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AFN Steps Away from Co-Drafting of Federal Environmental Regulations

The Assembly of First Nations has stepped away from a process that was supposed to involve co-drafting amendments to Canadian environmental regulations alongside federal officials, after the government cited cabinet secrecy as a reason to stop sharing information.

“We became strangers to people who said they were our friends,” said AFN Regional Chief Isadore Day. “The prime minister had agreed to fix this and to work with us. They’ll work with us when it’s appropriate for them, after they’ve made decisions, after they’ve drafted documents.”

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Day said the original plan was to form a joint secretariat to map out legislative changes on key environmental regulations, then bring the results of that work out to First Nations communities for consultation, APTN reports. Day said Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr wasn’t pleased September 28 when he heard that the AFN was withdrawing.

His words to us were, he was making efforts and hiring a director of Indigenous relations,” Day said. “My response to him was: ‘Maybe the AFN will hire a non-Indigenous relations liaison.’ His response to me was: ‘Well, do you want me to hire that person or not?’”

The Globe and Mail reports that Day and the two other co-chairs of the AFN’s Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment, chiefs Kevin Hart and Bill Erasmus, informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of their withdrawal in an October 16 letter.

“Technical discussions between officials have been largely one-sided, and do not encompass the principles of collaboration and transparency that a nation-to-nation relationship must embody,” they wrote.

“Our order of priority is environmental sustainability and then the national interest,” Day told the Globe. “The federal government’s order of priority is the national interest and then environmental sustainability.”

Carr and Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna responded by affirming their interest in “a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” They cited more than 200 meetings with Indigenous people across the country, pointing to the AFN’s “substantial contributions to move forward the dialogue on improving these processes.”

The Globe’s coverage goes into depth on the challenges the federal government is encountering in trying to put a practical foundation under Trudeau’s promise of a new relationship with First Nations.