Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says it is absolutely vital to include indigenous people in any discussion on climate change.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to meet with the nation’s premiers later this week, but will first spend a day meeting with indigenous leaders.
Climate change will be the focus of these meetings and the nation’s leaders will discuss how Canada can become a leader in the global clean growth economy.
Chief Bellegarde says it is important Indigenous people are involved in any discussion on climate change because most often they are the first affected.
“We have to be involved now on the development or design of any strategy going forward,” says Bellegarde.
“We have the expertise,” says Bellegarde. “Indigenous people have been protecting the land for thousands of years and that’s the knowledge we want to bring forward when we sit at these decision making tables.”
It’s expected Prime Minister Trudeau will also present the Premiers with a proposed national carbon tax.
On Monday, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall reiterated his position against a carbon tax.
“With the overall Canadian economy struggling, it’s my view, it’s the Saskatchewan Government’s view, that the very last thing we need right now is a new tax,” says Brad Wall.
Wall did say he will not rule out introducing a provincial levy on heavy emitters once the economy rebounds.
“We’re not saying never, but we’re saying not now and not for the foreseeable future,” says Wall.
The premier also says the Canadian government should focus on new technologies to help battle carbon emissions rather than a new tax.
AFN Chief Bellegarde says he respects Premier Wall’s position, but says at some point Canadians will need to pay for the cost of climate change.
“We need to start making the transition away from our dependency on fossil fuels and start investing in clean energy and that’s where we need to start putting our energies,” says Chief Bellegarde.
Prime Minister Trudeau will be meeting with indigenous leaders in Vancouver on Wednesday before meeting with the Premiers on Thursday.