Ottawa urged to adhere to Kelowna deal
May 29, 2006. 08:43 PM
GIMLI, Man. - Western premiers went into their annual meeting Monday
urging the federal government not to back away from a $5.1 billion deal
to improve the lives of aboriginal people.
The so-called Kelowna accord was signed last November by former prime
minister Paul Martin, the premiers, territorial leaders and aboriginal
But Stephen Harper's new Conservative government has been cool to the
deal. And the fact that it was not mentioned in the federal budget has
led some to speculate that it's dead.
Western premiers met with aboriginal leaders at the outset of their
meeting to discuss the issue. They reaffirmed their backing of the
accord and said they would push the federal government for a meeting of
aboriginal affairs ministers from across the country to plan how to
proceed from here.
The premiers also reaffirmed the commitment to having an aboriginal
economic summit next January in Saskatoon and a summit on violence
against aboriginal women.
Host Premier Gary Doer of Manitoba said it would be "morally wrong" to
backtrack on the commitments outlined in the Kelowna deal.
"In my view the Kelowna accord could never deal with 120 years of
Canadian history, but at least it was a start."
Doer added the Harper government "should have the right to look at
things but not have the right to walk away" from the principles of
closing the gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said he is hopeful the federal
government has not abandoned the accord and suggested the provinces
should proceed with their parts of the deal.
"I can tell you, in British Columbia we are committed to it. I believe
the federal government will come to the table," Campbell said.
"We're coming up to an anniversary, if you want, of the Kelowna accord
in November. My hope is that all provincial governments will have laid
out their plans for First Nations, Inuit and Metis people about how they
are going to close those gaps and bring the federal government in to
provide the kind of resources that are necessary over the long term."
Assembly of First Nation national chief Phil Fontaine said the support
of the western premiers leads him to believe that the Kelowna accord is
"I don't think there has been any word that the deal is done," Fontaine
"It may be a matter as simple as rebranding and we have no objection to
that. If it is going to bring about the continuation of this process . .
. then we would be happy with that."
Doer said he hopes if groups such as the western premiers throw their
support behind the deal the federal government won't be so inclined to
go another way.
"The will of the public always determines the best way to go," he said.
The Kelowna accord was struck after 18 months of talks. It included a
19-page plan of targets and reporting requirements over 10 years in
areas such as health, education, housing and clean water.
It would have provided $624 million for First Nations in the first year
alone, plus millions of dollars more for the Inuit and Metis.
The federal government's budget contained promises of two years of firm
funding for aboriginal issues - $150 million is promised this year and
$300 million next year.
The new government has said it "is committed to meeting the targets
agreed upon" at the Kelowna meeting.
Still, that hasn't been enough to allay the concerns of some within the
aboriginal community who fear the deal is dead.