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When are UCP leadership candidates finally going to discuss Indigenous issues?

For immediate release

FORT McKAY, AB / Sept 19, 2022

Media Statement From Chief Mel Grandjamb:

I have been following the race for the leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, and one thing is clear:  Indigenous communities are not on the candidates’ radars.

Since May, the seven candidates for the UCP leadership have been participating in debates and campaigning across the province.  Last week, most of them were in Fort McMurray at the annual Oilsands Trade Show. At a public forum, they talked about pipelines, the economy, labour shortages, immigration, and emission caps. They all agreed that pipelines and resource development were top priorities.

They were also united in not addressing issues specific to Indigenous peoples. Such issues did not come up, even though Fort McMurray is surrounded by Indigenous communities, including the Fort McKay First Nation, where I am the Chief.

Indigenous communities are a major part of this province’s past, present, and future. But you would not know that by listening to the leadership debates so far. The candidates are focusing on issues of federal and provincial jurisdiction but have yet to publicly address support for the sovereignty of First Nations or how they would approach Indigenous consultation with the provincial government.

Economic development is central to most of the candidates’ platforms. But they have not addressed the fact that Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs play key roles in oilsands production, as well as in agriculture, tourism, and a host of other businesses.

We also have not heard their thoughts on Indigenous issues facing the province, like implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls To Action, which include many recommendations related to provincial governments.

Before the leadership race ends on Oct. 3, with results announced on Oct. 6, I call on each candidate to share how they will acknowledge our guaranteed Treaty Rights. Tell us how — under your leadership — the province will work with Indigenous communities on land and water rights, wellness, and education.

All of the candidates say they have a plan to lead the province into a prosperous and sustainable future. Do any of their plans involve working with First Nations as key partners in building a healthy future? Or, once again, are we going to be an afterthought?

Chief Mel Grandjamb leads the Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta. He is also Chair of the Board of the Fort McKay Group of Companies, a business entity that is 100 per cent owned, operated and controlled by Fort McKay First Nation.

About FMFN:

Fort McKay First Nation has nearly 900 band members of Cree and Dene heritage, with approximately 450 living in the on-reserve section of the community of Fort McKay, located 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, on the shores of the Athabasca River. In addition to the Fort McKay community, FMFN has reserves 174A at Gardiner (Moose) Lake and 174B at Namur (Buffalo) Lake, approximately 65 kilometres northwest of Fort McKay. Moose Lake is the traditional home of what is now the Fort McKay First Nation.

A signatory to Treaty 8, Fort McKay First Nation’s mission is to assert Treaty rights, revitalize culture and language, promote education, build economic capacity, and support wellness to create opportunities for our Nation’s healthy and sustainable future.

The Nation also manages a business portfolio of 11 entities. Business revenues are invested in infrastructure, programs, services, and directly benefit both the community of Fort McKay and individual band members. Only five to 10 per cent of FMFN’s annual operating budget comes from federal or provincial governments.

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