Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders welcomed their Indigenous counterparts in Winnipeg today at the first meeting of Canada’s Premier conference.
The provincial leaders met with Indigenous leaders from across the country at the Leaf in Assiniboine Park to discuss issues facing Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand said housing in First Nations Communities was a priority. He felt the premiers listened and were open to a discussion, and he hopes to pool resources to work collaboratively – using healthcare as an example.
“Why would we build a clinic side by side, the province and the Metis government build one clinic across the street from each other, when we should build a clinic together,” he said.
Shortly after the meeting began, protestors from Brady Road Landfill also made an appearance, calling for a commitment to search for missing Indigenous people. This comes after a blockade over the weekend outside the landfill carried into the start of the week, defying a deadline imposed by the city to disperse and remove barricades from the landfill’s main entrance.
The blockade was set up in response to the Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson’s decision not to involve the province in searching the Prairie Green Landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women – Marcedes Ryan and Morgan Harris.
At the conference, protestors said government had blood on their hands.
“If you cannot step up, I ask you to step down,” said Cambria Harris, whose mother’s remains are believed to be in Prairie Green Landfill.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson stood by her decision not to search the landfill.
“We cannot ignore the complexity of the issue and the objective viability of other considerations, things like toxic and hazardous waste in a landfill when it comes to a search,” she said.
The meeting continued as protestors eventually left the building.
Holding a meeting for Indigenous leaders separate from the rest of the conference was a point of contention. Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron said it did not allow for any meaningful progress to be made.
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“I have fifteen minutes on the agenda today to present issues and priorities affecting the Metis Nation. Fifteen minutes just simply isn’t enough time to engage with these governments on a government to government basis, nation to nation basis, to influence the change that’s needed,” she said ahead of the meeting.
Indigenous leaders will not be participating in the July 11 and 12 meetings, where healthcare spending and affordability are expected to dominate the discourse
Still, Chief Gordon Bluesky is hopeful these meetings could be the beginning of a new relationship – one where Indigenous leaders also have a seat at the table.
“There is a need for us to make space and make room for Indigenous people,” said Bluesky. “To look at our path forward and not just continuing down the path that is inherited.”
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