Gottfriedson calls for involvement of more than select few
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with First Nations leaders on Friday, Jan. 11, there's one name not on the guest list — Tk'emlups Indian Band Chief Shane Gottfriedson.
And, while he isn't too surprised at this fact, the head of the TIB said issues facing First Nations in the country will only be resolved by involving more than "a selective few that sit and engage with government."
The meeting with Harper comes as a result of an ongoing protest and hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence.
Gottfriedson said the only way to "meaningfully move forward is with the 603 First Nations in B.C. and Canada involved."
While he had praise for TIB band member Evelyn Camille, who staged her own five-day fast to support Spence and the associated Idle No More movement, Gottfriedson said any changes that are made that make it easier for bands to lease land and build their business portfolio are good.
One of the issues that prompted Spence's protest is Bill C-45, which changes the bureaucracy associated with the ability of bands to handle their own land.
"That's our bread and butter," Gottfriedson said. "And, anything that is done to speed up land development, we're all for it — not only for our people but for our partners."
He noted the TIB, with 1,250 members, has eight of its own corporations and more than 350 businesses on the reserve's land.
"We need to have that edge to develop our land, just like any other developer."
The chief said it was unfortunate an audit of finances at Spence's reserve was leaked this week to the CBC, but noted he believes the federal government and First Nations leaders are "working in a very productive way, despite the negative publicity that hasn't been very productive."
Gottfriedson said the TIB is "one of the most accountable and transparent bands around," with regular audits and financial reports provided to members and a new financial administration law recently passed that "gives us airtight accountability.
"We work hard to disclose everything. That's just our normal way of conducting business."