by Clint Buehler
EDMONTON – The Alberta government and representatives of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 have signed an historic Protocol Agreement on Government to Government Relations.
The agreement was signed by Premier Ed Stelmach and Aboriginal Relations Minister Gene Zwozdesky on behalf of the province, and by the Grand Chiefs and Vice-Chiefs of the three Treaty areas in the province.
The protocol furthers Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework (APF) which envisioned that the Government of Alberta will work with First Nations on a government-to-government basis. The APF also provides that Alberta will work with First Nations through mutually negotiated and signed agreements, protocols, memoranda and understandings. These provisions recognize the importance to First Nations leaders of establishing relations directly with elected provincial representatives.
“I am very pleased to be signing this agreement on behalf of the Government of Alberta,” Premier Stelmach said in announcing the agreement. “Strong, vibrant Aboriginal communities are an important part of our province’s future, and this five-year agreement provides formal protocols for our relationship with all of Alberta’s First Nations.”
“The protocol agreement is a significant step in building the foundational relationship for all future partnerships between our governments,” said Zwozdesky. When the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations was established, one of the key priorities was formalizing relationships between the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Treaty Grand Chiefs. I am thrilled we have done that today.”
The Protocol Agreement provides a commitment Grand Chiefs will meet with the Premier once a year, and twice a year with ministers responsible for consultation with First Nations regarding land and resource development. It also creates the possibility of other ministers agreeing to similar meetings and processes.
“It’s an important step forward in establishing a collaborative approach with the Stelmach government,” said Charles Weaselhead, Grand Chief of Treaty No. 7. “The protocol agreement provides a vehicle by which areas of concern can be addressed and streamlined to the decision makers who can affect change. We applaud the action of this government in recognizing our vision of securing a better future for all Albertans.”
Stanley Lagrelle, Grand Chief of Treaty No. 6, said this agreement “provides the framework to work together in exploring and developing mutually beneficial opportunities. Our Chiefs look forward to forging ahead with the Alberta Government in creating an advantage also for Alberta’s First Nations.”
“This protocol agreement signifies a relationship built on mutual respect, renewed hope and trust with the Alberta government. Today, the Treaty territories of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 celebrate in formalizing this relationship with the provincial government and look forward to future endeavors,” said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.
This agreement provides an overall provincial policy approach to First Nations relations and represents all 47 First Nations in the province—more than 100,000 people across Alberta. Previous agreements, including those signed in 1993 and 1995, did not represent all First Nations in Alberta.