40th Annual Assembly of First Nations Held in Fredericton, NB
Fredericton, NB hosted the 40th annual general assembly of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) during July 23-25, 2019. The AFN represents 634 First Nations across Canada.
Once again, the Canadian Pipeline Advisory Council (CPAC) comprised of the Pipeline Contractors Association of Canada (PLCAC) members and their pipeline craft trades partners, participated at this year’s AFN general assembly. Representing CPAC were: CPAC Chair Lyall Nash, Bill Clarke of Aecon, Brian Greyeyes of Michels Canada, Wayne Hodgins (PLCAC), Brian Butler (PLCAC), Tony Pietrangelo (LiUNA), and Patrick Campbell (IUOE). The Operating Engineers, the United Association, and LiUNA’s exhibit booths also highlighted the potential career opportunities for Indigenous youth.
With the federal election slated for October 2019, several political leaders were on-hand to address the Assembly. Most spoke to the key issues that resonate with Indigenous communities, including economic opportunities, housing issues, family services, fishing and hunting rights, drinking water quality, climate concerns and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde committed to lobbying to ensure political parties account for Indigenous issues in their election platforms.
Indigenous Services Minister, Seamus O’Regan, highlighted the $21 Billion commitment to Indigenous service initiatives over the next five years that were in the recently announced Liberal government’s 2019 Budget.
Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May, re-affirmed the Green’s mission is to eliminate fossil fuel use by rapidly converting to renewable energy sources.
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations, recapped her long career in Indigenous affairs roles and the commitments to improvements that the government of Canada is undertaking. In a light-hearted moment, Minister Bennett reflected on a visit to a First Nations community where an Elder expressed disappointment in meeting her because he thought he would be meeting the comedian Carol Burnett.
On pipelines, Chief Bellegarde recently said: “Canadians are divided, premiers are divided, chiefs are divided”. Bellegarde said projects like the Trans Mountain Expansion will always be a controversial issue, especially in the Indigenous community. At least one group wants to buy the pipeline, while others would rather see it not progress. “We’re all too dependent on fossil fuels. We know that, but you can’t turn the tap off tomorrow morning,” Bellegarde said. “We need to balance the environment and economy.”
Several of the delegates wondered if the 2019 election outcome would resurrect discussions of an oil pipeline to Canada’s Atlantic coast. This will surely be a topic of debate when next year’s AFN general assembly returns to the Maritimes in Halifax, NS.