Communiqué from the National Chief Shawn Atleo – October 2013

on October 31, 2013

Given recent developments in the Atlantic region, and together with Regional Chief Roger Augustine, we would like to offer an update on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) regarding recent meetings with the leadership and citizens of Elsipogtog First Nation, other regional leadership and the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. This recent meeting was an opportunity to express support for the community, to address the safety of all citizens to protect their lands and waters and also to discuss the broader issues of the imperative of respect for Indigenous title and rights and for treaty implementation.

Protecting Their Lands and Waters – Elsipogtog First Nation 

I have been to the community of Elsipogtog a number of times in recent weeks and over the past months.  Last July I met with the Women’s Circle, Chief Arren Sock and Council and offered my support in their efforts to protect their traditional lands.  At the time, we discussed and encouraged local authorities to work diligently with the peacekeepers to ensure safety and security of all involved, strongly suggesting that the situation needed full coordination, communication and increased support toward a sustainable solution that guaranteed the safety of the citizens of the Elsipogtog First Nation. 

It has always been clear that the concerns and issues at play in Elsipogtog are about more than one project and about more than fracking.  It is about First Nations rights, Treaties and title, about the right of First Nations to have a say over activities that take place in their traditional territories.  More broadly, it involves the need for First Nations to drive forward energy strategy throughout the country.  First Nations are advancing green energy alternatives across the country and we have a critical role to play in advancing these sustainable, clean energy initiatives as a leading part of any consideration of national energy policy and strategy in this country. 

On October 17, as in the words of the leadership, we were “heartbroken” to see the images and the actions against elders, women and children who were protecting their rights and their territories. The AFN has always and will always stand with the leadership and the peoples peacefully asserting their right to have a say in any activities that could affect their lives, their lands and their rights. 

These actions were also shocking because the Chief and community had been engaging in a process of “good faith” discussions with the province in an attempt to resolve the issue when the raid took place. These kinds of actions erode trust, seriously diminish any chance of dialogue and are and were a major setback. Safety and security of our citizens must be a priority and a requirement going forward. 

We stand in full support of the Chief, council and citizens of Elsipogtog in asserting their rights, and will continue to offer support to the community in achieving a positive resolution that respects their rights and jurisdiction. 

Elsipogtog Community Meetings 

Immediately, on October 17, myself and my office were in touch with the Elsipogtog First Nation leadership, Regional Chief Roger Augustine and other regional contacts.  That same day, I wrote to New Brunswick Premier David Alward to voice serious concerns about the actions by the RCMP and reiterating the urgent need for safety and security for the people.  I also wrote to Chief Sock to reaffirm our ongoing support for the people of Elsipogtog First Nation and to offer any support that would be helpful.  The AFN Executive also pulled together a support team that could travel to the community on short notice at request of the Chief and Council. 

Throughout this process we have respected the leadership of the Chief, Council and community of Elsipogtog First Nation and assured them we would act based on their direction.

Throughout the following days, important conversations occurred including with the Mikmaq Grand Council referencing the broader impacts and the concern of the broader Nation of all Mikmaq expressing concern and care for Elsipogtog. 

On October 24, I was honoured to be invited to a meeting of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock and other leadership and community members in the Atlantic region.  Myself and AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine were invited to meet with the leadership and community members to discuss strategy, community safety and next steps. 

The leadership offered support for the development of a community safety plan and ongoing strategy to protect and advance Mi’kmaq and Indigenous Treaty rights to lands.  We also discussed the need to advance a broader national First Nations energy strategy specific to green energy, fossil fuels, and an overall agenda for sustainability and economies grounded in traditional understandings and the Treaty relationship. 

Resource Development and Energy Interests 

The situation in Elsipogtog is not isolated. First Nations across this country are confronted by similar interests and sometimes pressure from industry to develop our lands and our natural resources. First Nations have been clear.  We are not against all development but we will not support development at all costs.  We must be engaged from the beginning. We must be active participants in any development or proposed development that will impact our lands, our territories, and the future of our children and families. The duty to consult must be met and the standard of free, prior and informed consent must be honoured. 

The AFN and First Nation leaders from coast to coast to coast have consistently called for governments and industry to respect Indigenous rights, the Treaties, and the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Some First Nation communities are working together with industry and there are many best practices and models we can look to, yet every situation is different and specific to the First Nation government and citizens. 

First Nations are not only ready for meaningful discussions on the broader issue of development, including energy and clean energy, we demand it. The Chiefs Committee on Economic Development is meeting November 13-14 in Moncton, New Brunswick. Part of their work in November will be reviewing follow up from our very successful International Indigenous Summit on Energy and Mining held in Niagara Falls, June 2011.  They will be discussing the possibility of a second Summit to build on the outcomes and to drive the agenda forward.  A special panel on energy will be scheduled for our upcoming Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, PQ on December 10-12. 

At the same time, AFN is closely monitoring and becoming more actively engaged in international environmental forums.  Without a doubt, Indigenous peoples must be heard on climate change and the full spectrum of impacts on the lands and waters. We will seek every opportunity to take this forward in new ways.  Upcoming international meetings including the UN Forum on Climate Change taking place in Poland November 11-22nd, 2013 as well as the UN Open Working Group meeting on Sustainable Development Goals taking place at the end of November are two such opportunities.  We must and will find new ways to support our voices being heard. 

As a final note, it is clear that achieving full respect and recognition of First Nations rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent on any proposed development that could affect our lands, our waters or our people, is a primary objective underlying all our work.  The support we’ve seen for Elsipogtog compels action to address the broader issues of development across the country.  It is clear that First Nations are key players in this work and Canada cannot ignore this longstanding issue. Now is our time. This is the era of action. 

We will keep you informed on all of this important work as we move forward and you can always visit for more information. We have a dedicated web page to Elsipogtog specific information at

Kleco, Kleco! 

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rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from the National Chief Shawn Atleo – October 2013

National Chief Atleo spoke to a packed room at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford on 9 October 2013

on October 11, 2013

National Chief Atleo spoke to a packed room at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford on 9 October 2013, as part of commemorative events marking the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation. National Chief Atleo spoke to the priority issues facing First Nations in Canada, from education to resource development opportunities and the enduring requirement for recognition and affirmation of relationships to achieve fairness, justice and harmony. Listen to the podcast of his speech.

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rdbrinkhurstNational Chief Atleo spoke to a packed room at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford on 9 October 2013

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – July 2013

on July 31, 2013

I hope this note finds you enjoying the summer season and spending time with family and friends, new and old. I want to take this opportunity to provide information on the recent Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly where we set our mandates and strategy for the coming weeks and months. I am inspired to see that First Nations are moving forward as we create change that benefits our peoples and Nations. We continue to support you as we pursue a vigorous and robust agenda. 

On behalf of the AFN, I am pleased to offer this update on the plans and priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations.


Update on the AFN 34th Annual General Assembly

The Assembly of First Nations concluded its 34th Annual General Assembly (AGA) in Whitehorse, Yukon on July 18, 2013. Over 1,000 delegates and observers were welcomed in the beautiful territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council to reaffirm a direction forward based on plans and priorities set by First Nations. Many hundreds more followed the proceedings through the AFN AGA webcast and social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. 

The generosity and hospitality of the entire region was inspiring, particularly the generous sharing of the rich cultures of the North. We thank the Host Committee for their excellent work in ensuring a productive and exciting Assembly for everyone. In addition to the important business and deliberations that took place, the Host Committee organized a number of spectacular cultural and honouring events. 

We gathered together as nations under the theme “Our Nations, Our Rights, Our Future: Empowering Our Citizens to Drive Change.” This theme resonates sharply and reflects the drive and dedication of our citizens and leaders. 

Prior to the opening day a National Elders Forum took place, where the AFN Executive sat with our Elders to enter into ceremony and receive direction on our work forward. We also sought engagement with the Women’s Council and Youth Council to ensure we were grounded in our approach. One outcome of this ceremony was an Open Letter and expression of respect and support for Treaty Nations gathered in Treaty #6 territory. 

We had an ambitious agenda for the AGA, developed with the AFN Executive over a number of months. Presentations included an update on international efforts and opportunities, discussion on displacing the Indian Act with our own solutions, driving a sustainable economic future, First Nations leading approaches to First Nations education and an update on seeking justice for Day Scholars. 

The Assembly also heard from a number of special guest speakers. I urge you to review the agenda and you can view any of the plenary sessions on the webcast, both of which are available on our website. 

The AGA also included a number of strategy and dialogue sessions focused on key priorities as mandated by leadership, including Treaty implementation, natural resources in traditional territories, comprehensive claims, justice and community safety, First Nations education, and community infrastructure, water and housing. 

During the AGA, delegates received information from emerging research of nutrition and health experiments conducted on our children during the residential schools era. While not entirely new information, this information had the effect of opening old wounds and led to an emergency resolution where all delegates stood in unity calling for full disclosure of all records related to this matter, for justice and for action including public education to address and move forward from this tragic chapter of Canadian history. 

Through these moments, we are reminded of the reason we do this work. We see that when we stand together we stand strong. Unity does not mean we are all the same or that we always walk the same path. It means we respect and support one another – to act on our rights, title and Treaties and ensure our children and families live in safe and secure communities. 

This is why we require a major shift in the relationship with the Crown, an approach based on our terms so that we can deliver a better future. Our Elders have directed us to do this important work and let nothing stop us from achieving success. We will stand firm in insisting that Canada recognize, respect, and implement our rights. These are fundamental conditions moving
forward – fundamental to our shared future. Across all areas and territories we will work together based on respect for our diversity while supporting one another on a path to our shared goals to deliver what is right for our peoples. 

The Assembly passed 19 resolutions, including direction to advance a national action plan to end violence against women, pursuing First Nation control of First Nation education as a national priority, a national action plan on First Nations housing, assuring better health outcomes and services for First Nations, protecting First Nations’ rights to their traditional territories, creating investment and economic opportunity for First Nations and directing ongoing involvement in the lead-up to the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. All resolutions are available on our website at


Council of the Federation Meeting with National Aboriginal Leaders – July 24 

I want to provide a brief update from the meeting of Premiers and National Aboriginal Leaders that took place in advance of the Council of the Federation Meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario on July 24. 

As you know, the AFN has been working with Provincial Premiers and Territorial leaders through their Council of the Federation for a number of years. 

While it is true that as First Nations our principal relationship is with the federal government and Crown, we continue to press at every level for concrete action for the betterment of First Nations and all Canadians. There are specific areas of activity where provinces and territories can assist in these efforts. Our approach is to set out clear targets, timelines and responsibilities to ensure these meetings are aimed at achieving tangible results and outcomes. 

At the meeting on July 24, the AFN set out First Nation priorities and related recommendations on First Nation education, First Nation economic development including resource revenue sharing, housing, ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls and improving crisis and emergency response management between all jurisdictions, an urgent issue given the flooding that has affected many provinces and territories this year. The report we presented is available on our website. 

There was tremendous support for the First Nations agenda at the Council of the Federation, including support for First Nations education and efforts aimed at improving off-reserve social housing and infrastructure to mitigate and remediate the effects of natural disasters. 

I want to highlight that all Premiers at the meeting formally endorsed the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, and those not in attendance at the meeting have formally confirmed their support. Premiers also were seized with the need to improve safety and security and commit to preventing all forms of violence. We will continue to press for a national inquiry while seeking immediate and tangible actions to ensure safety and security for all our citizens.


International Outreach

As a final note, we have pressed for information on upcoming visits, announced last spring, when Canada agreed to visits of three international bodies following advocacy of First Nations and Indigenous leaders. At this point, information is not yet official but we understand that the Inter-American Committee for Human Rights will be in Canada the second week of August, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women will be in Canada the second week of September and, finally, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be in Canada the final weeks of October. The AFN will continue to seek information and confirmation and provide information as soon as it is available. 

I remain optimistic that we are making progress on all important issues. The AFN will continue to focus on our work based on the mandates provided to us and we will continue to support the efforts of First Nations across the country. I wish you all the best! 

Kleco, Kleco!

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rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – July 2013

Honour the Apology to Residential School Survivors – July 25, 2013

on July 25, 2013

Message from National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations Executive, Elders Council, Women’s Council and Youth Council

Today, we gather to acknowledge the First Nations children, their families, their communities, their nations and all those who suffered the devastating impacts of the residential schools. We acknowledge today, as well, those who were the unwilling and unknowing subjects of horrendous biomedical experiments that took place in those schools. To those who did not survive the schools, we mourn your memory and your sacrifice and join your families in prayer.

Today, we raise our voices and call for the Government of Canada to fully honour its apology to the survivors of the residential schools, to release all documents related to this sad chapter in our shared history and to give life to the words that were spoken by the Prime Minister on that important day.

To the survivors – the Mothers and Fathers, Aunties and Uncles, Sisters and Brothers, Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Friends and Family, those who are still with us and those who have left the circle of Creation – we offer our highest blessing, our highest honour and our utmost gratitude.  We are here as First Nations only because you endured, because you ensured that your stories and your truth would not die away or fade. Your legacy is a testament to the resilience of our cultures and to your own personal strength. We wish you love and peace, wherever you may be.

As National Chief, on behalf of the full Assembly of First Nations and our Elders, Youth and Women’s Councils, I want to thank the people from all walks of life, from all faiths and from all cultures that are taking part today in commemorations across the country. This is how we as individual citizens of nations can begin together our long walk to reconciliation and healing. To those who gave their time to organize these commemorations, we thank you for bringing us together under the banner of justice, respect, truth and reconciliation.

Our first and last words today go to all those who were taken from their families and forced into the residential schools. Know that we will support you on your journey to healing. Know that we will ensure everyone in this land confronts the reality of our shared history so that we may move forward, together. And know that we will never allow this to happen again.


Kleco, Kleco!

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo 

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rdbrinkhurstHonour the Apology to Residential School Survivors – July 25, 2013

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo ~ 34th AFN Annual General Assembly Opening Remarks ~ Stronger Together for Our Children Tomorrow

on July 17, 2013

July 16, 2013

Click here to view video

July 16 – 18, 2013 | Whitehorse, Yukon


I welcome you all to the Annual General Assembly.  This is our 34th annual meeting and, in reality, we are now marking more than four decades of annual meetings as the Indigenous nations of Canada. 

I thank our hosts, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, for welcoming us to Tagish Kwan territory, home of the Southern Tutchone.  It is an honour to be here.  I look forward to an energizing meeting with First Nations leaders and citizens from coast to coast to coast. This is the first time in 21 years that we’ve gathered here … and what an incredible experience we are already having – don’t you agree ? 

As we heard and will see over the coming days, Yukon First Nations are driving success and partnerships based on their rights and responsibilities. Just last week White River successfully challenged and won an important court battle affirming their full right to meaningful consultation required for their consent on resource development. 

And just days ago, Trondek Hwechin achieved an agreement to ensure their language and culture is embedded in every aspect of education for their peoples and others. 

As we heard – this is the 20th anniversary of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement, by the people – for the people who bore the name: “Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow.” A powerful vision that speaks to all of us. 

Once again, we gather as nations and as leaders to deliberate with one another and set out our plans and strategies for the days, weeks and months ahead. 

We gather, as always, facing critical and urgent issues that command our attention and demand action! 

We gather knowing that it is our time to stand strong on our rights, our title and our Treaties.  And we gather knowing that is time to stand strong together! 

As National Chief, a key part of my work is accepting invitations to meet with you in your communities and territories.  I see firsthand the gains we are making and the challenges we’re facing. 

I know many of us were struck by the massive flooding in Alberta.  While downtown Calgary captured most of the headlines, a number of First Nation communities were hit hard by the rising waters.  I was in Treaty 7 territory three times in recent weeks and spoke to with the leaders and citizens affected by the flooding.  It is overwhelming to witness this kind of natural disaster in person. 

I recall talking with families in Tsuu Tina, Morley and Siksika – people devastated by their losses and facing an uncertain future.  Yet – what was most remarkable was seeing the incredible courage and kindness of a community coming together – hearing  about people checking in on one another, making sure the Elders and children are cared for and are safe… the volunteers and the support that keeps the spirit strong. 

This spirit was never lost, even though so many material possessions were. And, it is this spirit that the Chiefs and their citizens harnessed to get the attention they need. 

They got the attention of the province and the federal government and demanded they work together to save their communities, their traditional territory that sustains them through the generations.  Now the hard work of recovery and rebuilding and our continued support every step of the way is needed. 

I say this because it was clear to me that in times of crisis, when everyone needs one another, we can quickly cut through the barriers and gaps that block action – the physical, political and jurisdictional barriers seemingly melt away. 

Our agenda, the First Nations agenda, requires that everyone come together … just as Treaty 7 pulled First Nations and their neighbours together to deal with the rising water. 

One of the Treaty 7 Elders said at a meeting to discuss the flooding,  “the treaty relationship demands that we do this work, that we come together among our own Nations and that government comes to the table respectfully to fulfill its duties as partner to the relationship.  We all have a role – this must be honoured and respected.” 

This takes us back to the spirit that was very much evident at the time for those that engaged in Treaty. It is the way of our Nations throughout the country.  

We have inherent responsibility to our lands, waters and peoples – and we have inherent rights as Nations to work in full respect with one another and as equal partners with other governments. 

This must be the way we engage with one another every single day. 

I look around and I see today that beyond the headlines of floods and fires, many of our Nations are in a perpetual state of crisis. 

Our people are crammed into crumbling homes in collapsing communities. 

Almost half of our children are living in poverty. We have more children in care right now than at that the height of the residential schools.  Our young people are more likely to end up in jail than to graduate. 

The statistics are stark and sobering and we don’t need to recite them again but we can ask the Canadian government and all Canadians: is this the Canada they want to stand for?  Is this the kind of country they believe in? 

Our organizations, all of them – including AFN – Tribal Councils and PTOs are challenged by constantly diminishing and imposed funding cuts – all part of a broken system that creates demands for more with fewer resources. 

Our goal, our priority, our strategy is to find the ways to empower and support one another. This is a call to unity. 

This is not a call that suggests we are all the same.  We are not.  It does not mean that we must march in lock-step or abandon our diversity. 

Unity means first and foremost, understanding and respecting our diversity.  It means we must listen and understand one another.  It means driving towards our common values and shared interests and priorities. 

That is how we drive change.  That is how we smash the status quo. 

This is how we break past the barriers and gaps.  This is how we push progress and compel concrete action. 

We are often united in opposition.  We know what we don’t want.  We reject top-down approaches and one-size-fits-all attitudes.  Those will never work for peoples as rich and diverse as our nations. 

This is why in 2010, I challenged the government to work with us to move beyond the Indian Act. 

 We know what we oppose.  But that is only half the fight. 

This includes looking at how we are structured and how we operate as an organization of and for First Nations.  The AFN continually renews itself – and must renew itself – as we move out of the darkness of colonialism into the light of nation-building. 

It is up to our leaders and citizens to step up and take responsibility for our future and for our lives.  We must set our own agenda and we must make it happen. 

We must consider every aspect of our organization to be inclusive, respectful – to maximize our resources, increase our independence and – overall our sustainability consistent with the vision and mandate provided by you. 

We have a very full and comprehensive agenda before us this week.  

In each of these areas, we need to do the hard work of understanding one another, respecting one another’s challenges and chart clear strategies to support one another’s efforts to drive change. 

Our work in Education is clear and confirmed.  We echo our Elders who decades ago began the call for First Nations control of First Nations education. 

We do not want unilaterally imposed legislation delivered from on high by the government.  We want to create our own systems that are sustainable, that support our childrens’ success and that value their languages and cultures. 

Yes, we need more resources.  Our children are under-funded compared to students in provincial schools.  It is about fair and equitable resources…but it is not only about more resources. 

We must blanket our children in proper systems and full supports.  The Mi’kmaw Education Authority  – in Nova Scotia is a living, dynamic example that, by coming together, wrestling full control away from government, and pressing for government agreement and support – First Nations can propel their learners to incredible success that is the cornerstone of their pride as nations and an anchor to their resurgence and success as Nations. 

They are exceeding the provincial standards and are hitting an almost 90% high school graduation rate, well above the provincial average.  And equally important, these are learners equipped with all the skills and knowledge to compete in the 21st century economy yet fully versed in their traditional teachings, language and culture. This – very much the theme of the Yukon First Nation high school grad I attended here in Whitehorse last month. 

This is what we all need to strive for.  And it is happening, but we need a new approach that makes these school systems and these young people not the exception but our expectation

We are demanding and we will build these systems because the right to educate our children is a fundamental right. 

Let me be clear, as I have said many times before, it has always been the position of the AFN and continues to be the position that Treaty leaders and citizens take the lead on implementing their Treaty – not AFN and not the National Chief.  Any discussions on Treaty implementation must be Treaty-by-Treaty, nation-to-nation.  The AFN is not a signatory to any Treaty and it is not the role of the National Chief to negotiate the implementation or enforcement of any Treaty. 

The role of the AFN is to stand with the Treaty Nations in a supporting role and assist in any and all efforts to compel the federal government – and all governments – to respect and honour the Treaties. 

This is the nature of the work mandated to the AFN by Chiefs-in-Assembly under resolution #07-2010.  This is why we convened the National Treaty Forum last March, and the Treaty leaders are now driving the agenda. 

A number of Treaty regions are pressing forward and engaging with the Crown and calling on Canada – in some cases challenging Canada – to come to the table and start the difficult but absolutely fundamental work of Treaty implementation. This means nothing less than giving life to the spirit and intent of the Treaties as understood by our Elders and ancestors who entered into these agreements to protect our lands, our traditional territories, our peoples and our ways of life. 

And we express our full support for the peace and friendship treaties, pre confederation treaties and the numbered treaties – some of who gather right now in treaty 6 territory.  Yesterday we offered sacred medicine in ceremony with the Elders to help guide us to find the way to support one another in full respect. 

The Elders including those from our host region shared a prophecy of all nations gathering in the north as a place of healing and encouraged us to find answers and inspiration in the wisdom of the ancestors. And the national Executive and I joined together and extended greetings and expressions of respect and support to those Treaties 1-11 nations gathering this week. 

This is what we mean by unity – supporting and respecting one another to pursue our own paths to progress and fulfillment. 

We all have rights and responsibilities.  I personally know what it means to fight for our rights and give life to those rights – whether demonstrating in our canoes out on the waters or on the lands to drive awareness or fighting (and winning) a decade long fight to affirm our commercial right to fishing back home.  I stand side-by-side with you in these fights and I know that we will win when we stand strong together. 

Central to our work is our effort to press for agreements to be upheld and fundamental reform to Comprehensive Claims.  There is no doubt that current government policy is completely inadequate and inconsistent with legal developments.  We finally have agreement on the need for reform, a clear timeline and process to achieve this change – we will press for and be unrelenting in our pursuit of full recognition and reconciliation and a final and permanent end to extinguishment and denial. 

As mandated by you, we are joining the Tsilhqot’in Nation as intervenors in their Supreme Court Case to once and for all banish the notions of terra nullius and the doctrine of discovery as racist relics of the colonial past that have no place in the modern world – we stand firm in insisting that Canada must recognize, respect and reconcile our rights.  These are fundamental conditions moving forward – fundamental to respect our history and our rights, and fundamental to our shared future. 

Across all areas and territories we can work together based on respect for our diversity while supporting one another on a path to our shared goals.

We will not play the tired old games of divide and conquer. 

Never forget that those that want to hold us back, relish nothing more than when we fight amongst ourselves, and fear nothing more than when we stand together strong and united. 

We will all mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation this year, a Proclamation which led to the Treaty of Niagara in 1764, where a nation-to-nation relationship between settlers and Indigenous peoples was renewed and the Covenant Chain of Friendship was affirmed. 

The Royal Proclamation and more importantly the Treaty of Niagara established recognition and protection of Indigenous rights as a clear requirement and foundation for development of this land. Canada exists today because of relations established and the good will and good faith of the Indigenous nations.  

We will push for respect of our agreements and our original relationships on all fronts. 

With governments – we are engaging in political outreach to ALL parties because our agenda goes beyond any one party and any one Prime Minister.  We are using advocacy and action – such as at the upcoming meeting of all provincial premiers and Territorial leaders at the Council of the Federation later this month where we will press for action on murdered and missing Indigenous women, safety and emergency preparedness.  . 

We are pressing the public and private sector, informing Canadian citizens of their true history and telling them that strong First Nations make a strong Canada. 

The private sector is realizing that First Nations have a key role in any development that’s planned in and around their traditional territories.  These industries are in turn pressing the government for real change based on Free, Prior and Informed Consent and, where First Nations see development as respectful, responsible and sustainable, real revenue sharing arrangements. 

We are taking our message to the international community, including the recent gathering in advance of the United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held in New York City in 2014.  We will ensure that the upcoming visits of the UN observers including the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples results in a mirror being held up for Canada – a moment of truth and a moment for us to set out our plans, conditions and requirements for success led by and for our Nations. 

Most importantly, we will stand with our own people who are pressing forward for action. 

We’ve all been inspired and energized by the actions of Idle No More, and other movements led by the women, inspired by the people and energized by the youth. 

Groups like the incredibly brave, focused and humble leaders – the young Cree from Nishiyuu. 

I am also inspired by what I see visiting First Nations across the country – like here in the Yukon – a place where 40 years of constant effort has achieved so much –  and they continue their hard work and dedication for their peoples. 

This is a critical time.  There is energy in the air.  We are demanding change on our terms to reach our goals. 

We will occupy the field, occupy the ground and give expression and action to our rights. 

Just as I witnessed in the determination of the young volunteers I met in Morley helping keep their people safe 

…and heard in the sounds of the Mi’kmaw language in every corner of their bright new school 

…and saw in the eyes of the young men and women seizing every opportunity at “I-count” or Otter River Cree school in Manitoba this past spring 

… and here where I visited with renowned veteran and winner of the INDSPIRE lifetime achievement award 96 year old Alex Van Bibber together with young Jedryk. … 

I am completely confident in our success because I am confident in our peoples and I am confident in you. 

We will indeed emerge stronger together today, for our children tomorrow! 

Let me leave you with the words of a leader from a land – continents away – but yet tied directly to our struggle – a true indigenous leader for the world.  Nelson Mandela celebrates his 95th birthday this week and for all of us engaged in struggle, his words hold great inspiration and encouragement – as he said:  “It always seems impossible until it’s done”  

Kleco!  Kleco!

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rdbrinkhurstNational Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo ~ 34th AFN Annual General Assembly Opening Remarks ~ Stronger Together for Our Children Tomorrow

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – June 2013

on July 3, 2013

As we head in to the busy summer months, we look forward to showcasing First Nations driving change and achieving success both in our communities and in urban centres. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) supports all actions for positive change for our peoples and communities and continues to advocate for the change that’s required now for all of us to have the opportunities we need and deserve.  

On behalf of the AFN, I am pleased to offer this update on the work and priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations.


Flooding in Alberta

As you are no doubt aware, Alberta is in the midst of a major flooding crisis. My thoughts and prayers are with all the people affected by this natural disaster. Events are changing hour to hour so it is not the purpose of this Bulletin to provide an update on the situation but to let you know how you can get current information and support flood relief efforts. To that end, the AFN has setup a webpage on our website that provides links to various agencies and organizations.

On June 26, I traveled to Alberta to participate in the “Flood of 2013 Leadership Gathering” at Tsuu T’ina First Nation. The next day I was part of site visits to two of the affected First Nations, Siksika First Nation and Stoney Nakoda First Nation. The purpose of this trip was to get an overview of the situation firsthand from the Alberta Chiefs and officials and to support them in their calls for action to address their immediate and long-term needs. 

We can say that, based on experience, it is essential that all support and relief efforts be done in collaboration with First Nations. This is an important opportunity to look at long-term solutions and learn from the 2011 flooding in Manitoba, where almost 2,000 people are still evacuated from their communities.

We must put in place mitigation measures to protect First Nation communities from further or future natural disasters. This includes building critical infrastructure, such as diking, levees, major drainage works. As well, support for emergency management preparedness and training support will help ensure our communities have the necessary capacities during these times of need. We must not forget our other communities that are dealing with flooding: Cumberland House First Nation in Sask., St. Mary’s First Nation, B.C.; James Smith Cree Nation, Sask.; Montreal Lake, Sask.; and others in similar situations. 

Right now, of course, we are focused on the immediate needs of those communities affected in Alberta and we will continue to stay in touch with the communities and assist them in their efforts to keep their people safe. 


Strategic Outreach: Meetings with Opposition Leaders and Prime Minister

The House of Commons has wrapped up its current session and is now on break for a summer recess. 

Recent pieces of legislation affecting our rights make it essential that we continue to take forward information on the position and priorities of First Nations and build widespread support for our agenda. We consistently press priorities like Treaty implementation, fundamental reform of comprehensive claims, education and ensuring community safety and security. 

Our issues are not confined to any one party, party leader or Member of Parliament. This is a Canada-wide effort and it is important to reach out to all parties and, indeed, all segments of Canadian society. These efforts are part of our ongoing outreach and advocacy. 

I have had meetings with all parties and with the Leader of the Official Opposition, Thomas Mulcair and the new leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau. 

In meetings with the opposition, we discussed the importance of broadening awareness and understanding of our issues and the priority for change. I impressed the need for a new relationship and both Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau strongly committed to working with First Nations to restore trust and fulfill a Nation-to-Nation relationship between governments, one that honours Treaties and is founded on recognition and respect. 

Mr. Mulcair and the NDP Aboriginal Commission will be unveiling a new policy over the summer through a “listening tour” across Canada that will inform their platform for the next election. 

Mr. Trudeau stated his continued support for the empowerment of First Nations citizens, particularly youth, as they mobilize and engage in public influence and decision-making. 

Following a meeting in Ottawa of the Treaty working group the week of June 17, I delivered a letter to the Prime Minister from Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde seeking clarity on the commitment to mandate Treaty implementation. Specifically, we sought to clarify the commitment and mandate to advance Treaty implementation processes on a Treaty-by-Treaty basis led by each Treaty area. We also pressed for a clear timeline and outcome for a new comprehensive claims policy based on recognition and affirmation of title as directed. 

The Prime Minister reiterated commitments to ensure oversight and mandate from his office and the Privy Council to advance Treaty implementation as well as reform of the Comprehensive Claims policy. As directed by leadership, we pressed for clarity on these commitments and the establishment of clear timelines and targets. The Prime Minister expressed agreement to working towards these important next steps.  

I will provide a full report to you on the outcomes of these meetings at our upcoming Annual General Assembly in Whitehorse and we will have an opportunity to discuss follow-up, next steps and strategy as it relates to Parliament. 

I truly believe that First Nations must determine their own approaches to the challenges we continue to face and be fully supported in their efforts. It is absolutely clear that you, the First Nations and rights-holders, must drive solutions. The role at the national level is and continues to be one of strong advocacy. We will continue to move forward based on our plans and priorities but we know as well that it is in our strategic interests to build coalitions of willing partners. This is what this effort is all about. 


Update on the AFN 34th Annual General Assembly

The Assembly of First Nations is holding its 34th Annual General Assembly (AGA) July 16-18 in the beautiful territory of the Tagish Kwan and Southern Tutchone in Whitehorse, Yukon.

The theme of this year’s AGA, unveiled at a launch event in Whitehorse on June 7, is: “Our Nations, Our Rights, Our Future: Empowering Our Citizens to Drive Change.” This theme captures the spirit and energy of our times as First Nations are taking action to exercise their rights, make their own laws and set in place their own approaches to take control of their future. We will be looking at ways to make this happen and to support First Nations in this work and to achieve progress on our shared priorities, including full implementation of Treaties and recognition of our inherent rights, securing accessible and high quality, culturally relevant education for each and every First Nations child, and ending violence against Indigenous women and girls. I encourage you to visit the AFN website to view the latest agenda, logistical information and the many other events that accompany our annual gathering.

We are very pleased to be in Whitehorse this year. The AFN National Executive supported a motion for Yukon region to host the 2013 AGA in February 2010. The first announcement of this was at our AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2010. There is a standard process for selecting AGA locations and the AFN tries to ensure every region – north, south, east and west – has the opportunity to host this important annual gathering.

The AFN is working closely with the host committee and the region to identify all options for accommodations. While there are a few additional challenges with a more remote location, we secured room blocks for Chiefs and delegates and there are a number of alternative options for observers and staff. I encourage all to contact our office for more information or if you are experiencing any difficulties.

This has been a momentous year and I am looking forward to focused and constructive discussions on the many issues and priorities facing our people. I have no doubt we will emerge united with a common, strategic direction that recognizes our diversity and advances our agenda.


United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples – Preparatory Conference

The United Nations World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, is being planned for September 22-23, 2014 in New York City.

There will be a number of preparatory meetings as the conference date approaches. Most recently, the Sámi Parliament of Norway hosted the Global Indigenous Preparatory Conference for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in Áltá, Norway, from June 8-13, 2013. An AFN representative participated in the conference as part of the North American First Nations delegation, as mandated by Resolution 62/2012.

The main purpose of the preparatory meeting was to review the “outcomes document” that will be the focus of the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014. The North American First Nations delegation put in many long hours and days in an effort to ensure all concerns and priorities were incorporated into the document. In fact, the North American First Nations delegation was the last group to approve the document. We are pleased to report that all the revisions brought forward by the delegation – dealing with fundamental matters like Treaties, rights, jurisdiction, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and many others – were all incorporated into the draft outcomes document.

The draft outcomes document is grouped around four themes: Indigenous Peoples’ lands, territories, resources, oceans and waters; UN system action for the implementation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples; Implementation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Indigenous Peoples’ priorities for Development with free, prior and informed consent. As stated, this is a draft document only at this time but it will inform discussions at the UN conference in 2014.
You can read the current draft of the outcomes statement on the official website of the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and get more information about the event and lead-up activities at:

Council of the Federation – July 24

The Council of the Federation is the annual gathering of all provincial premiers and territorial leaders. As a result of advocacy efforts by the Assembly of First Nations, meetings with leaders of the National Aboriginal Organizations are a regular feature of these gatherings.

The next meeting will take place on July 24 at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. I will be attending to continue our efforts to press premiers and territorial leaders for action on our priorities. It is true that, as First Nations, our primary relationship is with the federal government but the premiers and territorial leaders can play an important role in their areas of jurisdiction, as well as supporting our efforts in other areas.

This year’s meeting between the Council of the Federation and National Aboriginal Organizations will focus on Education, Economic Participation, Ending Violence, Housing and Disaster Mitigation. We will be presenting a paper outlining First Nations’ priorities in each of these key areas. In addition, we will be calling for real targets and timelines to guide our work and ensure we are making progress.

We will provide a full report on our preparations for this meeting at our upcoming AGA. We will also provide a full report on our discussions and outcomes following the meeting.

There is a great deal of activity underway and I know your energy and ideas will ensure we continue our march forward to real change and real progress. I look forward to seeing you at our upcoming AGA in Whitehorse!

Kleco, Kleco! 

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rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – June 2013
Assembly of First Nations