER'S APOLOGY FOR RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS
HARPER: Said it was most of his most rewarding days in office to fix a wrong.<br><br> "That is why one of my most rewarding days in office was when I rose in the House to deliver an apology to those students. We acknowledged that sad chapter in our history. We repudiated the thinking that lay behind it. And, we went beyond symbolism," he said.<br><br> ATLEO: Said Harper's apology had set the stage for Tuesday's meeting. "The historic Apology, made possible by the leadership of Prime Minister Harper set the course for reconciliation - a journey together that helped enable today's gathering," he said. (Mike Carroccetto/Getty Images)
ON THE INDIAN ACT OF 1876
HARPER: Said he would not get rid of the Act but would bring in incremental changes.<br><br> "Our Government has no grand scheme to repeal or to unilaterally re-write the Indian Act. After 136 years, that tree has deep roots blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. However, there are ways creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our Government, the provinces, and First Nations leadership and communities, ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change. That will be our approach. "<br><br> ATLEO: Said the Act was a painful obstacle to building any new relationship.<br><br> "Built on the disgraceful premise of our inferiority, aimed at assimilation and the destruction of our cultures - it was a complete abrogation of the partnership between respectful nations. Largely unchanged, it remains a painful obstacle to re-establishing any form of meaningful partnership. It is well past time that we began to undo the damage that Act has inflicted on our peoples, and to our partnership. For, from it grew the reserve system, the tragedy of residential schools and offensive prohibitions on our cultural and spiritual practices, a breach of faith that has devastated families and communities ever since,"ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)
ON THE PLACE WHERE THE MEETING IS BEING HELD
HARPER: Noted the meeting was taking place on traditional Algonquin territory, but spent more time talking about the building, 111 Sussex Drive, which his government had renamed after former Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker.<br><br> "A building whose name honours the memory of a prime minister who cared deeply about the things we are gathered here to talk about: respect, rights and opportunity for First Nations Canadians," Harper said.<br><br> ATLEO: Made no mention of the building but acknowledged the Algonquin territory and the leaders of the Algonquin nation.<br><br> "It was the Algonquins who greeted newcomers to their lands on the shores of the Ottawa River in front of us here," he said. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/mrpolyonymous/" target="_hplink">Flickr: mrpolyonymous' photostream</a>)
HARPER: Stressed the need get marketable labour skills.<br><br> "Such will be the demand for labour in our future economy that we are positioned today to unlock the enormous economic potential of First Nations people and to do so in a way that meets our mutual goals. Canada's growing and vibrant economy will require a skilled and growing labour force in every region: urban, rural and remote.Aboriginal peoples are Canada's youngest population. It is therefore in all of our interests to see aboriginal people educated, skilled and employed," he said.<br><br> ATLEO: Also stressed education but said that started with funding adequate schools.<br><br> "Collectively, First Nations leaders made education our top priority. Our kids, just like every Canadian family's children, deserve good schools. That's basic, that's proof of respectful partnership...Our people can make an enormous contribution to Canada if we tackle these obstacles. Our people are the youngest, fastest growing community in a Canadian labour force that is rapidly aging. Closing the education and employment gaps for our people would contribute 400 billion dollars to the national economy and save 115 billion in expenditures," he said. (ADAM JAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ON TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
HARPER: Said he wanted to make First Nations more transparent.<br><br> "We have tabled bills to strengthen First Nations governance, with 21st century rules on elections and transparency... Our goal is to promote improved governance."<br><br> ATLEO: Said First Nations were being unnecessarily burdened with paperwork.<br><br> "We are committed to financial accountability yet this must be mutual accountability from the Government as well. Former Auditor General Sheila Fraser undertook 32 audits related to First Nations. She concluded that the quality of life conditions had actually gotten worse after her decade of study... We struggle under layer upon layer of wasteful bureaucratic interference, useless and expensive controls are piled upon our people - squandering tax dollars and frustrating change. Now, we must turn this around - increase the rate and pace of change so that all First Nations children can achieve success.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
ON THEIR GOALS FOR FIRST NATIONS
HARPER: Said he wants to create self-sufficient citizens, self-governing communities and full participants in Canadian society.<br><br> "Our goal is much increased aboriginal participation in the economy and in the country's prosperity... In terms of participation, standard of living and quality of life the time has come for First Nations to fully share with other Canadians from all walks of life in an equal opportunity to find the dignity of gainful employment and more than that, the ability to raise a family in the security that comes with it."<br><br> Harper said the way forward was Joint Action Plan and new commitments on change the rules in education, accountability, economic development and treaty relationships.<br><br> ATLEO: Said a complete overhaul of the system was needed to ensure services get to those who need them and said decision making should be made by First Nations themselves.<br><br> "Next must come new fiscal relationships that guarantee and deliver sustainable, equitable services based on mutually agreed standards and shared responsibility. We need to build new structures and processes that affirm our relationship and uphold our responsibilities to one another. Structures that guarantee our ability to make the decisions that affect our lives and our lands - agreements that allow us, and the Government of Canada to assume their responsibilities...Today our young entrepreneurs - together with partners, can generate the economic levers that re- build our economies. At the same time, we must not forget the basic needs that touch families most closely. As neighbours, we must all find a sense of community and extend a helping hand," he said. (CP)