First Nations meeting with PM still up in the air

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics
Power & Politics host Evan Solomon's wide-ranging, year-end interview with Gov. Gen. David Johnston

This story was updated at 9:45p.m. EST on January 10

Will he? Will she? Won't they?

That remains the question just hours before a scheduled historic meeting, Friday, between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

After a day of threats, snubs, olive branches and more threats, the meeting -- sparked by the Idle No More movement -- is in jeopardy.

Thursday started with Manitoba chiefs demanding that the location of the meeting be moved from the prime minister's office to the larger Delta Hotel and that Governor General Davd Johnston be in attendance.

The GG obliged — sort of — offering an olive branch stating that he would host a 'ceremonial meeting' for First Nations leaders at Rideau Hall after their meeting with Harper.

But, apparently, that wasn't good enough for the Manitoba chiefs.

CBC News is reporting that they will not attend the meetings unless they get their way; several other provincial factions have decided to stand in solidarity with their Manitoba bretheren. 

According to APTN News, Assembly of First Nations Chief Sean Atleo will take the chiefs concerns to the prime minister on Thursday night or Friday morning.

"Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo was expected to make an eleventh hour attempt to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a larger venue was necessary for Friday’s planned meeting which should also have include the governor general, APTN National News has learned.

APTN National News has been told that Atleo would try to either speak with Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright or the prime minister himself in hopes of landing a last minute change."

And, accordingto a spokesperson for hunger-striking Chief Theresa Spence, Johnston's olive branch isn't good enough for her either.

"We cannot have separate meetings we have to do this together in unity and solidarity for all people, for the First Nations sake, for our future generation’s sake," Spence's spokesperson, Danny Metatawabin told Global News.

If the meeting happens it will be held at 1pm and include the prime minister, aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan, health minister Leona Aglukkaq and treasury board president Tony Clement.

The government has said that they intend to discuss treaty rights and economic development at the meeting.

Atleo, along with regional chiefs Jody Wilson-Raybould and Perry Bellegarde, addressed the media on Thursday afternoon to talk about their desired outcomes.

"[They] laid out a number of specific requests, including treaty implementation, treaty enforcement and a new financial relationship with the Crown. Bellegarde says one funding formula is 19 years old and hasn't kept up with either inflation or the total First Nations population," notes CBC News.

"The chiefs also mentioned resource development agreements and disputes over changes to environmental legislation the Conservative government made in its two omnibus budget implementation bills in 2012."

And if they don't get what they want?

Earlier in the day, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs spoke to reporters and said to expect more protests.

"We have the power," Derek Nepinak said according to Sun News.

"The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees. We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we're not here to make requests. We're here to demand attention and to demand an end to 140 years of colonial rule."