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Quebec announces working group for 'nation-to-nation' discussions with First Nations


MONTREAL — The Quebec government will create a new political working group that will hold regular "nation-to-nation" meetings with First Nations leaders on issues that concern them, Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere announced on Tuesday.

Lafreniere made the announcement in Montreal alongside Ghislain Picard, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, who will co-chair the group with him.

The announcement comes one day after the release of Joyce's Principle, which is a list of measures proposed by the Atikamekw Nation to ensure equitable access to health care for Indigenous people. 

That document is named after Joyce Echaquan, a mother of seven who died in hospital in Joliette, Que., in September after filming staff using derogatory slurs against her.

Picard said tackling the issues raised by the document would be "priority number 1" for the new group. 

"It’s very clear for us that the entirety of chiefs support the principle, and the concept has support at the federal level," Picard said.

"We hope the provincial government will react and respond to this."

Lafreniere said the document could help guide the government as it works to improve the health-care system.

"Joyce's Principle, we’re taking it, we’ll look at it, analyze it and see exactly how we can respond in a concrete way. It will help us with our announcements, will help us on the ground with how we can apply it," he said.

Lafreniere and Picard said the new working group will report directly to Premier Francois Legault and to the province's Indigenous chiefs.

They say the specifics of what the group will do, who will sit on it and how often it will meet, will be decided in the coming weeks.

Picard said the process could be complex given the diversity of Quebec's 10 First Nations and 41 communities, each with their own realities, leaders and priorities.

However, he said the group would not supplant any of the individual discussions between First Nations groups and the government, but would rather serve as a "convergence point" and a way for First Nations to get notice of upcoming legislation that could affect them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020

The Canadian Press

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