Snuneymuxw chief says patience is running low
Doug White said the patience of all First Nations in Canada, including the Snuneymuxw, is coming to an end after the Crown-First Nations Gathering in Ottawa concluded this week.
White, chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, was among approximately 150 aboriginal leaders from across Canada who met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other government officials in Ottawa on Tuesday for discussions on how to renew the relationship with the nation's native communities.
White said he's "cautiously optimistic" about Harper's claim to want a renewed dialogue with Canada's First Nations, and "it's an important first step."
But he said the government and aboriginals are still far apart on many issues and there are deep concerns over Harper's statements that the controversial Indian Act won't be renewed.
"This was the first time in six years that Harper and his government has met with us, but there were no significant announcements made during this one-day meeting," White said.
"However, the results of these meetings provide the opportunity for all First Nations across the country to unite and clarify our positions on many issues in relation to the national government and decide on the means to move forward together. I believe the government is in for a fight."
Harper announced the Crown-First Nations Gathering in early December following a meeting with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, a member of the Ahousaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The federal government had heralded the gathering as a historic meeting but White said Ottawa seems committed to just "tinkering with the status-quo" in its relationship with Canada's First Nations rather than considering any meaningful initiatives.
"Harper said he's committing to improving economic opportunities and development within the nation's reserves and that might work on larger reservations in Canada," White said.
"However, that won't do a damn thing for the Snuneymuxw because we have just 40 acres in our reserve and that's not enough land for us to live on, much less use for any kind of economic development," he said.
White said he appreciates all the "hard work and patience" that Atleo has brought to the discussions between Canada's aboriginals and governments, but with the Ottawa's apparent indifference to many concerns the natives have, he wonders what the future will bring.
"Many First Nations in B.C. have been spinning their wheels for more than 20 years trying to conclude treaty processes, but with no success," he said.
"Our patience is at an end and we won't leave this for another generation to deal with."