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“Indian Affairs Minister Threatens Forensic Audits if First Nations Speak Out”
Winnipeg, MB-Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs spoke today at a press conference in response to Indian Affairs minister Jim Prentice, who wrote to the media threatening First Nations with forensic audits if they publicly and legally expressed concern over the Federal Budget.
“We thought freedom of speech was a right all Canadians enjoyed. According to this government, we were wrong,” said Evans.
Evans said that the First Nations in Manitoba are appalled with the recent federal budget which not only excluded First Nations but ignored the Kelowna Accord of 2005 completely. He pointed out that despite meeting with every level of government, and reaching agreements with governments and lawmakers, governments continually ignore their own agreements.
Evans said that “on Kelowna, not only did we all agree but Brian Mulroney, Steven Harper’s advisor, is in full support of the accord. He’s the one that said ‘We’ve existed for 140 years and we have this shameful situation… and why? Very simple: we stole their land.’”
The Grand Chief announced that he called an emergency Executive Council of Chiefs yesterday and that due to the serious nature of the federal budget, the meeting was opened to all First Nation Chiefs and Councils from the 64 First Nation communities in Manitoba.
The meeting, held at Winnipeg’s Radisson hotel, was called on short notice. Attendance was strong, despite the fact that many who came had to take expensive flights due to the lack of winter roads this late in the year.
At the meeting, the Chiefs of Manitoba talked about the fact that the spotlight is now on Manitoba as it was them that Prentice threatened directly in his letter to the media. “With First Nations groups across the country watching to see what will do, Manitoba Chiefs must take the lead,” said Evans.
Under the direction of its Executive Council of Chiefs, Evans announced that he as Grand Chief would be implementing the following:
1. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is mounting an election strategy encouraging First Nations people to vote in all federal, provincial and civic elections. With the First Nations population growing at double the pace of the rest of the country, Evans said that “we have a voice and we will use it.”
2. “Like every other Canadian, we spend money,” said Evans, “So we will involve the businesses we support in a rally to be held at the Manitoba Legislature on April 25, 2007.”
3. Evans pointed out that according to the Supreme Court of Canada, treaties must be respected, and that since First Nations own much of the land that provides the natural resources Manitoba depends so heavily upon, the group would begin strategizing on how to use its economic leverage effectively.
4. Evans also stated that he would be reaching out to the international community, pointing out that the UN index tells us that Canada ranks in the top 10, but First Nations in Canada rank 63rd.
Evans also pointed out that in Minister Prentice’s letter to the media (Winnipeg Free Press, March 29, 2007), he said he would be willing to sit down and talk with AMC representatives. Evans said he invited the Minister to do so in a letter on March 22 but got no response. Evans said he will invite him once again to an AMC Special Assembly in Sioux Valley on May 8-10, 2007. Evans added that the Executive Council also directed that the AMC look at ways to make the government accountable for treaty compliance for Manitoba bands by using its own forensic auditing system.
Evans wrapped up his comments by adding that “freedom of speech and the tradition of civil disobedience are peaceful responses to the government from its people. We are lawfully doing our part. When will the government do the same?”
Director of Corporate Communications
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
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