The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the provincial government began their discussions at the political negotiating table recently, with the Chief of the AFNQL saying he was guardedly optimistic about the talks, which he hopes will result in greater understanding and more institutional understanding of the challenges faced by First Nations peoples in Quebec.
"The concrete work of the AFNQL-Québec Political Table is now well underway. I sincerely believe that the First Nations population, as well as the population of Quebec as a whole, are asking their respective elected officials to find lasting solutions, to create the essential rapprochement between us that they themselves want, and this, more and more,” said AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard.
First Nations peoples are requesting concrete, sustainable actions aimed at closing the gap between the care received by non-Indigenous Quebecers and Indigenous people in Quebec hospitals, the application of Jordan’s Principle and the implementation of Joyce’s Principle – which would represent a commitment on Quebec’s part to equality and fair treatment in health care on the part of the province.
Joyce’s Principle is a concept being developed by the Atikamekw Nation of Manawan and is a direct response to the death last September of Joyce Echaquan in a Joliette hospital. Echaquan, a member of the Atikamekw Nation, was the victim of racial slurs and verbal abuse as she lay on a gurney complaining of stomach pains. The 37-year-old mother of seven died soon after. Her death is the topic of an ongoing Coroner’s inquest. In addition, Picard said, the topic of child-protection services was also on the table, as the federal government moved two years ago to bring child-protection services under the umbrella of individual First Nations, despite the fact the services are under the auspices of the provincial government.
In a statement, the AFNQL said ‘the Legault government was able to provide answers to the issues raised or to commit to doing so within the framework of the technical tables that will now support,’ then work being carried out at the negotiating table.
Picard said the government’s desire to negotiate in good faith was welcome news and said there is a good chance First Nations Peoples in Quebec can feel optimistic about the future relationship between the governments after this first round of talks.
“It is this desire for rapprochement that I hear around me, and we have the duty to succeed. Nothing easy, but nothing impossible,” he said.
The AFNQL and the Legault government also discussed, and committed to continuing discussions on, the political framework that will guide not only the work of the AFNQL-Quebec political table, but the entire political relationship between the First Nations governments and the government of Quebec,’ an AFNQL statement said.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase