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Statement by Minister Valcourt on Steps Towards Reconciliation and Ongoing Commitment to Working with First Nations

OTTAWA, Jan. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - As we approach the two-year anniversary of the historic Crown-First Nation Gathering held in January 2012, the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, issued the following statement:

"Two years ago our Government committed to renew its efforts to work with First Nations towards our shared priorities and to reach our ultimate goal of reconciliation. I am proud to say that since then, we have made significant progress and taken concrete steps towards fulfilling our commitments.

Since that historic meeting, our Government has worked with the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations partners in creating an improved and more transparent financial relationship.

Our Government has taken strong action that will allow for better services on reserve and less administrative red tape for those directing crucial funding where it is needed most. These steps include streamlining contribution agreements and reporting requirements, and consolidating spending authorities for transfer payment programs.

We have made advancements in working with First Nations to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable governments through legislation such as with the passage of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act on March 2013, a critical part of our shared mission to build stronger, more prosperous First Nations communities. We are also proud to have passed the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, ensuring women and families on reserve enjoy the same rights as those that live off-reserve.

In April 2013, we announced the establishment of a Senior Oversight Committee for Comprehensive Claims with the goal of renewing the Comprehensive Claims Policy to advance certainty, expeditious resolution, and self-sufficiency, as committed to in the Crown-First Nations Gathering Outcome Statement. To that end, the oversight committee members worked together to develop options to renew, update or reform Canada's comprehensive claims policy in a spirit of reconciliation.

We have also been working to increase the dialogue on treaty relationships and we will continue doing so with all treaty First Nations.

During 2013, progress was also made in the area of self-government. This included signing the Yale First Nation Final Agreement in BC, legislation to give effect to Sioux Valley Dakota self-government agreement in Manitoba and Agreements-in-Principle with Miawpukek First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne located near Cornwall, Ontario.

Our Government believes that improving on-reserve education is a key priority to ensure a better and brighter future for First Nations youth and on-reserve communities. In October 2013, we shared a draft legislative proposal on First Nations Education with First Nations leadership, stakeholders and interested parties across this country. We believe that high quality education for First Nations students will empower them to reach their full potential. We will continue working with First Nation partners to create a better on-reserve education system for First Nation students.

Another step on our path towards reconciliation is the recent announcement that we will work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to extend their operating period for one year (until June 30, 2015). This would allow the Commission time to complete its important mandate and deliver a final report. Our Government looks forward to continuing to assist the Commission with this important work in order to achieve a fair and lasting resolution to the sad legacy of Indian Residential Schools.

We must remember that there are no quick fixes, and much work remains ahead. Our Government will continue to work with the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations partners in delivering on these commitments to provide real, concrete results by creating the conditions for healthier, more self-sufficient First Nation communities."

You may also be interested in:
Crown-First Nations Gathering 2014 Progress Report

This statement is also available on the Internet at www.aandc.gc.ca.

SOURCE Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

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