Elder Fred Plain’s introductory comments addressed injustice.
He heard genuine remorse in the churches’ apologies, he said, but challenged those who have pledged reconciliation to use their strength and influence with the governments of Canada. He also challenged the Canadian government to practice what it claims to believe. “To me justice is more than the administration of man-made laws; justice must flow out of the heart of the Creator.”
Chief Abel Bosum of Ouje-Bougoumou explained how the exploitation of natural resources in his people’s territory led to many social problems including poor housing, drug and alcohol abuse and family violence. But with the encouragement of Elders, Chief Bosum and his community sought recognition of their entitlement to land.
An agreement in the late 1980s and subsequent developments led to recognition as a model community by the United Nations. “Reconciliation,” he concluded, “begins at home with our families.”
Tony Belcourt of the Métis Nation of Ontario said much was happening at the Assembly that was leading to reconciliation. He also said there had been “a litany of stories that demonstrate that a great fraud has been perpetuated on our people.” Métis people know this well, he said. They have been excluded from the land-claims process, among many other things.
Chief Sydney Garrioch spoke of his community’s accomplishments in negotiations and other initiatives, particularly in child and family services. “We can help ourselves to make a difference,” agreed moderator Alex Akiwenzie. “You have a voice.”