On the eve of the Assembly of First Nations meetings in Halifax, Robert Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, issued a letter addressed to all First Nation members. The letter, dated July 16, concerned the status of the First Nations Governance initiative. Minister Nault expressed that he is “encouraged by the interest demonstrated so far by First Nation people.” He went on to note that “over 160 dialogue sessions have been held across Canada,” and that these sessions “have resulted in a positive and valuable flow of information.”
Though the tone of Minister Nault’s letter put the accent on the positive, he did acknowledge the fact that “some First Nations leaders have rejected the initiative.” The letter made it clear that no legislation has been drafted as yet. The letter also stressed the Minister’s desire to have as much Native involvement as possible in the discussion process. “The governance initiative is proof that we’re committed to working with First Nations people to ensure that they have the necessary tools and authorities to move toward the self-government process at their own pace.”
With regards to the large number of chiefs who have rejected the proposals, Nault said that he is “hopeful that First Nation leaders who have thus far opposed the initiative will realize the importance of providing First Nation members with the opportunity to contribute fundamentally to the creation of their own governance systems.” In light of this 11th hour attempt to keep the path of communication open between the government and the AFN, Native leaders will be watching to see if the Minister’s tone remains the same after the fallout from the resolution reached at the Halifax conference.