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Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Blaine Favel, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart, Minister of Saskatchewan Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs Berny Wiens and Treaty Commissioner Judge David Arnot were all present to participate in the program.
In addressing the crowded auditorium, Minister Wiens acknowledged the importance of the numbered treaties in Saskatchewan. "Treaties represent the fundamental basis of the relationship between First Nations and the governments of Canada," he said.
In moving forward with the implementation of the treaties signed under this relationship, a change in the attitudes held by non-First Nations people is necessary says Chief Favel. "In order for us to move forward in treaty implementation it is necessary for Canadian people, Saskatchewan people, to understand that they have treaty rights."
These treaty rights have allowed non-First Nation people to benefit from wealth that results from the use of the land. "Their wealth is created directly from the land," Chief Favel said.
Educating the public on the contribution that First Nation people have made in creating that wealth is part of the process undertaken by the OTC. Minister Stewart also acknowledged the significance of the date selected for Treaty Awareness Day, the one-year anniversary of the release of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Minister Stewart spoke of the OTC's campaign on public awareness. "When we talk about treaties we understand they are a reflection of who we are as a nation," she said. She stated that the federal government is continuing to revisit the relationship with First Nations and is looking forward to building a new model based on mutual respect.
Treaty Commissioner Arnot stressed the need for widespread awareness and understanding of treaties. The OTC is working to create an awareness and understanding of treaties for all people in Saskatchewan. This public campaign includes an informative video and work throughout the schools.
The OTC was renewed through an Order-in-Council at the beginning of the year. The impartial body is designed to facilitate a common understanding in areas where the federal government and First Nations now hold differing beliefs of treaty rights and jurisdiction. These areas include: child welfare, education, housing, health, justice, treaty annuities, hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering.
Commissioner Arnot remains committed to the goal. "We need to embrace the concept of Treaty partnership and use it to build a bridge for the future."