The Westbank First Nation Government met with Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada on March 27 to discuss and continue the momentum behind the development of a Federal Implementation Branch, the funding announcement from the Collaborative Fiscal Policy Process, Treaty Loan Forgiveness, and Federal Policy with respect to rights recognition.
Bennett and her team joined the WFN Council and members of the WFN Administration to discuss the key priorities of new federal fiscal policy. Infrastructure, data and assessment collection and governance have been identified as key priorities to be addressed in order to close socio-economic gaps. The tone of the meeting was positive and began with acknowledging the recent Treaty Loan Forgiveness announcement made by the Federal Government.
“We were in treaty discussions for well over 10 years and we understand that the government announced a forgiveness of those treaty loans,” said WFN Councillor Christopher Derickson.
Bennett was also updated on the continuing need for a Federal Self-Government Implementation Branch designed to increase capacity for government-to-government relations, in particular regard to the land exchanges contemplated by the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement.
“I want to thank Westbank. If it were not for communities like you, we would not be where we are in this country. I believe many of these issues can be corrected with the development of an appropriate Implementation Branch,” said Minister Bennett.
“We are working nation to nation, and we do have your back. Now we need to demonstrate that we have your back.”
“There is still a large need for the land exchange policy to be completed that provides additional land to support much needed community housing. Canada is a party to the SGA and needs to take an active role in this conversation. We are working with the other three self-governed communities to chart out our needs of the Implementation Branch in order for it to be effective,” said Raf De Guevara, manager of Intergovernmental Affairs for WFN.
Since the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affair Canada, Minister Bennett has been tasked with creating new relationships with Indigenous People focusing on the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights.
The group touched briefly on reconciliation and the importance of developing a rights and recognition framework. WFN believes the Federal Government has come a long way and looks forward to continuing this process with rights recognition on the forefront.
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