Trudeau Meets With Aboriginal Leaders To Discuss Climate Change

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VANCOUVER — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down with aboriginal leaders Wednesday to discuss a role for First Nations in the fight against climate change.

But Trudeau may be finding that the talks with First Nations aren't any easier than they are with the premiers.

The prime minister was defending himself even before the talks began over the decision not to include the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents non-status aboriginals, and the Native Women's Association of Canada.

"The federal government saw fit to invite me to go to Paris for the UN meeting on climate change," said the Congress's Chief Dwight Dorey.

"If I was good enough to go there why would I not be at this one? It just doesn't make sense."

justin trudeau
Justin Trudeau attends a meeting of the First Ministers, First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Leaders in Vancouver, on March. 2, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Dawn Lavell-Harvard of the Native Women's Association called it an issue of respect.

"Choosing to exclude the Native Women's Association of Canada from the first ministers meeting was unfair, and speaks volumes to the ongoing lack of respect for indigenous women's and girls' voices in Canada," she said.

Trudeau said there will be plenty of chances for those groups to make their opinions known at future conferences.

"I have had over the past months many meetings both with the national aboriginal organizations together but also individually with leaders and communities and the activists from the indigenous community to talk about the issues facing them," he told reporters.

Still, that's not the only divide among the indigenous community that Trudeau will have to find a way to breach.

First Nations leaders want role in shaping policy

Many First Nations leaders are, at the very least, deeply suspicious about resource development on their lands. But territorial premiers, two of whom are aboriginal and who all represent large aboriginal populations, want to see more of it.

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna and his Yukon counterpart Darrell Pasloski have both said they oppose a carbon tax. N.W.T premier Bob McLeod has said his government would consider joining in a national price on carbon as long as it didn't create trade barriers for his territory.

Before the meeting, aboriginal leaders said they wanted to ensure that they're not only asked about climate change policy, but have a role in shaping it.

Natan Obed, who heads Canada's national Inuit group, said he wants to make sure that Inuit organizations, such as environmental co-management bodies, are involved in designing and implementing measures that might affect Inuit.

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