Disproportionate impact of COVID-19, UNDRIP legislation on the table at AFN meeting

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RoseAnne Archibald

OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations is planning to urge the federal Liberal government to do more to deal with the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their communities in a virtual version of its annual general assembly today.

Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald says the pandemic has hit First Nations communities hard, but they have also long dealt with inequitable treatment in Canada.

She says Canada has an opportunity to take big steps toward improving the situation through programs, services and funding as the country rebuilds its economy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to address the general assembly, which was originally scheduled to take place in Halifax this summer but put off due to COVID-19.

Chiefs are set to discuss, among other things, whether they will support legislation the Liberal government introduced this week that would ensure Canadian law is in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek says some Indigenous communities don’t have broadband internet and they will have to call in by phone to participate in the meeting.

She says one resolution calls to end gender-based discrimination within the AFN, a national political advocacy organization representing more than 600 First Nations in Canada, to help the group lead the way in advancing gender equity.

The organization is expected to create a First Nations veterans council to promote the recognition of contributions of First Nations military and RCMP veterans in Canada through education and to develop and maintain a database of First Nations veterans.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who announced Monday he is not seeking re-election next July, is also set to address the meeting of the organization he’s led since 2014.