New roundtable will host 'nation-to-nation' talks between Quebec and Assembly of First Nations
The Legault government and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) announced on Tuesday that they will be working together through a new political roundtable.
"We want to work, we want to advance, but we want to do it together," said Ian Lafreniere, Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, at a news conference. "To have nation-to-nation dialogue."
The groups haven't yet decided who will sit on the table, how often it will meet, or what issues will be discussed, but AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said it's a way for him to form the best possible relationship with the current provincial government.
“We’re not in a position today to unveil what this table will do, but I think all of the issues that are common to First Nations will eventually find their place at this table," he said.
Picard specified that the table wasn't created to act as a substitute for other processes already in place to address issues First Nations face.
"We’re not here this morning to reinvent the wheel," he said.
“The table should not be an excuse not to address certain issues regarding certain nations."
Picard also said Premier Francois Legault agreed that the table would report both to the premier and the assembly of chiefs -- which he deemed "important."
Legault suggested for them to meet in six months to evaluate what has been accomplished in that time, Picard added.
“We haven’t determined timelines yet, but as the minister said this morning… Whenever we feel that there’s a need for the table to meet, then we can certainly find a time and space to meet," Picard said.
"So I think it’s looking positive for the next few weeks and few months to determine how this table will operate, who will sit on it, and what is the agenda."
Lafreniere added that the table will cover issues that are considered a priority to First Nations.
"What issues should we tackle that are a main priority?" he said.
“Ten nations, 41 communities, different realities, different priorities…," Picard said.
"It’s a matter of us in the coming weeks to make that determination -- what’s the role of that table ultimately?”