[Witness spoke in Dakelh]
I just wanted to acknowledge the territory I'm calling from, the unceded, unsurrendered and continually occupied territory of the Lheidli T'enneh, the Dakelh people.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations. I hold the economic development portfolio on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and continue to work on behalf of many first nations across this country. Seeing that we're so diverse and have numerous communities, well over 630, there certainly are different points of view in terms of economic development.
Many first nations communities rely not only on our traditional economies but also on market-based economies, which we have been accustomed to since colonization began. Certainly, there are many environmental issues that we deal with as first nations in upholding our rights, treaty rights, and different ways of knowing and being.
Yet, the common theme that serves as a barrier to first nations' economic development is the ongoing systemic impacts of colonialism, in particular the persistent failure to recognize and implement first nations' rights and treaty rights, and the ongoing denial of first nations' self-determination and jurisdiction. It's really important to understand that UNDRIP is law as of June 21, and certainly the declaration identifies and sees sovereignty and self-determination as a cornerstone for implementing first nations' rights, title and interests. Most important to the Assembly of First Nations is ensuring that we address these barriers as first nations.
What we need are solutions that address barriers to help first nations. In some cases, those barriers relate to the failure to implement the treaty relationship, or specific treaty obligations and historical treaties. In other cases, those barriers are related to specific impediments found in the Indian Act itself, to federal or provincial policies, or even to corporate Canada.
Barriers include lack of respect for first nations' inherent rights and jurisdictions, as they relate to treaties, and lack of involvement in economic development planning, decisions and financing. Certainly we've seen the lack of respect for first nations' rights and jurisdictions in many historical fights, whether it's on the territory, in the public or in the courts. Our first nations continue to be in the court systems to fight for what is rightfully ours. A perfect case is the Ahousaht case here in British Columbia—fighting for the ability to commercially fish some of the commercially viable species.
There is a lack of involvement in planning. First nations must be included in strategic planning and decision-making processes for economic recovery. In the long term, certainly, those are some of the discussions that we've been having, not only nationally, but also provincially, as we come out of this pandemic—building back better, if you will. We need to be part of those discussions.
One of the core standards recognized by UNDRIP—which is law here in British Columbia and now federal law elsewhere in this country, through Bill C-15—is the need to uphold and live up to many of the articles within UNDRIP, including free, prior and informed consent. The way we see it, it would provide more certainty in terms of how decisions are made.
Finance, as well, is always an issue in regard to funding certain projects led by first nations, or which are in partnership with first nations. It's very difficult to access the necessary financing on many projects out there, whether it's infrastructure or the development of projects that are important not only to our first nations communities but to the economy in general.
Going forward, we'd like to see more working together in terms of joint actions and measures to progress in these areas. I know this is a very short time. Five minutes doesn't allow me to say a hell of a lot, but certainly we're seeing major issues in Ottawa. The political discourse that we're seeing [Technical difficulty—Editor]. Many racialized peoples, including indigenous peoples, are concerned about the state of this country, so we need to do this in partnership.