Tensions have been running high between First Nations and the PQ government in recent weeks.

At a three-day meeting north of Quebec City, native Chiefs issued a unanimous declaration rejecting the PQ policy that Quebec’s borders cannot be changed. The First Nations have the right to self-determination and will defend that right, especially if Quebecers vote to separate from Canada, said the aboriginal Chiefs.

The Chiefs also said they won’t discuss self-government with the PQ until Quebec recognizes that natives have the right to self-determination and their own territorial integrity.

“Never will we sit across the table from anybody who says the Mohawk territory does not exist in this land,” said Kahnawake Chief Bill Two Rivers in a Gazette article.

Ovide Mercredi, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, agreed, saying natives have as much right to self-determination as Quebecers. “We have an equal right to yours.”

Quebec cannot arbitrarily decide that First Nations will be taken out of Canada, said Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. “We certainly do not want to wake up one morning and find ourselves as part of a new Quebec republic.”

The Grand Chief expanded on these sentiments in a lengthy article in the Oct. 15 edition of the Globe and Mail. He defended his recent trip to Washington to speak about Cree rights, a trip which provoked some ire in Quebec. “Why is there a double standard?” he asked. “Why is it that Parizeau can get away with it? And Bouchard can get away with it? But I go down there and all of a sudden, hey, there’s a different law for me, different rules for native people?”

The Grand Chief added: “If Quebec wants to jump in its canoe and paddle away, I have a choice. Either I want to jump into the canoe or I want to stay on dry land. We have the right to choose with who we want to associate ourselves. Quebec needs our consent.”