A Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo

on December 22, 2010

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on the National Chief’s activities and work underway at the national office. More information can be found on the AFN’s website at

The Assembly of First Nations is embarking on a strategic and forward looking agenda. I believe this is our time, a time for Indigenous peoples to come together in recognition and respect to lead the change that is required for our people. I am pleased to provide the following update on recent activities.


AFN Special Chiefs Assembly Wrap-up and Follow-up

The AFN held its Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) in Gatineau, Quebec from December 14 -16.  The theme of our SCA was “Building on Our Successes: Moving from Endorsement to Action”. I am pleased to say that the more than 1,000 Chiefs, delegates and observers worked hard and accomplished our objective of affirming our plans and strategy for the coming year.  There were a number of notable developments and this Bulletin is intended to provide you with a brief update and overview of the SCA. I encourage you, as always, to check the AFN website at for more information.  Resolutions from the Special Chiefs Assembly will be posted on our website very soon and we have archived material from the Assembly including the webcast of the SCA.

I want to begin by saying how inspired and proud I am of our First Nations youth. Youth made their views and presence known throughout the gathering. On the second day of the SCA, a group of about 25 students from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg stood united before the Chiefs, with pride and conviction, and spoke passionately about their desire – and their right – to a quality education. Their voices were powerful and their message was clear. We often say the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but the young leaders from Kitigan Zibi reminded Chiefs from across the country that they are, indeed, the leaders of today. With courage and resilience, they spark hope and pride among our people and we support their efforts to lead our nations toward the change that will transform our realities and improve the lives of our citizens.

Overall, the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly was an opportunity to engage in open discussion and reaffirm a direction forward based on our rights, guided by a clear set of priorities. We engaged in ceremony.  We honoured leaders passed.  We set our strategy and our path forward on many areas of importance.  Notably, Chiefs stood together and re-affirmed our commitment to continue implementing and strengthening our accountability relationships with First Nations citizens, including an emphasis on openness and transparency.

This was the first Assembly since Canada endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on November 12, and that endorsement informed our work and we spent significant time on the first day confirming our collective plans for action. The Declaration commits Canada to work with us in partnership and respect. We will judge progress based on actions, not words. As we look forward to 2011, there are some signs that we may be able to move together on some of our priorities.

During the SCA, we received a letter from the Prime Minister confirming his willingness to work with us and to participate in a First Nations-Crown Gathering. This will be an important event for us, one that reflects on our historic and enduring relationship but, importantly, advances a very focussed agenda about the future.  I believe we have the opportunity to set out concrete plans to transform the approach to First Nation education, economies and governments affirming and respecting our rights.  I am pleased that the Prime Minister has responded to our call to work in respectful partnership to craft concrete plans for progress on our priorities. Commitment and follow-through will be essential, but I do find this to be an encouraging development. If you want to read the letter from the Prime Minister, it is posted on the AFN website in both French and English.

There were a number of other significant developments at the SCA, including:

  • AFN entering into Statements of Partnerships with the YMCA and the Canadian Executive Service Organization to extend the network of partners and support for First Nation communities;
  • the federal Minister of Health agreeing to renew the joint Task Group with AFN, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to improve the effectiveness of First Nations health services;
  • First Nation leaders calling for demonstrable action to address the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to ensure supports are available to communities, so all of our citizens can live in safety;
  • the announcement of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek (formerly known as Whitefish Lake First Nation) as the site for the “Building Homes and Building Skills” joint pilot project aimed at building green and sustainable First Nation housing and communities. The decision was made following a technical assessment process by the project team partners (AFN, The Holmes Group and Ontario First Nation Technical Services Corporation); and
  • First Nations leaders calling for Canada to respect the Aboriginal and Treaty right to clean drinking water and expressing a willingness to work collaboratively with the government to change the flawed Bill S-11 that is moving through parliament.


These are but a few of the highlights from the 2010 Special Chiefs Assembly. There were many more and we will keep you informed of all developments.

The New Year holds the promise of opportunity for real change. I can assure you that your organization, the Assembly of First Nations, will be relentless in our pursuit of justice and fairness for our all our people. We will return to our original relations and come together as nations to set a path forward.  We will be focused and strategic to achieve results. This is about our rights and the future of our children.

United Nations Declaration Posters Available on AFN Website

To help promote awareness and understanding of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the AFN has produced a series of eight posters on the articles and principles of the Declaration.  They are available for free download – in French or English – on the AFN website. You can find them in our section on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The posters can be downloaded on standard size paper or, if you have access to a large printer, they look great in full poster size. The posters can be used in classrooms, offices – anywhere you want to let people know about the UN Declaration!

I want to conclude by wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and all the best to you and your loved ones in 2011!

Assembly of First Nations, 473 Albert Street, Suite 810, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5B4

Toll-free: 1-866-869-6789 Fax: (613) 241-5808

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on the National Chief’s activities and work underway at the national office. More information can be found on the AFN’s website at

rdbrinkhurstA Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo
Assembly of First Nations