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National Chief Perry Bellegarde

Uncertainty builds over fate of promised Indigenous chapter in NAFTA

OTTAWA- The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations is raising concerns that a promised Indigenous chapter in a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement “may not come to fruition.”

Perry Bellegarde’s recent letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland adds to mounting concerns that the Liberals may ease demands for an Indigenous chapter in NAFTA as Canadian negotiators seek to bridge gaps keeping Canada away from a revamped deal.

Bellegarde, who is part of an advisory committee on the trade deal, believes dropping the Indigenous chapter would be a lost opportunity for the country and set back efforts on economic reconciliation with First Nations.

When NAFTA negotiations began 13 months ago, Freeland personally thanked Bellegarde for the suggestion of an Indigenous chapter, adding her officials were “very enthusiastic” about it.

A spokesman for Freeland says Canada still believes in the principles outlined at the beginning of negotiations, but the government won’t discuss any specifics given the intense nature of talks.

Canada and the United States are trying to renegotiate their portion of the three-country trade pact, which is tied to the fate of numerous jobs, under an Oct. 1 deadline to provide a text of an agreement to Congress.

 

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