Treaty 8 First Nations chiefs express cautious optimism with the Alberta provincial budget announced March 16 and eager to work with Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP government.
“After all the discussion the premier has had with the media regarding working with First Nations, it is now time to implement the rhetoric about the Alberta government’s willingness to work with us,” Treaty 8 Grand Chief Rupert Meneen states in a news release.
“We have serious issues with many of the laws, regulations, and policies in this province and it sounds like she is willing to step forward with some action.”
The budget states the government is committed to invest in Treaty 8 communities to address longstanding socio-economical problems that plague First Nations communities, such as the deaths of children in provincial care, inadequate water systems, and a rejected provincial consultation system.
Treaty 8 is optimistic about renewed focus on the environment and housing.
“That optimism is tempered by a lack of consultation on resource revenue sharing, pipeline access, jurisdiction, intrusive educational programs and other First Nations priorities,” Meneen says.
“We must caution this government that despite its rhetoric, there has not been much consultation with Treaty 8 chiefs on the matters most important to them.”
He says the government is halfway through its four-year mandate, and that while Treaty 8 chiefs have been patient, there will be a point when First Nations say “No More”.
“The one thing I can guarantee is that the chiefs of Treaty 8 are willing to put in the work necessary for a successful partnership with the province and make a better future for all our children; it’s time and our communities need it,” Meneen says.
“The premier made a commitment to jointly develop action-oriented solutions that can help our communities.
“We know that changes must be made so that everyone, First Nations, and Albertans live in prosperous healthy communities.
“Treaty 8 was signed so that our people would continue to benefit from the land as we shared with the newcomers.
“Do not forget that Treaty 8 territory is the economic engine of the province and this country.” Signed in 1899, Treaty 8 covers northern Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, northwestern Saskatchewan, and the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories.