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Innu Nation pulling out of N.L. premier’s Indigenous roundtable

October 20, 2023

Innu leaders say premier is not fairly addressing the concerns surrounding NCC

A man wearing a black shirt sits at a table in front of a microphone.
Innu Nation Grand Chief Simon Pokue was among the signatories on a letter sent to Premier Andrew Furey stating the Innu’s desire to withdraw from the Indigenous roundtable. (CBC)

NationTalk: CBC News: The Innu Nation says it has notified Premier Andrew Furey that all Innu leaders in Labrador have withdrawn from his Indigenous roundtable.

In a press release issued Friday afternoon, the Innu Nation expressed dissatisfaction with the way the provincial government is handling concerns over NunatuKavut and what it called “the conflict of interest and bias” of Indigenous Affairs Minister Lisa Dempster.

“This table is supposed to be a group comprised of provincial Indigenous leaders. NunatuKavut community council (NCC) is not a recognized Indigenous group,” says a letter dated Oct. 18 and addressed to Furey. “We take exception to the sustained effort by the province to include NCC in dialogue about Indigenous matters.”

The NunatuKavut community council says it represents about 6,000 Inuit in central and southern Labrador, but Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national representative organization for the Inuit in Canada, disputes NunatuKavut’s claims of Inuit identity. The Innu Nation also doesn’t recognize the community council’s claims. 

The letter, signed by leaders from the Innu Nation, the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and the Mushuau Innu First Nation, accuses the premier’s office of failing to address concerns about Dempster’s “conflict of interest and evidence of her bias.”

A woman with dyed blonde hair wearing a beige coloured jacket sitting at a microphone.
The Innu Nation has called for the resignation of Lisa Dempster, minister responsible for Indigenous affairs and reconciliation, and Labrador affairs. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

“The course of action appears to be to take no action and to dismiss the concerns of our people. This is disrespectful and unacceptable to Innu Nation and our First Nations,” the letter says.

Dempster is a member of NunatuKavut. 

The letter comes on the heels of calls from both Innu and Inuit for Dempster to resign after learning Furey announced plans to apologize to residential school survivors in Cartwright.

The province promised in 2017 to apologize to residential school survivors. The decision to do that in Cartwright, with only representatives from the provincial government and NunatuKavut in attendance, outraged the Innu Nation and the Nunatsiavut government.

In an interview in late September, NunatuKavut President Todd Russell called remarks disputing the group’s Indigeneity “misleading.”

“Some border on lies and mistruths. They do not reflect history. They do not reflect reality. In my estimation, this is nothing short of crass politics and playing politics — baseless politics, harmful politics — with the lives of our people.”

The Innu Nation says matters discussed at the roundtable are can done through direct dialogue with the Innu Nation office and staff.

The premier’s roundtable included biweekly meetings with Indigenous leaders, along with an annual face-to-face meeting involving Indigenous shareholders like friendship centres.

The meetings have been touted by Furey as a way for everyone involved to have “meaningful discussions and respectful conversations about ideas and insights for the benefit of Indigenous people and communities.”

The Innu Nation, meanwhile, says the news should not come as a surprise to the premier.

“In fact, we would be very surprised if you weren’t aware that your actions towards Innu to date would push Innu away from participating at this table,” says the letter.

A spokesperson for the Premier’s Office said they hadn’t yet seen the press release from the Innu Nation but said Furey is committed to working with all Indigenous governments and organizations in the province.

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  • A previous version of this story said meetings between Furey and Indigenous leaders were only done annually. In fact, Furey and Indigenous leaders were meeting bi-weekly, along with an annual face-to-face meeting.Oct 20, 2023 9:13 PM NT