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National Chief Bulletin – August 2016 – AFN-INAC Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relations Working Group

on August 18, 2016
Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relationship Working Group
 

On July 13th, at the Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the work required to establish a new fiscal relationship.

The AFN’s 2015 “Closing the Gap” priorities document called for lifting the 2% cap on annual funding increases to First Nations and the establishment of a new fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, including new fiscal transfer arrangements with equitable escalators for ongoing funding. In response to the AFN’s advocacy, the Prime Minister made this an important part of his mandate letters to Ministers Bennett (INAC) and Morneau (Finance). At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December, 2015, the Prime Minister again committed to lifting the 2% cap and stated that, “It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations that gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding.  This is a promise we made, and a promise we will keep.”

The first step towards this goal is carrying out the necessary technical work. A joint technical working group will be established under the MOU to prepare recommendations and options for the consideration of First Nations leadership and by Canada. The technical working group on fiscal relations is expected to report back to the Minister, the National Chief and Executive by December 31, 2017. A Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations also will be established to provide oversight and direction to the AFN representatives on the technical working group.

The recommendations arising from this work will be presented again to Chiefs-in-Assembly for review, discussion and direction before any further steps are taken. As stated in the MOU, it “is not intended to impede or replace any existing initiatives or processes of any First Nation” and “shall not diminish, derogate, abrogate or infringe any existing aboriginal, treaty, legal, inherent or any other rights of First Nations.”

A copy of the MOU is attached to this Communique. Additional information will be made available as the work progresses.

Memorandum of Understanding between the Assembly of First Nations and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

 

Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relationship Working Group

On July 13th, at the Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the work required to establish a new fiscal relationship.

 

The AFN’s 2015 Closing the Gap” priorities document called for lifting the 2% cap on annual funding increases to First Nations and the establishment of a new fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, including new fiscal transfer arrangements with equitable escalators for ongoing funding. In response to the AFN’s advocacy, the Prime Minister made this an important part of his mandate letters to Ministers Bennett (INAC) and Morneau (Finance). At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December, 2015, the Prime Minister again committed to lifting the 2% cap and stated that, “It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations that gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding.  This is a promise we made, and a promise we will keep.”  

 

The first step towards this goal is carrying out the necessary technical work. A joint technical working group will be established under the MOU to prepare recommendations and options for the consideration of First Nations leadership and by Canada. The technical working group on fiscal relations is expected to report back to the Minister, the National Chief and Executive by December 31, 2017. A Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations also will be established to provide oversight and direction to the AFN representatives on the technical working group.

 

The recommendations arising from this work will be presented again to Chiefs-in-Assembly for review, discussion and direction before any further steps are taken. As stated in the MOU, it “is not intended to impede or replace any existing initiatives or processes of any First Nation” and “shall not diminish, derogate, abrogate or infringe any existing aboriginal, treaty, legal, inherent or any other rights of First Nations.” 

 

A copy of the MOU is attached to this Communique. Additional information will be made available as the work progresses.

Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relationship Working Group

On July 13th, at the Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the work required to establish a new fiscal relationship.

 

The AFN’s 2015 “Closing the Gap” priorities document called for lifting the 2% cap on annual funding increases to First Nations and the establishment of a new fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, including new fiscal transfer arrangements with equitable escalators for ongoing funding. In response to the AFN’s advocacy, the Prime Minister made this an important part of his mandate letters to Ministers Bennett (INAC) and Morneau (Finance). At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December, 2015, the Prime Minister again committed to lifting the 2% cap and stated that, “It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations that gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding.  This is a promise we made, and a promise we will keep.”

 

The first step towards this goal is carrying out the necessary technical work. A joint technical working group will be established under the MOU to prepare recommendations and options for the consideration of First Nations leadership and by Canada. The technical working group on fiscal relations is expected to report back to the Minister, the National Chief and Executive by December 31, 2017. A Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations also will be established to provide oversight and direction to the AFN representatives on the technical working group.

 

The recommendations arising from this work will be presented again to Chiefs-in-Assembly for review, discussion and direction before any further steps are taken. As stated in the MOU, it “is not intended to impede or replace any existing initiatives or processes of any First Nation” and “shall not diminish, derogate, abrogate or infringe any existing aboriginal, treaty, legal, inherent or any other rights of First Nations.”

 

A copy of the MOU is attached to this Communique. Additional information will be made available as the work progresses.

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Assembly of First NationsNational Chief Bulletin – August 2016 – AFN-INAC Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relations Working Group

AFN Special Chiefs Assembly Executive Report – December 2015

on January 5, 2016

National Chief’s Report

To my fellow Chiefs and First Nations Leaders: 

As we reflect on our progress over the past year, I want to begin by noting the important role First Nations electors played in helping to elect a Government that is expressly committed to rebuilding the Crown’s relationship with our peoples on a foundation of rights recognition. The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau has expressed his Government’s intentions in the mandate letters addressed to Cabinet Ministers and released on the Prime Minister’s website: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”   

This is a good time to reflect on how we got here. Following the release of the AFN’s election priorities document in August (Closing the Gap: 2015 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada), AFN leadership pressed all federal parties to commit to take action on a wide range of First Nations issues as a national priority.  

In the spirit of non-partisanship, our Closing the Gap priorities document was shared with all federal party leaders. The Leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party each responded. Each of these parties also accepted our invitation to address the AFN’s Election Forum, held in Edmonton on October 7th.  At this event, First Nations citizens and leadership had an opportunity to hear presentations from the Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the NDP), Carolyn Bennett (then critic of Aboriginal Affairs) and Brenda Sayers (Green Party candidate), and to ask questions of the speakers. This event was webcast and was a huge success. In the end, each of these parties included key elements of our Closing the Gap priorities in their party platforms. Requests to the Conservative Party went unanswered. 

Members of your AFN Executive and I were very pleased to provide these opportunities for discussion of First Nations elections issues and priorities. Throughout the 2015 Federal Election, we witnessed a very high level of engagement and voter participation by First Nations in all parts of Turtle Island. With the impressive efforts of many independent “rock-the-vote” initiatives by Indigenous activists and volunteers, it is fair to say that engagement and turn-out by First Nations people in Election 2015 reached unprecedented levels. 

A record 10 Indigenous Members of Parliament were elected on October 19th, and we congratulate each and every one of them. We are all especially proud that Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Regional Chief for British Columbia, is now Canada’s new Minister of Justice. 

As National Chief, I will work with the AFN Executive to build relationships and ensure the new government meets its commitments to First Nations. Our message has been clear – the rights agenda and the development agenda of all First Nations are equally important and must be addressed.

Much work lies ahead to support all First Nations in securing the full respect of our fundamental rights and to advance our respective development priorities. All of this will be carried out in accordance with mandates from Chiefs-in-Assembly.  

The new federal government has committed to many significant actions such as the full implementation of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Many have long been on First Nations’ agendas:

 

  • Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Establishment of a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  • A review of federal laws and policies to ensure respect of First Nations’ fundamental rights
  • A lifting of the 2% cap on annual funding of essential services to First Nations and movement towards “sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for First Nations communities”
  • Increased funding for First Nations’ education
  • An end to boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves within five years 
  • Support for Indigenous languages.

 

At this AFN Special Chiefs Assembly we will again discuss the areas in which First Nations wish to work to support one another.  We also will continue our work together respecting Nation Building and AFN Renewal.

I have been energized and inspired by each of the events and gatherings I have had the honour to attend over the past year as National Chief. These have provided treasured opportunities to engage in ceremony and dialogue with many of you, for which I am truly grateful.

I am buoyed by a renewed sense of optimism as I consider the great work we have to do in the year ahead. I am committed to working in the spirit of respect and integrity that our ancestors have taught us. I look forward to receiving your counsel and your wisdom in the days to come. Together, we will, Close the Gap in well-being and secure the fullest implementation of our fundamental rights as nations and peoples.

Thank you.

Perry Bellegarde
National Chief, Assembly of First Nations

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Assembly of First NationsAFN Special Chiefs Assembly Executive Report – December 2015

National Chief Bulletin July 2015

on July 27, 2015

Update on the AFN 36th Annual General Assembly – July 7-9, Montréal, Québec

The Assembly of First Nations 36th Annual General Assembly (AGA) took place July 7-9, 2015 in Montréal, Québec. More than 1,000 delegates and observers gathered in Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) territory to discuss key issues and plan strategies and a path forward to advance First Nations priorities. Hundreds more followed the proceedings online through the AGA webcast.

The Assembly heard from federal party leaders Thomas Mulcair (New Democratic Party) Justin Trudeau (Liberal) and Elizabeth May (Green Party). The leaders made important public commitments to Close the Gap and to eliminate the 2% cap, which we have long known is really a cap on prosperity and opportunity for First Nations and Canada.  It is a failed policy that holds all of us back. All three leaders also agreed to support many of the ideas First Nations are putting forward, including a high level Cabinet table to deal with any laws or initiatives that affect our people; a mandatory review of any new or existing laws or policies to ensure they are consistent with our rights and Treaties; and commitments to honouring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Each party leader put forward approaches for working in partnership with First Nations. The key for all of us is to hold the parties and their leaders to the commitments made to First Nations.

The Importance of Political Engagement in the Federal Election

After the Assembly opening ceremonies, we began an important discussion on mobilizing the First Nations vote for the upcoming federal election, scheduled to take place October 19.  A wide range of views were expressed. One thing was clear. There is widespread agreement that First Nations peoples can play a powerful role in choosing the direction of the country. There are 51 ridings in which our votes can make the difference in who will be the federal representative in Ottawa. 51 ridings in which we can have make our voices clear and we can cast a ballot for a government that will meet its obligations to our people. We will be talking about this much more during the next two months.

Other Business

During the AGA, Chiefs-in-Assembly passed 42 resolutions.  These include a commitment to convene a National Indigenous Energy Forum. Other resolutions provide support and direction on Full Implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, Revitalization of Indigenous Languages: Concrete Actions to Support Indigenous Language Teachers and Cultural Centres, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Canada’s Obligation to Develop with Indigenous Peoples a National Action Plan for Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  These and all other resolutions are available at www.afn.ca.

Delegates also discussed strategy and action on priorities including AFN restructuring and nation-building, action on the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, First Nations and energy development, and First Nations education.  There were focused dialogue sessions on a range of issues including ending violence against Indigenous women and girls, Indigenous languages, Treaties, land rights and claims, child welfare and more. 

We come out of this Assembly strong and united.  Once again we are standing together and standing up for our people – standing together and committing to action to Close the Gap.  I thank all those who participated in the Assembly, who viewed it online and who expressed their views and opinions on the direction forward. 

Update on the Council of Federation – July 15, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador

Shortly after the AGA, I attended the meeting of Premiers and National Aboriginal Leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador on July 15, 2015.  This meeting is a regular event prior to the premiers’ Council of the Federation meeting.

My message to the premiers is that all governments – including the federal government – must work together collaboratively with Indigenous peoples on real action and outcomes that will close the gap in quality of life between First Nations and the rest of Canada. I highlighted priority areas for action, including energy and the economy, education, revitalization of Indigenous languages, ending violence against Indigenous women and girls and the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the child welfare system.  I also urged premiers to ensure First Nations are fully included in the development and design of any National Energy Strategy.  A strategy will only succeed with the involvement of First Nations as full partners.

During the meeting, I was able to recognize the efforts by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in her province, calling this an example of positive and constructive action that premiers can take to advance reconciliation and close the gap.  I am also pleased to note that all 13 premiers expressed support for the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

A key area of discussion was follow-up to the February 2015 National Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  Manitoba has agreed to host the second Roundtable in 2016 and Ontario will provide coordination for tracking and furthering outcomes and commitments.  Alberta will lead development of a socio-economic action plan for Aboriginal women.

The absence of the federal government was noted throughout the meeting and premiers committed to communicating directly with the federal government to outline their actions and approaches and to call on the federal government to fulfill its responsibilities.

The AFN’s submission at the meeting – “Closing the Gap: Seeking Reconciliation, Advancing First Nations Well Being and Human Rights” – can be viewed at: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/closing_the_gap_-_seeking_reconciliation_advancing_first_nations_well_being_and_human_rights_fe.pdf

In Closing

Finally, I want to close by offering our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the fires in Saskatchewan and elsewhere in the western regions. A blanket dance was held during the Assembly of First Nations 36th Annual General Assembly and more than $12,000 was raised in donations for those affected by the fires. Please keep all those affected by the fires in your thoughts and please donate or support them in any way you can.

We will continue to keep informed of all developments over the summer months.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde,
Assembly of First Nations

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Assembly of First NationsNational Chief Bulletin July 2015

National Chief Bulletin June 11, 2015

on June 11, 2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Closing Events:  May 31 – June 3, 2015 

Last week the country’s attention was on Truth and Reconciliation.  We heard the stories of survivors of Indian Residential Schools. We listened as former students bravely shared the experiences that shaped this country.  These are the experiences that must never be forgotten, must never be repeated, and must transform the way we relate to one another. 

As National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, I was humbled and honoured to take part in Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) closing events in Ottawa May 31 to June 3, to walk with those who believe in reconciliation, to stand with survivors, to hear from the Commissioners and to help lead the way forward. 

The Assembly of First Nations helped to bring to Ottawa more than 100 survivors from across the country who participated in the Walk for Reconciliation, education and awareness panels, the release of the findings and a moving ceremonial close at Rideau Hall. 

On June 2 TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson released a summary report of their findings.  This included 94 ‘calls to action’ in the areas of child welfare, justice, education, health and more.  The full final report is expected to be released later this year and includes testimony from more than 7,000 survivors. 

The calls to action will help guide the work ahead.  An apology requires action, and today now seven years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper and all of Parliament rose to apologize, we continue to urge change.  Our children must grow up safe and healthy in their own homes and home communities. Addressing the over representation of First Nations children in the child welfare system is essential.  We know that if we do not act, we will lose our Indigenous languages, the jewels of this land. 

I welcome the call by TRC Commissioners to the parties of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement for a new Covenant on Reconciliation to ensure the work of reconciliation continues.  AFN’s commitment to reconciliation remains strong, and we know that reconciliation requires work across a range of issues rooted in the impacts of the Indian Residential School system.  We must close the persistent, wide and unacceptable gap in the quality of life between First Nations and other Canadians.  I commit to doing the work required to get this done –  and will continue to press at all levels for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  This would be a tangible and essential step toward reconciliation in all areas of our lives affected by colonization and the attempt at cultural genocide. 

Canadians stood with us last week.  They continue to support our efforts to  set out and implement solutions.  Part of the reason for this is that more Canadians are learning for the first time their true history.  We agree with the call to action to ensure more efforts to educate Canadians about the residential schools as well as First Nations peoples, rights, laws and Treaties. 

Reconciliation involves all of us.  It means repairing and restoring our relationships.  We know that when First Nations win the entire country wins.  Our goal is healthy, thriving peoples and communities. The closing event of the TRC is not the end.  It is only the beginning.  We are ready to act. We are ready to transform this country. 

As a leader, I see myself as a helper—in Cree, ‘oskapewis’— and I promise to honour the faith that has been placed in me.  We will further review the calls to action and dialogue with the other Parties to the Settlement Agreement, Indigenous leaders and Canadians alike to bring about the transformative change we all want for our peoples.  We will do so in honour of the former students, the survivors, and their families. 

 

Mahsi cho,

 

National Chief Perry Bellegarde,

Assembly of First Nations

 

To view National Chief Bellegarde’s statement following the release of the TRC findings visit: http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/national-chief/highlights-from-the-national-chief/response-of-assembly-of-first-nations-national-chief-perry-bellegarde- 

For more information on the TRC and to view findings visit: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 

To view National Chief Bellegarde’s statement on the anniversary of the Apology offered by Parliament for residential schools visit:  http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/news-media/latest-news/assembly-of-first-nations-national-chief-marks-the-7th-anniversary-of-

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Assembly of First NationsNational Chief Bulletin June 11, 2015

6/2/15 Response of Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde to the Findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

on June 2, 2015

June 2, 2015
Ottawa, ON

Motivated by courage, the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools sought justice and recognition from Canada through court cases that set us on a course toward truth and reconciliation.  To the former students – the survivors – I honour you and I thank you.  I am humbled to be before you.  On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, one of the parties to the Settlement Agreement, we thank the Commissioners for your strength, courage and heartfelt approach to the important work of truth and reconciliation. 

The Assembly of First Nations commitment to reconciliation remains strong.  Reconciliation means so many things as we move through the aftermath of the Indian Residential School system, one that we know was designed to rid Canada of ‘Indians’.  In its aftermath, we are left with the gap – a persistent, wide and unacceptable gap in the quality of life between First Nations and other Canadians.  We commit to doing the necessary work to close the gap. 

The calls to action describe and remind us of the work that lies before us – our children must grow up safe and comfortable in their own homes and home communities, so addressing the over representation of First Nations children in the child welfare system is essential.  We know that if we do not act, we will lose our Indigenous languages, the jewels of this land.  Only three Indigenous languages are predicted to survive, the two First Nations ones being Cree and Ojibwe, so revitalizing and preserving our 58 remaining languages is an imperative as they are the heart of who we are.  Committing to implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation is an essential first step to guide reconciliation in all areas of our lives affected by colonization and the attempt at cultural genocide launched by the Indian Residential School System. 

We welcome the Commissioners’ call to the parties of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement for a new Covenant on Reconciliation to ensure that the ongoing work of reconciliation continues.  For the past number of years, we have met many challenges and made progress.  We thank you for your willingness to face the truth and work together.  Continuing in that spirit will create the reality that we want for all peoples in the future: healing, peace, justice and the quality of life that we all deserve. 

Education and awareness leads to understanding which in turn leads to action and ultimately reconciliation.  The call to teach the history of the residential schools in schools in Canada is one that I will continue to support. 

As a leader, I see myself as a helper—in Cree, ‘oskapewis’— and I promise to honour the faith that has been placed in me.  We shall further review the Calls to Action and dialogue with the other Parties, Indigenous leaders and Canadians alike to bring about the transformative change that we all want for all of our peoples.  And you, the former students and your families deserve nothing less than that.

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Assembly of First Nations6/2/15 Response of Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde to the Findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Assembly of First Nations
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