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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones

A meeting described as being authentic and sincere

UNESCO WELCOMES MINISTER CHEVRETTE AND THE NATIVE LEADERS

PARIS, February 2, 2001 - Visiting Paris within the framework of a European mission on aboriginal affairs, Mr. Guy Chevrette, Minister of Transport, Minister for Native Affairs and Minister for Wildlife and Parks, Mr. Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation, Mr. Simon Awashish, Chief of the Attikamek community of Obedjiwan, and Mr. Clifford Moar, Chief of the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh, spoke this morning at the main office of UNESCO before more than one hundred persons. The audience was made up of ambassadors, senior-level representatives of the organization, teachers, researchers and other persons interested in aboriginal questions.

During this conference, described as being authentic and sincere, Mr. Chevrette emphasized the need to establish a profitable dialogue between the Government and the Native people in order to find, in a spirit of partnership, solutions to the problems existing in their communities. He took advantage of this opportunity to talk about the orientations chosen by Québec with respect to the Native people and to present an assessment of the agreements reached in recent years.

This forum also allowed Mr. Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation, to share his vision of the development of the Inuit nation by stressing the importance of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement.  "We have used the Agreement to our advantage, as a development tool." Moreover, Mr. Aatami expressed his great surprise at finding a Québec woman teaching Inuktituk to a group of European students in Paris.

For his part, Mr. Simon Awashish, Chief of the Attikamek community of Obedjiwan, stated: "We are firmly resolved to embrace modernism, to develop our autonomy and to create jobs for our young people, while preserving our traditions and our culture." Moreover, he stated that he was in favour of Québec's approach, which consists of reaching agreements, thereby making it possible to resolve the problems that some communities face.

In addition to dealing with the Innu language and culture, Mr. Clifford Moar, Chief of the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh, presented the Common approach recently agreed upon during the comprehensive land negotiations with the communities of the Mamuitun Tribal Council. "While much must still be done, we are working to develop a formula that will link our two nations, namely a form of partnership agreement that will allow us to live in harmony," he indicated.

At the end of the meeting, Ms Katérina Stenou, representative of the Director General of UNESCO, said that she was touched by the testimonies of the Native leaders and impressed by the quality of the relations between Québec and the Native people. In this respect, the activities of UNESCO can help make Québec's experience accessible at the international level. Moreover, she invited Minister Chevrette to take part in other activities of her organization.

During their visit to Paris, the members of the delegation were also received by Ms Christine Lazerges, Vice-President of the National Assembly.  She demonstrated a keen interest in aboriginal cultures and traditions as well as in the climate surrounding relations between Québec and the Native people.  This meeting was followed by a lunch presided over by Mr. Yves Tavernier and attended by the members of the Groupe d'amitié France-Québec at the National Assembly.

The delegation's stay in Paris also allowed the members to present their views to several representatives of the Québec, French and international press.  Finally, the members of the delegation went to the Musée de l'Homme, which will contribute to the exhibition that will be presented by the Musée de la Pointe-à-Callière in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Great Peace of Montréal of 1701.

"I am convinced, after this first phase of the mission, of the importance of presenting at the international level, the progress already made and the challenges that await us, said Minister Chevrette.  The interest shown in our initiative confirms the relevance of our approach which relies on negotiations rather than confrontation, in a spirit of respect and mutual understanding."

Over the next few days, the members of the delegation will travel to Brussels and London where they will once again have the opportunity to present the state of relations between Québec and the Native people.

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Source:
Édith Rochette
Press attaché
(418) 643-6980

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