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After Viens report, Indigenous leaders press Quebec government to make changes

Montreal·Updated

After Viens report, Indigenous leaders press Quebec government to make changes

The Viens report, released late last month, concluded Indigenous people in Quebec are victims of “systemic discrimination” when it comes to accessing public services. The government has promised to act on the landmark report.

Province has promised to follow through on recommendations laid out in landmark report into public services

Ghislain Picard, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec, spoke to reporters ahead of Thursday's meeting. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Indigenous leaders are gathering with representatives from the Quebec government today in what many view as a crucial first step following the release of the Viens report.

Ghislain Picard, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec, said he wants to see Premier François Legault follow through on his pledge to act on the landmark report on the treatment of First Nations people and Inuit in the province.

“There needs to major structural changes in the way that government operates or manages its services when it comes to Indigenous peoples,” he said prior to gathering at hotel conference room in Quebec City.

“Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve is to set the course for a true political relationship.”

The Viens report, released late last month, concluded Indigenous people in Quebec are victims of “systemic discrimination” when it comes to accessing public services.

The report — the result of nine months of testimony about decades of abuse, mistreatment and neglect — laid out 142 recommendations for the province regarding policing, social services, corrections, justice, youth protection, and health and social services.

The first recommendation was that the government issue an apology, which Legault delivered in the National Assembly on Oct. 2.

Now, Picard said he wants to see the government adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, something Legault had promised to do during last year's election campaign.

Picard said that would be a strong indication the province takes seriously its commitment to improving relations with Indigenous Peoples.

The meeting was held in a hotel conference room in Quebec City. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

There is no itinerary for the day-long discussion.

Sylvie D'Amours, the province's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, said Wednesday the priorities would be developed in consultation with Indigenous leaders.

“We will do it together,” she told reporters. “It's a first meeting.” 

Manon Massé, co-spokesperson for the opposition party Québec Solidaire, said she will be a “witness” to the encounter.

“To me it's a test for the CAQ. Are they really involved in this collaboration? Not only in words but in action too.”

With files from Cathy Senay

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