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In the lead up to election day, Tuesday, April 16th, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 publicized his frustrations with the United Conservative stance on Indigenous issues.
In their platform, the United Conservatives state they are “committed to the ultimate goal of treating and recognizing all Albertans as equal under law.”
To the Grand Chief, “this is completely insulting to First Nations … a strange policy statement … that ignores all the uniqueness that we have as the First Peoples of this land.”
Furthermore, “mandated accountability and transparency into all provincially funded Indigenous programs” merely adds more scrutiny for “the most scrutinized group in all of Canada when it comes to funding.”
“The platform of the UCP clearly shows that they know nothing or can’t be bothered with … [the] issues we are dealing with,” Grand Chief Noskey stated.
For those on the outside looking in, its apparent Grand Chief Noskey is not a fan of the United Conservative Party.
However, without providing context, Noskey’s statements could be spun to reflect any political narrative of choice.
To those strongly opposed to the UCP, the claims of Indigenous “stereotyping” and the supposed refuting of terms outlined in the treaty relationship with the Crown, Grand Chief Noskey’s comments carry a heavy negative connotation for the UCP.
Those who hold said views would be quick to judge the fact only three statements were made on Indigenous issues in the UCP’s recently unveiled platform.
It’s all fine and dandy for Alberta to strive to be “Strong and Free,” but when select groups are left out of the consultation process, then that defeats the purpose.
The UCP and Indigenous people
Therefore, does the UCP have a consultation problem with First Nations Bands?
A few weeks back, the United Conservative Party hit two birds with one stone in their pledge to set aside $1-billion in financing an Indigenous Crown Corporation that furthers consultation efforts with Albertan bands.
In a video interview with the Edmonton Journal, Enoch Cree Nation Chief Bill Morin is clear that he indeed supports this decision and throws his endorsement for 1 billion for First Nations Pipeline.
Furthering an economic agenda seeking to better the quality of life at Indigenous Reserves? Check.
Speaking on resource development and Indigenous empowerment earlier this month, UCP leader Jason Kenny said “These are just some of the growing number of First Nations who see resource development as a key to their social and economic future. But we need to move this momentum to a whole other level where Aboriginal people become real owners of major energy projects.”
Tackling reconciliation by uplifting financially struggling bands under a banner that unites Albertans? Also, check.
Then what gives?
Nothing, it’s more a perception problem than anything, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in covering our polarized election, it’s this: if one has the will and is desperate enough to push false narratives for votes, then it will happen.
False narratives pushed by NDP candidates against the UCP
In the riding of the Lesser Slave Lake, UCP Candidate Pat Rhen was accused of advocating for cuts to healthcare. However, in a since-corrected article, the “divisive, nonsensical attacks” from NDP Candidate Danielle Larivee have ceased.
Chief Noskey claims the UCP could not be bothered by Indigenous issues? Think again.
There is evidence contrary to that per Kara Barker, a proud Edmontonian Cree Woman and UCP Candidate. Barker took a strong stand against the NDP Candidate in Lethbridge-West, Shannon Phillips, for her albatross attempts at consulting on Bighorn.
Indigenous leaders must be transparent in their endorsements of political parties
In a further muddying of the political waters, Grande Chief Noskey stated that he wanted “All Treaty 8 peoples to come together. We need to unite and enact our own laws for the land and who we were as people. These laws being brought in are being created by a government that did not exist before the Treaty and they do not reflect who we are as a people and what we value.”
“Jason Kenney, if he wins, can feel free to make laws for all the Albertans he’d like but we, as Treaty 8 people, should be making laws for ourselves.”
While other Indigenous leaders in Alberta have come out and endorsed specific candidates and parties, Grand Chief Noskey chooses to cast aspersions on the UCP’s intentions while calling for the unified support of Treaty 8 members for a party other than the UCP.
In Treaty 8, bands like Whitefish First Nation 459 have had their Chief Albert Thunder publicly endorsed NDP MLA Danielle Larrivee.
Lubicon Lake Band announced on April 15th that Chief Bernard Ominayak, also from Treaty 8, had endorsed UCP Candidate Lesser Slave Lake, Pat Rehn.
While everyone is free to endorse whichever party or candidate they feel best, Treaty 8 members expect that their leaders will do so in a honest and clear fashion, giving solid reasons for their endorsements.
Matters of wording and communication have to be a priority for reconciliation to happen. Parties and policies can always be adjusted, but treaty rights is a sovereign living document that has to be honoured for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows.