Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister George Abbott has rejected a recent spat of accusations that his government is falling short when it comes to consulting with First Nations leaders. For example, in an interview with the Georgia Straight's Matthew Burrows, West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Wilson said he had to "fight" to have a meeting with Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom. And, speaking with The Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs president Stewart Philip said his attempts to discuss the harmonized sales tax with Finance Minister Colin Hansen were rebuffed. But, when asked about those examples during an interview on Public Eye Radio, Minister Abbott said, "There has never been a single occasion since I've been minister of aboriginal relations - now going on ten, 11 months - when I have declined an opportunity to meet with Chief Stewart Philip, with Chief Roland Wilson or with any other First Nations leader."
"I spend the majority of each and every day meeting with First Nations, discussing issues on the phone or in-person with First Nations. And, if they're suggesting somehow our government has rebuffed their attempts to talk, I can tell you definitely I have never said no to a meeting with a First Nations leader - including Chief Stewart Philip. I've spent an extensive amount of time with him and I'm glad to - at his request - spend more. So if he feels that another cabinet minister hasn't provided him with the same, he should let me know," he continued.
So perhaps then his cabinet colleagues need to do a better job of consulting with First Nations leader?
"I wouldn't conclude that at all," Minister Abbott responded. "For them to suggest that somehow that they've been rebuffed is, I think, unfortunate. We all try to work through our issues as fully with all of the people that are engaged on these issues as we can. I have the honour and the opportunity to be the minister responsible for aboriginal relations and reconciliation. And, you know, I'm happy at any point to hear their concerns - whether it's on the HST or Site C or any other issue. But I think the suggestion that, somehow, they're being excluded from discussions with our government is incorrect and an unfortunate conclusion to reach."