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First Nations demand proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act, Saskatchewan First Act be withdrawn

First Nations demand proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act, Saskatchewan First Act be withdrawn
First Nations demand proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act, Saskatchewan First Act be withdrawn

اخبارالعرب 24-كندا:الأربعاء 7 ديسمبر 2022 03:27 مساءً Standing at a podium in Ottawa with several treaty chiefs behind her, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) called for the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act and the Saskatchewan First Act to be withdrawn.

Chiefs connected to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Treaty 6 and Treaty 7 say the acts infringe on treaty rights and that making amendments to them wouldn't be enough.

"We will not stand idly by. We will not allow it to happen," Chief RoseAnne Archibald said Wednesday.

The Saskatchewan First Act, which recently passed its second reading at the legislature, aims to confirm the province's autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources and ward off federal policies such as climate change rules.

Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith's proposed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act has faced widespread condemnation for language that would grant her and her cabinet sweeping authority to redress any federal policy, law or program it deems harmful to Alberta.

The Alberta government recently said it's amending its act to take away cabinet's unilateral powers to change legislation, as proposed in the original version of the bill.

"My caucus identified some issues that they wanted to address," Smith told the legislature earlier this week. "They wanted to seek some clarity, and that's the kind of leader I am. I want to make sure that we get this bill right, and I'm grateful that my caucus is going to propose amendments to do that."

Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, northwest of Edmonton, said that after speaking with lawyers and policy experts, he has many concerns about Alberta's proposed legislation, including the province trying to extend its jurisdiction.

"The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act is harmful to Albertans, Canadians and treaty people," he said.

Alexis said an emergency resolution was put forward at the Assembly of First Nations to garner support from chiefs across the country.

Lack of consultation 

Chiefs have said that the Saskatchewan and Alberta governments didn't consult with First Nations.

"There's all this talk about reconciliation, but there's no real implementation of that," said Vice-Chief Aly Bear of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

"We're asking the government to actually sit down with us [and] have conversations. Let's talk about moving forward together."

FSIN Vice-Chief Aly Bear hopes governments can start from scratch with meaningful collaboration. (Aly Bear)

There is a concern that Alberta and Saskatchewan's proposed pieces of legislation could have a domino effect across Canada, chiefs say.

"What would keep other provinces from following suit? And ultimately, what will that mean for treaty rights across Canada?" Alexis said.

Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe insisted his government's act is inclusive.

"It doesn't change the intentions the government has to include all Saskatchewan people, Indigenous or otherwise, in the economy. What the act is focused on is to make sure we have the focus on Saskatchewan so we can collectively benefit," Moe said.

CBC News reached out to Premier Smith's office for comment, but did not immediately get a response.

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