Harper, Atleo to meet as militants threaten economy

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, speaks to the media at the National Press...

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo, speaks to the media at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa Jan. 10, 2013. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief

, Last Updated: 9:57 PM ET

OTTAWA — Shortly after lunch on Friday, a group of First Nations leaders will gather at the Langevin Block on Parliament Hill for a four-hour working meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some of his ministers.

It's a meeting that seemed, at several points this week, in peril of not even happening.

On Thursday, the government was saying little, but First Nations leaders spent a great deal of time talking to reporters.

Some, like several chiefs from Manitoba, demanded no less than the repeal of the Harper government's budget legislation, bills C-45 and C-38, and said if Harper didn't agree to that request then Harper would be putting Canada's economy at risk of shutdown by Idle No More protests.

"We have the power," Derek Nepinak, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told reporters. "The Idle No More movement has the people and the numbers that can bring the Canadian economy to its knees. We have the warriors that are standing up now that are willing to go that far. So we're not here to make requests. We're here to demand attention and to demand an end to 140 years of colonial rule."

Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), was about as angry but less confrontational. He spoke of how "fundamental transformation" of the relationship between First Nations and the federal government is required and how Friday's working meeting must be a first step along that path.

Both the government and First Nations leaders would like to see the Indian Act scrapped but no one is agreed on just how that should be done.


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