News Canada

PM invited to First Nations meeting

By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

Amidst weeks of protests across the country, First Nations leaders plan to hold a mass meeting at the end of January and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston are invited.

The meeting, planned for Jan. 24, will fall on the anniversary of the Crown-First Nation gathering last year in Ottawa.

In January 2012, aboriginal leaders met with Harper and agreed to focus priorities on education and economic development.

Since then, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has raised concerns about the "disappointing" rate of progress. There has also been mounting First Nation frustration with the government's second omnibus budget bill, which includes legislation revoking certain environmental protections of lakes and rivers.

Aboriginal protesters showed up on Parliament Hill in early December to "serve notice" to government. Since then, Idle No More protesters have marched in several major cities and demonstrators have blockaded a handful of major transportation routes - highways and rail lines - across the country.

Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence has also launched a personal protest at Ottawa's Victoria Island. She has vowed not to consume solid food until Harper and a representative of the Crown sits down with aboriginal leaders to discuss treaty implementation.

Harper has not made any suggestion he is willing to meet with Spence or other leaders anytime soon. The government maintains it is consulting with First Nations and it has made various investments to improve conditions in communities.

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