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In the spirit, the legislative assembly did get quite a bit of work done. Vice Chief Eugene Arcand presented the assembly with an impressive report on the activity in his portfolio, from the revival of the Sports and Recreation commission, to new initiatives in the Young Offenders program, to Off-Reserve developments.
Vice-Chief E. "Dutch" Lerat presented his reports on the proposed Mock Trial on Treaty Rights to Education (to be presented to Treaty Commissioner Cliff Wright), the new Post-Secondary Student Summer Employment program., and the Pathways program, "Initially things looked positive, [but] as we are getting more and more into the process we are finding that the dollars on the one hand seem to be shrinking and the rules are continuously being changed." Meanwhile, the First Nations Language Act received first reading, and Vice-Chief Lerat looks forward to receiving another mandate from the Chiefs in October.
Then it was Vice-Chief Tom Iron's turn to date the assembly on developments in the areas of health and social issues, and the work of the Health and Social Development Commission of the F.S.I.N.. Formal con-
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Everyone looked forward to the discussions on the federal government's constitutional renewal process. Vice-Chief Roy Bird, whose portfolio responsibilities include the constitutional discussions, updated the chiefs on the recent developments, especially those affecting the inherent right to self-government. "We do remember our elders, our forefathers, our former chiefs, we have always stated that we never lost that inherent right to self-government, and it is not granted to us now... It is finally being recognized," he declared.
He also addressed the treaty issue, "...we did not back down ever from the fact that the Treaties were not on the table, and our objec-tive was to make sure that Canada lived up to it's obligations," by which he meant the entrenchment of the Treaty rights implementation process. He added, " the federal government now has to look at these Treaty rights based on spirit and intent - they have to look at them, and have to live up to the obligations based on how we see them not on how they see them or on how they interpret them but on how we [Treaty Nations] see them."
He added that the fight was hard. "Our biggest enemies throughout the process were Newfoundland [Premiere Clyde Wells] and Quebec [Robert Bourassa] last week ... and it was a big achievement when Quebec agreed that Aboriginal Peoples were a distinct societies."
He concluded that the next step in the First Nations process is to "go to each First Nation to explain and review the constitution, the proposed constitutional ammendments. It is important that we do this at the First Nations level, at your level with your First Nations membership. That's where the ratification process will start."
F.S.I.N. Chief Roland Crowe declared, "We have made significant strides in regards to the constitution, the protection of our Treaties and our aboriginals rights."
At the end of the conference, Whitebear First Nation Chief Bernard Shepherd was impressed by the conference organizers. "I think (James Smith Chief)Terry Sanderson, organizers and the reserve people have held a good conference and I think that more conferences should be held on reserves." he said.
Speaker Fred Starblanket echoed Chief Shepherd's sentiment, "We accomplished all the work we set out to do....[including] the unfinished business from the Spring Assembly. We had some good healthy discussions. Now the executive can go ahead and get that done."
Elder Allan Bird seemed hopeful for similar assemblies in the future. "We can get something done to have conferences on the reserves instead of in big cities. I say that because the people on the reserve have an opportunity to listen to the executive and the other people who have some things to say and all the people who came from far away stay at meetings a long time."
The following day, the James Smith Cree Nation also hosted the National Treaty Gathering in which chiefs from across the prairies assembled to address the problems faced in developing an organization to protect the Treaties. Although most of the planning is in it's infancy stage, a strategic move to establish a Treaty Protection Office was necessary. Eric Tootoosis expressed his satisfaction at the Gathering saying "more awareness was created and also the necessity of re-organizing has been brought forward. To me that is a big accomplishment and the awareness of the Treaty issue itself is now part of the Constitution and it is up to us to deduce a responsibility for it."