AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde. Screenshot from AFN General Assembly stream.

It was a speech about progress and disappointments.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde says much has been done to improve relations and funding for First Nations, but he says racism is still an ugly reality in Canada. He gave several examples, including the shooting death of Colten Boushie on a farm near Biggar last August. Bellegarde says there have been far too many examples over the last year.

“This has to end, the violence the racism the discrimination, this has to end,” he said. “We know these are not just First Nations problems, but these are Canada’s problems, and we must work together to solve them.”

The AFN leader also reflected on the theme of the conference “Our Children, Our Future.” Bellegarde says that future has been marked by tragedies of the past, including residential schools, family dysfunction and addictions.

“Our people turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain,” he said. “There is loss, there is physical abuse, there is sexual abuse, there is emotional abuse, there is incest. Now, those are ugly words, but we cannot be afraid to speak them, we cannot be afraid when someone says them. We have to create safe places for those who want to break free of abuse.”

Bellegarde also gave his support to the inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women. He admits there have been problems and resignations, but says the work is too important to be lost. He says the AFN will do whatever it can to help the inquiry succeed.