The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations fall assembly heard some tough words Wednesday morning from one of its senators.
Senator Roland Crowe says the FSIN is facing difficult financial times.
He points out it’s not a good situation when an institution goes through nearly half a dozen chief financial officers in a short period of time and it may be time for the FSIN to consider withdrawing from the national organization.
“It may be time for Saskatchewan once more, to reconsider their membership with the Assembly of First Nations,” he says.
Crowe adds he is specifically disappointed at what he sees as a lack of support from AFN Chief Shawn Atleo for the Mi’kmaq anti-fracking movement.
The FSIN assembly also had a special guest Wednesday afternoon.
Internationally recognized scientist David Suzuki made a presentation to the assembly about why he thinks the environmental movement is fighting the same battles it waged decades ago.
Suzuki says we have become disconnected from nature and instead elevated the economy.
“So we accept when the prime minister of the country says we can’t do anything about reducing green house gases, it will destroy the economy, and no whimper from anyone because we’ve now elevated the economy above the very things that keep us alive,” he says.
He adds people have become urban creatures who don’t even go outside.
Suzuki says people need to reconnect with the sacredness of Mother Earth in order to deal with what he calls the “undeniable consequences” of the current economic system.
The FSIN recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the FSIN.
The Harper government’s First Nations Education Act was also another hot topic of discussion at the assembly on Wednesday.
A number of chiefs voiced their displeasure to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regional director Anna Fontaine that the new act is being pushed forward by the government without proper consultation.
Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass says this point was made clear at a recent meeting with AANDC Minister Bernard Valcourt.
“At the chiefs committee on education, myself and vice-chief Cameron walked out before the minister walked in because we don’t want to be engaged in manufactured consent whereby we’ve consulted with the chiefs committee on education,” he says.
Wapass says the federal government is going to take over control of education and First Nations will lose authority.
He adds this won’t work and First Nations need more money for education because they are already expected to do more with less.
A new Saskatchewan party television attack ad was also discussed.
The ad strongly criticizes the NDP and party leader Cam Broten for supporting government resource revenue sharing with First Nations.
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde says First Nations are guaranteed a share of resource revenues under the treaties and it is high time the government realized this.
“Even when we start talking about concepts like resource revenue sharing, these things are legal constitutional obligations,” he says. “They’re not something we’re just pulling out of the air and I think the sooner people in Saskatchewan and, in particular the government, realizes that, they will start toning that down in terms of the racist ad that’s out there right now.”
The increasingly bleak financial picture at the FSIN was also discussed by the head of the organization.
Bellegarde says the situation has been caused by a reduction in transfers from the Harper government.
Nevertheless, he says the situation provides an opportunity for the FSIN to look for revenues in other areas, such as a change in the provincial gaming agreement.
“Because SIGA makes so much more than Casino Regina or Casino Moose Jaw, we give them approximately $8 million plus dollars, more from our net profit, and there’s been zero taxpayers investment in First Nations gaming, so we’re saying we should target that back to First Nations control and we could utilize some of those revenues to sustain our operations in the FSIN,” he says.