National Newswatch

OTTAWA — First Nations chiefs from Alberta and Saskatchewan are calling for their provinces to toss proposed legislation they say is inherently undemocratic, unconstitutional and infringes on Indigenous rights.

"We are not looking for change or amendments to the bill. We want it withdrawn," Chief Tony Alexis said Wednesday on behalf of Treaty 6.

The chiefs are putting forward an emergency resolution at the Assembly of First Nations special assembly to reject sovereignty bills that are before both provincial legislatures. 

Alexis, of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation northwest of Edmonton, said there has been no consultation or dialogue with First Nations around the Alberta bill.

It has been criticized for giving the premier and cabinet unchecked powers to pass laws behind close doors, although amendments to change that have recently been put forward.

Alexis said the bill is harmful to Albertans and Canadians. He said it infringes on treaty rights and could set a harmful precedent.

"We are deeply concerned that, if passed, it would have a domino effect across Canada," Alexis said. "And what would keep other provinces from following suit and, ultimately, what will that mean for treaty rights across Canada?"

Vice Chief Aly Bear of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations also said the act in Saskatchewan is unconstitutional. The bill, tabled last month, looks to unilaterally amend the Constitution to reassert the province's jurisdiction over its natural resources.

Premier Scott Moe has said the act doesn't affect treaty rights and is aimed at growing the economy to benefit all people, including Indigenous people

Bear said, however, that the proposed legislation creates more harm than good. She said there has also not been consultation with Indigenous groups in Saskatchewan.

“If we want to fix that relationship, we have to be sitting down at the table," she said.

The chiefs said the federal government has, so far, taken a hands-off approach to the bills and encouraged officials to meet with First Nations leaders from the provinces. 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said she stands with the chiefs in Saskatchewan and Alberta, calling for the acts to be withdrawn. 

She said the bills have a specific agenda around lands and resources and that they infringe on First Nations inherent and treaty rights.

"We will not stand idly by."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatoon

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
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