Roseau River First Nation Chief Terry Nelson defends himself against allegations of money mismanagement during a press conference at a VLT Lounge just west of Winnipeg, Manitoba Friday, March 11, 2011.
Credits: MARCEL CRETAIN / QMI Agency
WINNIPEG -- A former Manitoba First Nations chief was on his way to Iran on Thursday, on a mission dedicated to helping aboriginals in Canada.
QMI Agency spoke with former Roseau River First Nation chief Terry Nelson while he was in Geneva, headed for Tehran along with several other First Nations delegates.
Nelson helped organized the trip after Iran expressed interest in a meeting regarding aboriginal humans rights issues in Canada.
"I am well aware that Iran cannot do business with First Nations in Canada due to the economic sanctions but that does not mean they cannot take First Nation issues to the OPEC nations that are not under sanctions," he told QMI Agency.
The federal government said it has had no discussions with Nelson regarding the trip.
"We hope that the aboriginal leaders in question won't allow themselves to be used as pawns in the sad game the Iranians are playing," a spokeswoman for federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Thursday.
She said Iran is pretending to care about aboriginals to distract from its own record of humans rights abuses. Nelson's group is on its own while in Tehran, the spokeswoman said.
"As Canada has suspended diplomatic relations with Iran, the government has no ability to provide support to him," she said. "It is Mr. Nelson's responsibility to ensure he complies with federal sanctions against Iran."
In a recent letter to a Canadian national newspaper, Nelson blamed the "Jewish media" for negative coverage of his trip to Iran.
David Matas, a lawyer for B'Nai Brith Canada, criticized Nelson's use of "racist vocabulary".
"The only way we're going to get respect for aboriginal rights is if people accept equality, oppose discrimination, oppose incitement to hatred. And Terry Nelson, by wallowing in all of this stuff, is undercutting advocacy for rights for aboriginals."