Communication between First Nations and provincial gov’t critical

It’s critical the lines of communication between First Nations people and the Alberta Government stay open ensure

It’s critical the lines of communication between First Nations people and the Alberta Government stay open ensure the people are able to take advantage of social and economic opportunities.

This is one of many messages Robin Campbell, minister of aboriginal affairs presented during the spring Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties Conference, March 18 to 20.

Those opportunities will help them reach their full potential, said Campbell. “Because at the end of the day Alberta can’t be successful as a province unless we address aboriginal issues.”

Communication will foster the importance of stronger relationships and education for First Nations people.

“As a minister, building relationships is my focus from day 1,” said Campbell.

Since last May he’s visited all the Métis communities and more than half the 48 First Nations communities within the province. Campbell says the visits have allowed him to talk with thecommunities about where they live, what they want, their practices, their aspirations “and also what works best in their communities.”

“That being said, it’s important to remember each aboriginal community is unique, with unique histories, goals, concerns and world views.”

In the name of building relationships, Campbell held a First Nations’ opportunity forum in Edmonton last December.

“The forum, for the first time in almost 30 years, brought together chiefs, the premier and the cabinet.”

They discussed how to work together to fulfill the aspirations of First Nations people, and how to help them build sustainable economies.

“This renewed energy is the first step. We will be First Nations Treaty Organizations on joining actions to address the issues between education and economic development,” said Campbell.

The economic development talks also ensure resource development respect community rights.

“We know our economic success cannot come at the expense of our environment,” said Campbell.

On March 12, Campbell, along with Premier Alison Redford and Randy Hardy, president of the Métis Settlements General Council, signed an $85 million, long-term governance agreement to aid Métis communities with self-governance.

Alberta is the only province in Canada with a dedicated land base for Métis people . . . The people living is those settlements deserve social and economic opportunities,” he said.

Campbell believes strong Métis communities contribute to the success of the province and benefits all Albertans. This government provides a direction and financial resources for the settlements to reach their potential and become self-sustainable.”

He wants a fiscal relationship to develop between the settlements and the Government of Alberta similar to the government’s relationships with other local governments.

Ponoka County Coun. Gawney Hinkley, who spoke during the question and answer portion of the minister’s presentation, offered his own ideas on how the province could deal with its Aboriginal issues.

“I can solve your problem in five minutes,” he stated.

He said the Indian Head treaty of shelterbelt centre in Indian Head, Sask. could be replicated in Hobbema.

Hinkley believes this would solve many of Hobbema’s problems are caused by a small handful of people. “You could solve the problems by putting a shelterbelt area in Hobbema. The land is there, the people are there.”

He also said this solution wouldn’t be costly.

However, the minister responded saying he’s found, working with First Nations people, he needs their ideas coming to the table.

“In the past we’ve been very good at saying we’ve got the solution for you and we’re going to put something in place and it’s going to happen. And that doesn’t work.”

For Alberta to successfully resolve its aboriginal issues, Campbell says the government can provide the expertise and the training but the solutions must come from the communities themselves.