Update on the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly
The Assembly of First Nations is holding its 2014 Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) and election for AFN National Chief from December 9-11, 2014 at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This event is being hosted by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) along with the locally established Host Committee.
The theme of this year’s SCA is “Our People, Our Land, Our Time”. This theme reaffirms our direction forward, harnessing the energy of the original peoples of this land, to seize this moment as the time for change and to act now for our peoples based on our rights and responsibilities. The Assembly will include discussion in a number of areas to make these objectives a reality and to support First Nations in advancing this work, including dialogue on Nation Building and AFN Restructuring, Land Rights and Claims, First Nations Control of First Nations Education and Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls. Information on logistics and the agenda will be posted on the AFN website as well as information on the many other events that will take place during the annual gathering.
MKO will be hosting a number of cultural and social events throughout the SCA. Please visit the Host Committee website at www.ourlandourpeopleourtime.com for more information on these events and activities.
Voting for the election for AFN National Chief will begin on Wednesday December 10, 2014. Nominations will be announced soon by the Chief Electoral Officer.
National Aboriginal Women’s Summit (NAWS)
AFN Regional Chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Morley Googoo, together with representatives from the AFN National Women’s Council, Youth and Elders councils, participated in the fourth National Aboriginal Women’s Summit (NAWS) in Membertou, Nova Scotia October 20-22, 2014. AFN Women’s Council Co-Chair Lorraine Netro, AFN Elders Council Chair Phyllis Googoo and AFN Youth Council member Suzie Obamsawin attended the three-day Summit organized by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia under the theme of “promoting equity, empowerment and leadership.”
The AFN Women’s Council provided a paper in support of NAWS, putting forward practical recommendations in the areas of focus for the Summit. The paper submitted by the AFN Women’s Council is available at: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/end_violence/afn_wc_nawsivsubmission.pdf.
A report on NAWS is underway and the NAWS steering committee is working towards a draft socio-economic action plan for Aboriginal women as directed by National Aboriginal Leaders and Premiers at their meeting in August 2014.
During the Summit, representatives from the National Aboriginal Organizations met with provincial and territorial leaders and achieved commitment for a National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women to take place in February 2015. While details are still to be determined, the focus of the roundtable will be on coordinated and tangible action to prevent and end violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Transforming First Nations Education
The push continues for First Nations control of First Nations education consistent with inherent and Treaty rights, supported by fair, stable and predictable funding and systems that embrace and value First Nation languages and cultures. It is clear that every First Nation, every Treaty and every region must set their own path forward and it is the role of AFN to support and advocate for these approaches. The resolve to transform First Nations education and achieve positive change for our children is stronger than ever.
First Nations have rejected federal legislation Bill C-33 but remain committed to transforming First Nations education for the success of our children. This remains our shared goal and shared commitment. In recent weeks and months, First Nations leaders and education experts have gathered to discuss a new path forward to improve learner outcomes and establish real First Nations control of First Nations education.
AFN hosted two days of meetings on October 20 – 21, 2014 with the National Indian Education Committee (NIEC) where a national education work plan was confirmed and advanced. Additional meetings are planned in early November with the NIEC and CCOE to continue to drive work forward.
On November 5, 2014, AFN will be assembling a delegation of national, regional and local First Nation leaders in Ottawa for the purpose of briefing MPs, Senators and their staff on a new path forward for First Nations education.
Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations Child Welfare
The AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (Caring Society) jointly launched a Canadian Human Rights complaint against the Government of Canada on February 27, 2007 on the discriminatory provision of child and family services on-reserve. The joint complaint states that the Government of Canada has a longstanding pattern of providing unequal funding for child welfare services for First Nations children on reserves compared to non-Aboriginal children, resulting in inequitable services. The real impacts are many and harmful to all of our communities. . Many Canadians are shocked to learn that there are more First Nations children in care today than at the height of the residential schools system.
Final arguments in this case were heard from October 20-24, 2014. During the closing arguments, the AFN re-emphasized the immediate, urgent need to address the under-funding of First Nations child and family services on-reserve as it places far too many children at risk and this is completely unacceptable. It is time for the federal government to stop fighting against equity and justice for First Nations children and start fighting for it. This is about fairness for the most vulnerable members of our society.
The AFN wants to thank and acknowledge Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, for her tireless work for the last seven years on this issue. In spite of the many legal obstacles brought forward by the federal government to try and stop this complaint from proceeding, AFN and the Caring Society have stood together against the government in the name of all First Nations children. A final decision from the Tribunal is expected in the New Year, possibly February 2015.
As part of our ongoing efforts to be more self-sufficient and independent financially, AFN launched on an online donation campaign on the AFN website. This is part of a broader fundraising initiative. We have heard the call from First Nations to take steps to ensure the AFN remains a strong organization and strong advocate for First Nations despite successive years of funding cuts by the federal government.
You can get all the information at: http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/donations to help support the Assembly of First Nations and increase our advocacy, policy, and research capacity to benefit First Nations and all of Canada.