The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) interim chief says “the time is now” to renew relationships between aboriginal communities and the federal government with the election of the Liberals.
During her opening speech at the FSIN Legislative Assembly Wednesday, Heather Bear, who took over as interim chief when Kimberly Johnathan began her campaign for First Vice Chief, said a Liberal majority with Justin Trudeau is an opportunity to make positive changes towards a “nation to nation relationship.”
“We need to have our government and people understand in mainstream that there is a relationship with the crown, there is a fiduciary obligation and we should be working side by side as equals,” Bear said following her speech before hundreds of FSIN members at TCU Place.
High hopes for the Liberal government peppered nearly every speech at this year’s assembly. The meeting will also decide the future of the FSIN executive. Candidates for Chief and Vice-Chief positions said with a majority government in Ottawa, Trudeau has no excuses to not follow through on his promises to First Nations communities.
Representatives voted 40-0 on a resolution to recommend the provincial government and incoming Prime Minister Trudeau begin to implement the 95 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Elder A.J. Felix from Sturgeon Lake First Nation called on the assembly approve the motion.
“Those recommendations are hitting the mark on the shortfall and the misery that was caused, the poverty that we live in,” Felix said.
FSIN senator Ted Quewezance expressed concern about the abilities of Trudeau to deliver on all his promises to First Nations.
“If there’s going to be any relationship building it’s going to have to be dealt with treaty by treaty,” he said. “Really think about it. Are we going to get 634 agreements across this country to first nations?”
Women’s commission representative Connie Big Eagle said she was pleasantly surprised with a Liberal majority and agreed with the call for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women within the new government’s 100 days. She said, however, that as much as families of the victims get justice and closure, the government must also work on prevention and a safety strategy in consultation with First Nations women.
Youth representative Andre Bear said the recent Liberal ascension to power gives them hope for an inquiry. But he said First Nations communities must begin to look for their own women.
“We can’t just keep looking for solution from colonial power that created the problem in the first place,” he said.
Election speeches for FSIN chiefs and vice-chiefs were heard Wednesday afternoon while voting and results will take place Thursday.
Candidates for FSIN Chief
Helen Ben – Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation
Robert (Bobby) Cameron – Witchekan Lake First Nation
Leo Omani – Wahpeton Dakota First Nation
Candidates for First Vice Chief
Kimberly Johnathan – Wahpeton Dakota First Nation (acclaimed Wednesday)
Candidates for Second Vice Chief by-election
Rod Atcheynum – Sweetgrass First Nation
Guy Lonechild – White Bear First Nation
Robert (Bob) Merasty – Flying Dust First Nation
Candidates for Third Vice Chief
Edward (Dutch) Lerat – Cowessess First Nation (acclaimed Wednesday)