National Indigenous Leaders Speak Reconciliation with Canadian Prime Ministers in BC |

Indigenous leaders from across Canada met Monday with the country’s prime ministers to discuss a range of reconciliation priorities at an annual meeting near Victoria.

Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron said the dialogue was “extremely valuable,” covering topics such as Indian Law, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, land claims, child welfare and sites. unmarked burial sites on former residential school sites.

“We spent the morning getting to know each other, building relationships,” he told reporters after the meeting.

“There are solutions that we can all develop together by talking about our challenges, talking about best practices – what works and what doesn’t work in each of our jurisdictions.”

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The meeting, the first of its kind to be held on reserve land in Canada, was organized by the Songhees and Esquimalt nations. Also in attendance were representatives from the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the BC Assembly of First Nations and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

NWAC’s Lisa Webber urged prime ministers to make a “continued commitment” to include indigenous peoples at decision-making tables, particularly when discussing a national health care crisis.

“If there is a problem with the conventional model, how about we consider revamping that model, flipping it completely on its head, and saying include indigenous peoples in those solutions?” Webber said.

Several calls for justice in the 2019 National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, she added, address the health and well-being of indigenous peoples.

Click to play video: 'Canada's healthcare system a key concern ahead of Prime Ministers' meeting'

Canada’s health system is a key concern ahead of prime ministers’ meeting

Canada’s health system is a key concern ahead of prime ministers’ meeting

British Columbia Premier John Horgan said “it’s about time” for the federal and provincial governments to work with indigenous peoples to heal intergenerational trauma and turn a “black page” in Canada’s history books.

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In BC, he said work is underway to implement the 89-point action plan for the province to comply with its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Meanwhile, indigenous child welfare reform is taking place across the country.

“There is a movement towards keeping children in the community, keeping them in their cultures so that the trauma of family breakdown and disunity does not also lead to a loss of culture, a loss of person, a loss of who you are and where do you fit in the cosmos,” she said.

Horgan also touted the value of having candid, face-to-face meetings with indigenous leaders.

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The meeting comes a little over a week before Pope Francis visits Canada on a pilgrimage of reconciliation. He is expected to offer an in-person apology for the role of Catholic priests and nuns in Canada’s harrowing residential school system.

The first meeting of ministers is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, with health care a main focus.

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