Crown-First Nations meeting born of crisis

It’s Monday afternoon, January 23 and the selection process is underway just now to determine which First Nations leaders presently convening in Ottawa will be delegated to meet Tuesday with Prime Minister Harper, Governor General Johnston and nearly a dozen senior cabinet ministers.

It will be Wednesday, this newspaper’s publication day, before we will learn what commitments and mutual promises the Crown and parliamentarians have exchanged with those being chosen at the time of this writing to negotiate on behalf of First Nation Canadian citizens.

This event, while planned for some time, had not had a firm meeting date set until this winter when the housing, education and health issues in Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario focused attention on many similar situations faced by many First Nation citizens, especially those who live in remote parts of this large country.

The Attawapiskat chief, in October of 2011, publicly declared that her community was in crisis and so, in a very direct linkage, this week’s meeting was born of crisis.

It will be imperative that all parties involved determine, at the very least, what are the most important areas of First Nations life that demand the most immediate actions.

To have this initial agreement, in a broad-brush way, is absolutely necessary for the important discussions that will follow. Equally important will be the prompt scheduling of further meetings among people of good will representing both Canada and its First Nations people who will hopefully be announcing this week what they hope to accomplish and in what time frame.

Equally important, and we hope that press releases this week echo this, is that all parties involved avoid assigning blame.

Rather, Canadians should be able to look forward to a time when education and health services are equally available to urban dwellers and to those whose First Nations ancestors have lived in remote parts of Canada for many generations and who similarly choose to occupy their traditional homelands.