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Statement by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine on the ongoing situation at Six Nations-Caledonia

Attention News Editors:

[SISIS note: The following statement is provided for reference only. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

OTTAWA, May 23 /CNW Telbec/ - "As National Chief, I am joined by my fellow Regional Chiefs in calling for calm from all parties in the ongoing situation at the Six Nations-Caledonia site. We are encouraged by media reports that the barricades have been taken down willingly by the citizens of Six Nations. We applaud their patience and their commitment, and we encourage all parties to continue to work together towards a peaceful resolution. We believe that these discussions represent the best way forward. The need for negotiation and reconciliation could not be more acute. We do not want to see any actions that will cause tensions to increase in the community.

The federal government must show leadership to resolve this issue because any issues relating to First Nations lands are issues between First Nations and the federal government. The federal government must ensure that the discussions continue.

As well, there is a need to immediately address the underlying problems that create these kinds of situations, and that means over-hauling the current land claims process. Under the current process, Canada acts as judge and jury in claims against itself. There are approximately 1000 specific claims before Canada, 300 of which have been validated and must work their way through the claims process. Yet it takes on average ten years to resolve a legitimate, specific claim. This is much too long. Last week's report by the Auditor General of Canada noted that six comprehensive claims agreements have been concluded since 2001, and it has taken on average 29 years to finalize these claims. This is unacceptable.

This is an agonizingly slow pace for First Nations, for whom land is central to our cultures and our economies. It creates frustration and anger on the ground and can erode trust.

Canada must work on an new approach that is faster, more fair, and just to resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded its 36th session this weekend and called on Canada to, among other things, 're-examine its policies and practices towards the inherent rights and title of Aboriginal peoples, to ensure that policies and practices do not result in extinguishment of those rights and titles.' We wholeheartedly agree with this recommendation. Work has already been done by the AFN and government on a better approach to claims, and this work needs to be re-invigorated and implemented.

The AFN is determined to do what we can to help resolve the situation and we are willing to assist in any way that may be helpful. There is a need to make real progress on this specific situation as well as the overall issues related to First Nations claims to avoid further escalation."

<< Phil Fontaine
National Chief
Assembly of First Nations >>

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information: Don Kelly, AFN Communications Director, (613) 241-6789 ext. 320 or cell (613) 292-2787; Ian McLeod, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext. 336 or cell (613) 859-4335

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