AFN slams brakes on environmental talks with Trudeau over secrecy

Kenneth Jackson
The AFN executive in a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, back to the camera with dark suit Sept. 28. Twitter photo

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) slammed the brakes on drafting legislative amendments on environmental and regulatory processes with the Trudeau government last month saying it had become strangers within the process.

Regional Chief Isadore Day said it was supposed to be a co-development of legislative changes but it became clear to him – and other regional chiefs – that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was moving ahead without them.

“We became strangers to people who said they were our friends,” Day told APTN News Thursday. “The prime minister had agreed to fix this and to work with us. They’ll work with us when it is appropriate for them after they have made decisions after they have drafted documents.

“They’re drafting continually.”

Day said the government is drafting new legislation in cabinet and claiming cabinet secrecy as a reason not to share the information.

He said this is a situation of the federal government not wanting to give up control.

Day said the AFN developed a committee, including himself and chiefs Kevin Hart and Bill Erasmus, that was to work with the federal ministers to draft legislative changes on everything from the National Energy Board and climate change to the Fisheries and Navigation Protection acts.

They were also supposed to develop a joint secretariat with the Trudeau government but hasn’t happened.

Then it was expected their joint work would be taken to the communities, as the AFN is not a rights holder and the government can’t use the AFN to cross off their duty to consult.

Day broke the news Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr Sept. 28 at the office of the AFN in Ottawa.

“He obviously didn’t want to hear that. His words to us were he was making efforts and hiring a director of Indigenous relations,” said Day.

“And I saw that as a slap in the face.”



The message was, to the Day and other chiefs in the meeting, Carr wanted the AFN to deal with a new director and not him.

“My response to him was: ‘Maybe the AFN will hire a non-Indigenous relations liaison. His response to me was: “Well, you want me to hire that person or not?” said Day.

Day said the message they were trying to get across was lost on Carr.

Another person at the meeting told APTN Carr was visibly upset when he left the meeting.

APTN requested comment from Carr’s office Wednesday but have not received answers to questions.

“At the end of the day, this is about respect for First Nations, respect for our jurisdictions. We’re not letting up on our concerns here,” said Day.

Day said this doesn’t mean the talks are over, as he described the “engine is still on” but they are not moving forward until the government levels the playing field.

“The way the government is working on a top-down approach on the process of these environmental reviews is not acceptable. We can no longer act as if everything is okay,” he said.

letter was drafted shortly after the September meeting but was delayed, according to Day, because National Chief Perry Bellegarde would not sign the letter.

Instead, it was signed by Day, Hart and Erasmus.

It was sent on Monday to Trudeau Monday and essentially asks the prime minister to come back to the table and keep the promises he made.

Bellegarde also attended a clean energy forum in Winnipeg last week with Carr.

However, Day added it’s important to him to be able to walk into any of the 133 communities he represents in Ontario with his head up. 

“I have 133 bosses,” he said.

APTN News is waiting for a comment from Trudeau’s office.

[Top photo: The AFN executive in a meeting with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, back to the camera with dark suit Sept. 28. Twitter photo]