Make room for aboriginals: ITC’s Sillett


IQALUIT Any revival of national unity talks must make equal room for aboriginal Canadians, Indian and Inuit leaders said this week.

Following a meeting of premiers in Calgary aimed at averting another sovereignty referendum in Quebec, ITC president Mary Sillett joined the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Métis National Council in calling for a place at the table in any future constitutional negotiations.

“Observer status is not good enough,” said Sillett. “If you’re really going to represent your particular constituency on these issues in national discussions then you have to have an equal voice.”

Premiers and territorial leaders have indicated they will meet with national aboriginal groups during their next premiers’ meeting, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18 in Winnipeg.

Provincial and territorial leaders from across Canada, except Quebec, agreed unanimously last weekend on a framework for future national unity talks. The wording of the agreement recognizes Quebec’s “unique character” as fundamental to the well-being of Canada while reaffirming the equality of the provinces.

The premiers’ agreement described Aboriginal peoples as part of Canada’s “gift of diversity.”

“One thing that I would really like to see is Inuit as a nation enjoying a voice in all major decisions that affect us,” Sillett said. “I would like us as a nation to have not only a strong presence but to have influence over the shaping of this country that we live in.”

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