The annual general meeting of the Assembly of First Nations is underway in Regina.
The suicide crisis, the murdered and missing indigenous women inquiry and self-governance are just some of the major items being discussed by the hundreds of chiefs in attendance.
In his opening address, national Chief Perry Bellegarde touched on everything from language and land rights, child welfare, clean water and housing.
Top of mind was the right for self-determination to truly “be in control of our future.”
“There’s a huge socioeconomic gap that exists in Canada, we’ve got to close that gap,” Bellegarde told reports after his speech. “We need to make strategic investments in education, in training, in housing, in access to potable water in order to close that gap.”
Minister of Indigenous and northern affairs Carolyn Bennett announced a new change to fiscal policy with First Nations.
Previously money received in one fiscal year couldn’t be carried over into the next. It delayed projects and stalled them completely.
That has now been changed to ensure the money rolls over.
“Greater fiscal and financial autonomy is necessary for First Nations to provide good governance for their communities and respond appropriately to the priorities and challenges,” Bennett said.
Several other federal minister gave speeches including Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on policing and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on future changes to the legal framework governing first nations.