Members of the First Nations Summit are concerned a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons could disrupt the historic First Ministers Meeting on Aboriginal Issues, scheduled to take place in Kelowna Nov. 24-25.
Opposition party leaders Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe have suggested that a non-confidence vote – which if it passed would end parliament and trigger an election – might be put forward on Nov. 24, just hours before the First Ministers Meeting would begin.
“We’re hoping that none of their efforts in Ottawa scuttle the First Ministers Meeting,” Tl’azt’en Grand Chief Edward John said. “It’s been two years in the making. If it doesn’t go ahead at this stage, who knows if it will ever go ahead.”
Getting the prime minister, premiers, federal opposition leaders and other important officials together in one place at one time is very difficult, John said. Getting them all on the same page on the issues is even harder, he added.
“We don’t want to lose the opportunity and we don’t want to lose the momentum,” John said. “There is a critical mass of thinking on the need to address these issues. This is a social issue for all of Canada.”
First Nations Summit leaders and Premier Gordon Campbell have done a great deal of work preparing for the First Ministers Meeting and speaking with provincial and federal leaders.
John said the two-day meeting is scheduled to address a wide spectrum of aboriginal issues which face people across Canada.
Currently there appears to be a collective desire by provinces and the federal government to move forward on them, he added. If the meeting is delayed a year or two years, governments will change, priorities will change and the First Nations Summit will have to start all over again from the beginning.
“We need a collective way to address the issues aboriginal people are facing in Canada,” John said. “There will be a non-confidence vote and of course there will be a new government. The party that forms the next government will have to pay some attention to the decisions made at the First Ministers Meeting, if there is strong support from the premiers and leaders.”