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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones

A visit to Belgium


BRUSSELS, February 6, 2001 -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, today concluded in Brussels the second part of their European mission.

During their stay in the Belgian capital, Minister Chevrette and the Native leaders hosted two seminars on the evolution of relations between the aboriginal nations and the Government of Québec. These seminars brought together participants from university, cultural and political circles, as well as representatives of the Belgian media. In addition to increasing their knowledge on relations between Québec and the Native people, the members of the audience showed a particular interest in the cultural and social realities of the Native people.

"Belgians were very surprised to learn that the Native population, which represents just over 1% of Québec's population, is made up 60% of young people under 30 and 34% of young people under 15. As a responsible government, there is an urgent need to take action.  We have the duty to intervene in cooperation with the Native communities and to take tangible steps to ensure a future for these young people, with a view to ensuring fairness between the inhabitants of the same territory," stated Minister Chevrette.

After having talked with participants about the realities of his community, the Chief of the Attikameks of Obedjiwan also underscored the importance of this collaboration between the Québec government and his community. "Our future depends on our young people. The partnerships forged with Québec seek to ensure young people a better future. That is basically the message being conveyed to the Europeans," indicated Mr. Awashish.

In addition, the delegation met with several members of the European Parliament and of various Belgian institutions. At the European Parliament, the delegation was presented to the members of the Commission on foreign affairs, human rights, common security and defense policy, chaired by M. Elmar Brok. The delegation also had the chance to speak to Mr. Matti Wuori, Rapporteur on international rights and on the European Union's policy on human rights. The Minister and the Native leaders talked with him about the problem of striking a balance between individual rights and the rights of the community. They drew attention to the difficulty of carrying out collective projects even when they have secured the support of the majority, when they are at odds with the rights of certain individuals.

Moreover, the members of the delegation had the pleasure of meeting with the organizers of a cultural and educational trip that will bring some twenty young Belgians to Québec next May. During this trip these young Belgians will have the opportunity to visit Huron, Innu and Mohawk communities. "I am pleased to see the interest generated by our aboriginal communities at the international level. Thanks to these privileged contacts, these young people will discover Québec's diversity through the authenticity of Native cultures," underscored Mr. Chevrette.

"Overall, these two days in Brussels have made it possible to give Belgian and European leaders a new perspective on the Native reality. They already had some knowledge, but I am convinced that they now have a more comprehensive view of aboriginal questions, in particular with respect to the preservation of our languages and cultures as well as their transmission to our young people," pointed out Mr. Moar, Chief of Mashteuiatsh.

Before leaving Brussels, Mr. Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation, had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Michel Govaerts, Executive Vice-President of the Ziegler Corporation and Vice-President of the Union des entreprises belges, to discuss a project for the distribution and sale of Inuit art in Belgium. This meeting should make it possible to establish the foundations of a business partnership between the Inuit of Québec and a private Belgian corporation, which will undoubtedly contribute to the economic development of Nunavik while assuring the safeguarding and dissemination of traditional Inuit art.

The Minister and the Native leaders have made a positive assessment of this stay which has allowed them to develop a network of relay-persons to make better known at the international level the efforts devoted to the harmonization of relations between Québec and the Native people. "This stay has proven to be very beneficial. Through very rich meetings and discussions, we have helped important decision-makers and stakeholders at the international level to increase their knowledge of our reality," concluded Mr. Aatami.

Recognition of the Québec driver's licence by Belgium

Minister Chevrette took advantage of his stay in Brussels to meet with Ms Isabelle Durant, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and Minister for Mobility and Transport, to discuss the recognition of Québec's driver's licence by Belgium.

"It has taken more than 25 years to settle this question, without any special reason. Québec recognizes the Belgian licence, it is therefore legitimate to expect reciprocity on the part of Belgian authorities", pointed out Minister Chevrette to his counterpart. This is the first time that the two Ministers of Transport have met on this subject, and they agreed to accelerate the process to resolve this matter.

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Édith Rochette
Press attaché
(418) 643-6980
Signature gouvernementale
Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
905, avenue Honoré-Mercier, 1er étage - Québec (Qc)  G1R 5M6 - 418 643-3166
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