The Assembly of First Nations and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have agreed to 30-day “cooling-off” period during which the government will suspend consultations on changes to the Indian Act.
The month-long time-out comes in the wake of last month’s Halifax assembly, where roadblocks were threatened should the government fail to respond to an AFN-initiated proposal within 30 days. Minister of Indian Affairs Robert Nault and National Chief Matthew Coon Come had a one-hour meeting in Ottawa on July 31. “We have agreed for the sake of our relationship, and to give time for the work plan to be put together, that we’ll have a 30-day cooling-off period,” Nault said after the meeting. “Everyone’s going to down tools for 30 days, take a little bit of a break, relax a little bit.”
Coon Come talked about the AFN working to develop a strategy for the government to consider in its push to revamp the Indian Act. “We’ll continue to work on that and see where we’re going, and I believe we’ll find a solution, we’ll find a way.” Coon Come said.
The government’s First Nations governance initiative, a $13 million consultation process, has been roundly criticized by Native leaders for placing the power for change squarely in the hands of the government. Some groups have participated in the process, but the AFN, representing some 600 First Nations across Canada, has boycotted discussions and has asked all Native groups to do the same. Native leaders are seeking to establish a Native-led plan to reform relations between First Nations and the federal government. “We’ll allow our people to develop that work plan, we will consult our members and tell them what’s going on and then we’ll I work from there,” Coon Come said.