News

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo May 2013

on June 3, 2013

 

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates work underway at the national office.
More information can be found at www.afn.ca.

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.

 

AFN 34th Annual General Assembly

Next week we will be officially launching the theme of the AFN 34th Annual General Assembly taking place in Whitehorse July 16-18, 2013.  On June 7, 2013, I will be joined by Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Rick O’Brien, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane and AFN Yukon Regional Chief Mike Smith to make this important announcement at a press conference in Whitehorse.  

The focus of the AGA will be to further the strategic plan and mandate based on First Nations priorities and resolutions passed in Assembly.  As with every AGA, and particularly with this one in the Yukon, we will be taking the opportunity to showcase the First Nations driving change, specifically the successful self-government agreements in the North.  There are a number of examples of First Nations driving solutions and achieving change and we are happy to highlight those in Yukon region.

Registration is available now at www.afn.ca and delegates are encouraged to arrange for accommodations early, and prior to registering to avoid any challenges. AFN has reserved a block of rooms at a number of hotels (available on our website) for Chiefs and guest speakers.  Observers are also encouraged to check out alternate accommodations, including resorts, Bed and Breakfasts, campgrounds, RV Rentals and hostels at: http://travelyukon.com/Plan/Accommodations/Lodges-Cabins-and-Hotels

 

National Executive Meeting and AFN Open House

The AFN National Executive Committee met in Ottawa May 29 as part of our planning and preparations for the upcoming AGA. It also gave Regional Chiefs an opportunity to report on events and activities in their regions, and how it relates to the work of the national office.
The AFN and National Executive Committee hosted an Open House at our new location at 55 Metcalfe Street May 30, 2013.  Myself and my colleagues on the AFN Executive, including representatives from the Elders, Women’s and Youth Councils, welcomed over 200 people for casual conversation and celebration of our new cost-efficient office at a more central location in Ottawa.  By downsizing our office space by more than half, we experience significant cost-savings while at the same time benefiting from a better space.  The open-concept office design at 55 Metcalfe maximizes space and encourages collaboration among AFN staff.  

During the National Executive Meeting and Open House, we remembered two great leaders that we’ve sadly lost in recent weeks – Mr. Elijah Harper and Elder Bertha Commonda, who we had a special honouring ceremony for during our AFN executive committee meeting in Ottawa this week.  While we offer condolences to families, friends and communities, we celebrate all the contributions and accomplishments of these important people who have passed.

Elijah Harper’s commitment and dedication to asserting and upholding First Nation rights and recognition helped lay a solid foundation as this hard work continues today.  His drive and actions toward reconciliation will continue to be a legacy for First Nations and all Canadians as we move toward improved and renewed relationships based on mutual respect and recognition – two things he stood firm on in all of his work.

A mother, grandmother and teacher, Elder Bertha Commonda was a strong advocate for education as a foundation for success.  Her commitment and dedication to her language and culture was a driving force and made a tremendous contribution to our work as a national organization.  A kind and gentle person, Bertha’s deep care and compassion for others was evident in all her work, particularly her role in guiding the work of the AFN as co- Chair of the national Elders Council.  Her contributions to her community, and to all First Nations across the country, will live on through all of our work as guided by her wisdom and vision for a better day for First Nations.

 

School Visits – First Nations Control of First Nations Education

Earlier this month, I was welcomed to Cross Lake, Manitoba and Moricetown, B.C. to visit two of the schools that participated in the national contest to create videos promoting First Nation education and student success.  Over the last six months, the AFN invited First Nation students in grades 1 to 12 to create videos about their schools as part of national education advocacy efforts supporting First Nation education. Students were asked to explain what they like about their school, how it’s making a difference in their lives and what they would change to make their school even better.

We all agree that every student deserves a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment, and I was honoured to visit Otter Nelson River School in Cross Lake on May 6 and iCount school in Moricetown on May 15.  These schools are doing just this, and through this video contest, the students are sharing their priorities and the approaches that work for them.  

Our goal is to ensure that every student is fully supported to achieve success, and by showcasing approaches that work, we are leading the way toward change for all of our peoples.  
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage everyone to take the time to listen to all of the videos posted at http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/news-media/latest-news/afn-student-video-contest.  

These students deliver incredibly powerful messages with great creativity and energy, and it is so inspiring to hear and see the students’ pride in their identity, cultures and communities. Their experiences and commitment to their schools must guide us now to ensure that every student is fully supported to achieve success. The young people themselves are showing us the way forward and their voices must be responded to by all of us – First Nations and all levels of government – to deliver fairness and excellence in education.

 

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – May 22-23

On May 22 and May 23, myself and AFN Regional Chief for Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard had the honour of attending the twelfth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN headquarters in New York.  

The UN Permanent Forum is a unique occasion for all Indigenous peoples around the world to meet and share experiences. Many countries, as Canada, have yet to implement the UNDRIP and this meeting is a reminder to those states of this commitment to Indigenous peoples around the world.  Our office is working closely with representatives from the United Nations regarding the upcoming visits and we hope to announce dates of those visits in the near future.  
Regional Chief Stan Beardy and I met with UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya in anticipation of his visit to Canada and reiterated that these visits are an important opportunity to build awareness of Indigenous issues and solutions at the international level.

We have suffered from historic injustices, dispossession and denial of our lands, territories and resources. We must move forward respectfully toward recognition of title and implementation of Treaty and these visits can play an important role in affirming that action on these measures is needed now.

On behalf of the AFN, I made a presentation on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with specific reference to achieving reconciliation through rights recognition.  The full text of this statement is available at http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/un-nc-remarks.pdf.

Regional Chief Picard presented a joint statement on the “Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with Respect to First Nations Education in Canada”.  This joint statement by the First Nations Education Council and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is supported by the AFN, Chiefs of Ontario, the Indigenous World Association, and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.  View the full statement at http://www.cepn-fnec.com/PDF/APNQL/Statement%20for%20the%20UNPFII%2016%20mai%202013_ang.pdf.

The AFN also submitted two papers – one on Indigenous education and language in Canada and one on culture – and a joint statement on Community Safety and Justice together with the Native Women’s Association of Canada.  These statements are available at http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/news-media/latest-news/statements-presented-and-submitted-to-the-united-nations-permanent-for.

 

Next Steps

As we continue to prepare for the upcoming Annual General Assembly, we look forward to seeing you in the Yukon this July! Kleco, Kleco!

Kleco, Kleco!

read more
rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo May 2013

2013 Flood Situation Update – Special Bulletin

on May 7, 2013

May 3, 2013

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates work underway at the national office.
More information can be found at www.afn.ca.

Scope 

Flooding is a situation faced by many First Nation communities across the country on an annual basis, and generally, the more remote the community, the more severely the effects of the flood are felt. This year those severely affected are the First Nation communities in the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia and Nova Scotia on the coasts of Canada; from severe storms,  runoff from snowmelt that leads to groundwater saturation, overflowing rivers and lakes, to sea-storm surges.

These problems are particularly severe for the regions of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba as they are geographically flat, and for Ontario which has an abundance of fresh water lakes.  Spring runoff and groundwater easily flood out communities when it cannot be fed out into already overwhelmed rivers and streams. 

Climate change impacts and the resulting changing weather patterns will continue to exacerbate these conditions. In certain cases, flooding is the result of man-made manipulations to river flows to satisfy the demand of hydro-electric energy projects.

 

Emergency Management Act (S.C. 2007, c. 15) 

The Emergency Management Act defines emergency management as the prevention and mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from emergencies. Under the Emergency Management Act, the Minister of Public Safety is responsible for coordinating the Government of Canada’s response to an emergency. The Federal Emergency Response Plan (FERP) is the Government of Canada’s “all-hazards” response plan. 

Federal government institutions are responsible for developing emergency management plans in relation to risks in their areas of accountability. For First Nations, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has this responsibility. AANDC established the Emergency Management Assistance Program (EMAP) to assist First Nation communities living on reserves in managing emergencies. The program is to cover all four pillars of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. In addition, the program may provide assistance for search and recovery activities related to missing persons.  

AANDC has entered into agreements with the Provinces and Territories to provide First Nations with the immediate needed response and recovery in times of emergencies. In some cases, the province has further delegated this responsibility to another level. 

This delegation of responsibility to the provinces has created concerns regarding the level of support, response times, fairness of response, and compensation during the recovery phase, when compared to what is the norm for off-reserve communities.

 

Impact and Debt

 Flood impacts on First Nation communities can cause varying degrees of damage, some of which have lasting and severe consequences for First Nations. Floods threaten water damage to First Nation housing and subsequent rampant mold problems, loss of livelihood and income, loss of traditional hunting and fishing grounds for sustenance, and loss of traditional grounds for ceremony and burial. These cultural activities are critical to First Nations, more so than the loss of a summer cottage, and must be preserved and restored to ensure the heritage of First Nation communities. 

As a result of flooding people’s homes have become unlivable due to structural damage, and due to mold have suffered developing and worsening health issues especially for those that suffer from respiratory illnesses. 

Damage attributed to flooding cannot be overestimated and is sometimes unseen. There are 1,927 First Nation evacuees still living in hotels in Manitoba due to the emergency flood evacuation in 2011. These evacuees have suffered a total loss of their way of life and the situation has had a devastating impact on families. 

The systems that are in place to alleviate and compensate in times of emergency, have also compounded to this situation, as there are First Nation communities still unpaid for the effects of emergency events two years prior and are now facing financial strain under already less than adequate core funding, while non-Native communities affected by the same emergency have been paid for their losses almost from the outset.  

Flooding can overwhelm a community’s capacity to deal with the issue if they are caught unprepared and without the necessary emergency management support required. Simply making funding available as a reactive measure to solve the immediate problem is not sufficient.  Long-term flooding problems and their related costs reduce First Nation community’s already insufficient core funding while they await reimbursement from Disaster Financial Assistance. Long term Mitigation and Resilience strategies must be developed by both the federal and respective provincial governments in collaboration with affected First Nations, to introduce new solutions to these recurring problems. 

First Nation communities have been suffering the effects of recurrent flooding from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, with the most devastating in the Prairie Provinces from Alberta to Manitoba. 

The total number First Nations impacted by flooding with evacuations recorded on June 17, 2011 was 1429; on June 29, 2012, the total number of First Nations evacuees recorded due to flooding was 2323. 

Today as the 2013 flooding season begins, there are currently still seven First Nation communities with evacuations from previous flood events, with a combined total of 1933 evacuees. As we near the three year mark on the 2010/2011 flood evacuations – it is absolutely clear that the current situation is utterly unacceptable. 

Last month, an agreement with Little Saskatchewan First Nation was reached with the federal and provincial governments – finally enabling flood evacuees to resume their lives. Discussions with other communities are also underway. First Nations collectively insist on far greater effort, attention and urgency being brought to bear in resolving this longstanding critical situation. It is absolutely unacceptable and intolerable for entire communities to be displaced, for their entire way of life to be erased, for their culture and heritage to be threatened, for families to be torn apart and for children and others to face interruptions in education and health services – all for want of a successful flood mitigation strategy.

Such a strategy is not only essential for First Nations but will also provide significant sustained benefit to other communities and demonstrate due diligence on behalf of all levels of governments. 

Currently, water levels continue to rise in areas across the country impacting many First Nations in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Many areas are under flood warnings and flood watches and several areas have issued states of emergencies.

 

Safe and Healthy Communities 

First Nation governments must have the opportunity to design and implement programs and services to keep our citizens safe. First Nations are taking all steps to address unfairness and generate sustainable solutions. 

First Nations seek commitment from all levels of Government to respect First Nation rights and responsibilities and work with First Nations in mutual partnership as required under Treaty and the UNDRIP:

  • To ensure fairness for First Nations;
  • To immediately clarify roles and responsibilities;
  • To immediately cut through the bureaucracy and ensure that public safety is prioritized through direct communication between the federal government and First Nations;
  • To ensure that resources are allocated in a timely fashion to ensure the safety and security of our citizens;
  • To look to strategies that build and sustain capacity directly available and accessible to First Nations through the Tribal Council to ensure mitigation and planning that can avoid these emergencies over the longer term.

 

Downloading and off-loading to provincial governments, forcing First Nations to accept less or to be stuck in a bureaucratic maze is unacceptable when our people’s well-being are at risk. First Nations must now drive sustainable solutions that build long-term capacity to end this perpetual cycle of reacting to crisis.

 

For information please contact:

Irving Leblanc, P.Eng.
AFN Acting Director – Housing, Infrastructure and Emergency Management
613-241-6789 ext. 386; E-mail: ileblanc@afn.ca

read more
rdbrinkhurst2013 Flood Situation Update – Special Bulletin

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – April 2013

on April 30, 2013

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates work underway at the national office.
More information can be found at www.afn.ca.

As the spring season begins to warm the earth, we extend greetings to all of you.  We look to continue to build momentum and pressure for action supporting our Nations to drive success within their communities and their territories.  This is an important time for our families as well as students preparing for graduation and the future. We are pleased to offer this update, on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) regarding the work and priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations. 

 

Executive Committee Update and Office Relocation

The AFN National Executive convened an important meeting April 23 and 24, 2013 in Montreal.  The meeting was planned to coincide with the National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and all members of the Executive were able to take part in the memorial walk and opening ceremonies. 

During the meeting, the Executive focused on reviewing progress and charting strategic direction on all key matters.  This was an excellent opportunity for dialogue, sharing regional perspectives and ensuring that national efforts continue to be directly informed and shaped by respective regional realities and priorities facilitated and coordinated through national advocacy efforts. 

The meeting also confirmed operational efficiencies and enabled reflection on strengthening AFN’s sustainability and independence, which includes an office relocation scheduled for next month. As of May 1, 2013, in addition to our head office located at Akwesasne, AFN’s Ottawa office will be located at 55 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1600 Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L5.  While staff will be getting settled in the first weeks of May, we will be happy to welcome you to our Open House May 30, 2013. 

 

Community Safety and Ending Violence 

We are so often reminded that there is no one thing more important than the safety of our peoples.  AFN and the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) hosted a National Forum on Community Safety and Ending Violence in Edmonton, Alberta April 9 and 10.  The Forum stems from Resolution 01-2012 mandating AFN to work together with NWAC on a National Forum.  It also furthers advocacy efforts by both organizations, including petitions, postcard and public awareness campaigns such as “Sisters In Spirit” http://www.nwac.ca/programs/sisters-spirit and “I pledge, End Violence” http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/policy-areas/i-pledge.-end-violence

Gathering almost 400 leaders, community-based justice workers, government officials and families of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, the Forum renewed and strengthened commitment to actions to increase community safety and further press for a National Public Commission of Inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls. 

Co-chaired by AFN Regional Chief for Alberta Cameron Alexis and NWAC President Michèle Audette, the Forum featured a number of speakers and participants engaged directly in action planning, providing written recommendations in small groups and on their own. 

Key areas of discussion included addressing structural violence and systemic racism; building strong and healthy communities; cultural connections and resiliency; strengthening partnership and awareness; intergovernmental relationships, coordination and accountability. 

Shared recommendations included unity among Indigenous peoples to create change; increased attention to prevention and personal responsibility for creating safe homes and communities; the need for men to be engaged and actively involved in preventing violence; greater awareness and accountability amongst all of society; and for the active involvement and empowerment of the families in developing solutions to prevent future tragedies. 

AFN and NWAC continue to seek input over the coming months into a National Action Plan to End Violence to be presented at the 2013 Annual General Assembly.  The complete Forum report will be available at www.afn.ca next month. 

 

Tsilhqot’in National Government Landmark Aboriginal Title Claim 

Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada announced it will hear the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Aboriginal title claim and AFN has been approached to help facilitate planning and support with regard to the Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada – Roger William, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation Government and the Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. 

Further to Resolution 74/2012 passed by consensus during the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly December 4-6 in Gatineau, Quebec, in coordination with Tsilhqot’in Nation, Xeni Gwet’in and other First Nations, the AFN Executive has confirmed their support for intervention noting the very significant issues of national importance that are at stake in this case and in particular the need to advance advocacy efforts rejecting the doctrines of terre nullius and discovery

From Tsilhqot’in National Government press release January 23, 2013: In November 2007, the BC Supreme Court found in favour of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, declaring Aboriginal hunting, trapping and trade rights throughout the entire claimed area, and striking down the forestry plans. The BC Supreme Court also held that the Tsilhqot’in Nation had proven Aboriginal title – something akin to ownership rights – to approximately 40% of this remote, wilderness area.

In June 2012, the BC Court of Appeal confirmed the Aboriginal hunting, trapping and trade rights of the Tsilhqot’in people and barred wide-scale industrial logging in the region.  However, the Court of Appeal also set aside the trial judge’s findings of Aboriginal title, holding that Aboriginal title can be established only to specific, intensively used sites, and not the core hunting and trapping grounds that were exclusively controlled and used by the Tsilhqot’in, year after year, to sustain their communities.

First Nations across Canada have denounced the Court of Appeal’s judgment on Aboriginal title as outdated and discriminatory. 

 

Youth Leading Change

AFN recognizes and congratulates the young leaders from Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba regions, acting now for change. Acting now for change for all First Nations, a group of young people from the James Bay Cree community Whapmagoostui in Quebec arrived in Ottawa March 25.  A group of six left their community in January on a 1,600 kilometre trek called “The Journey of Nishyiuu (people)”.  Thousands joined in support on Parliament Hill while welcoming them to Ottawa.  This group succeeded in raising awareness and building bridges among many. 

The Journey of New Beginnings was an effort of ten students to raise funds to support students living away from home to attend high school in Thunder Bay.  This walk started in Sachigo Lake First Nation in northern Ontario on April 5, and covered 1,200 kilometers, to raise awareness and funds for the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Living Centre which will house students from northern communities.  The project announced March 27 by Wasaya Group, Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, Northern Native Education Centre, Confederation College and the City of Thunder Bay, is in support of improved safety for First Nation students and is expected to open by the 2015/16 school year.  For more information on fundraising efforts please visit the Journey of New Beginning Facebook page or contact Sachigo Lake First Nation at 807-595-2577. 

The Youth 4 Lakes campaign is a group of about a dozen young people from Treaty 3 territory who embarked on a journey March 28 from the steps of the Manitoba Legislature to Parliament Hill – a 2,100 km walk, averaging 40-50 km per day.  The group is taking forward specific concerns about clean water and other environmental matters.  For more about the group, visit the official Facebook page Youth 4 Lakes at https://www.facebook.com/#!/Youth4Lakes

AFN Regional Chief Morley Googoo stated in an April 15, 2013 press release: “We continue to see growing engagement of youth in achieving change for our peoples and communities.  This kind of empowerment and leadership is essential, but it will not achieve change on its own.  We must see all governments stepping up and fulfilling commitments to achieving fair and equitable education reflective of First Nation inherent and Treaty rights, built on the foundation of our languages, cultures, histories and vision for the future. 

 

Next Steps 

During the Spring months, we are all reminded of the vulnerability of the many communities impacted by flooding.  The health and safety of First Nations is priority, and AFN continues to advocate for adequate infrastructure and water systems to address the threat of flooding.  Specific advocacy efforts and information sharing are currently underway on this matter and more information will be provided as the flooding season progresses. 

We are also busy planning for the 2013 Annual General Assembly taking place in Whitehorse, Yukon, July 16-18.  Registration details will be available at www.afn.ca next month.

read more
rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – April 2013

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – March 28, 2013

on April 23, 2013

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is pleased to offer this update regarding recent discussions, strategy sessions, meetings and developments regarding the First Nation-Crown relationship, and the continued priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations. 

Federal Budget 2013 and Parliamentary Update

On March 21, 2013 the latest federal budget was announced.  The AFN had been seeking fundamental structural change to assure fairness and to realize the full potential of our people. There was mention of First Nations throughout the budget in a way that has not been seen in a number of years; however the needed investments were not there.

The budget did announce renewal of funding for First Nations in the areas of policing justice and family violence prevention programming as well as some funding for post-secondary scholarships, infrastructure and a new training program aimed at youth receiving social assistance. 

The severe socio-economic challenges facing First Nation peoples every day will only continue to worsen until we can achieve a broader commitment for equitable sharing of resources, that addresses the failure of past unilateral legislative and policy initiatives, including the Indian Act and existing bureaucratic regime. 

There is no question that we must continue to take any and all opportunity to educate the public about our shared histories and the current situation faced by First Nations while we push the federal government to work with First Nations on the fundamental transformation needed for our communities.

At the same time, there continues to be much attention in Parliament to First Nations’ issues and concerns and these are raised in the House of Commons and Senate debates daily.

A number of Bills of concern to First Nations remain active and AFN continues to provide evidence and information to First Nations on these developments with weekly updates.  Go to www.afn.ca for more information.

Most notably, Bill C-27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act quickly passed through the Senate and received Royal Assent on March 27, 2013.  This Act requires First Nation governments to disclose their salaries to the broader public (as opposed to citizens of their Nation) and provides authority to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to publish this information.  First Nations have consistently provided sound analysis about the problems with this approach, which only serves to further empower the Minister to exert control over First Nations.  First Nation governments and citizens have been asking for support for true accountability and the capacity to strengthen governance systems, which necessarily includes sustainable and adequate resources to provide services to their communities. AFN will continue to pursue this goal and support First Nation governments in their challenges with federal legislation. 

Also of note, in February, all parties in the House of Commons supported the creation of a Special Parliamentary Committee to investigate the matter of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to examine factors that lead to increased violence.  The Committee had its first meeting this week and determined it will meet 6 – 8 p.m. every Thursday that the House of Commons is sitting. This Committee represents an important opportunity to bring attention to this national tragedy, and we remain hopeful that it will be conducted in an inclusive and non-partisan manner.  However, it does not replace the need for a full National Public Commission of Inquiry into violence against indigenous women and girls and AFN continues to work with partners and First Nations on this important call.

Contribution Agreements

In recent weeks, AFN has heard the growing concern about unilateral changes to the 2013-2014 contribution agreements for First Nations communities and Tribal Councils, through which Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to First Nation Governments and Tribal Councils is facilitated through a contribution agreement. 

There is no negotiation involved in the content of the contribution agreements, therefore, there is no ability to revise, negotiate or reject the terms and conditions contained in the standard form agreement.  In the past, First Nation leaders have objected to unilateral changes, however, failure to sign the agreements means funds will not flow from the federal government to First Nations. In many cases, First Nations have submitted a letter of duress, so that federal officials understand they do not agree to all clauses of the agreement, but must sign in order to provide critical services to their communities.

National Chief Atleo has called upon Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt to revoke these disputed clauses immediately. Moreover, there is a commitment from the federal government to a renewed relationship which must ensure fairness, respect and long term sustainable financial arrangements and we continue to call on the Minister to work with First Nations to honour the joint commitment towards a transformed fiscal relationship. 

AFN National Treaty Forum

On March 26 & 27, 2013, over 600 delegates gathered in Whitecap Dakota First Nation (SK) to share experiences, ideas and visions for advancing the Treaty relationship.

The National Treaty Forum was an opportunity to support Treaty regions as they drive and define the way forward on Treaty implementation. The role of the AFN is to facilitate and support the views of Treaty holders from all Treaty Nations to further engagement with the Crown – as they direct and determine.

As part of the January 11, 2013 meeting with First Nations, the Prime Minister agreed to establish a high level mechanism or working process for Treaty implementation on a Treaty by Treaty basis.

Among the many presentations by First Nation leaders and grassroots citizens, common messages expressed throughout the Forum included:

  • The successor state of Canada uses our resources to enrich the state and its citizens.  A key component of the Treaty Implementation process must include resource revenue sharing on a Treaty-by-Treaty basis
  • The Treaty relationship is sacred.  First Nations entered into Treaties with the Crown through ceremonies while also entering into a covenant with the Creator.
  • Treaties recognized that we are self-determining and have the right to decision making over our lands, water and air, as such, the successor state of Canada requires our free, prior and informed consent  on issues impacting our underlying title, resources and water.
  • As Indigenous Peoples we have always had our own laws and law making process based on our languages, values and cultures.  Any Treaty Implementation process must provide for harmonization of First Nation laws with the successor state of Canada laws in a manner that does not compromise our First Nation laws.  This could include an overhaul of existing acts of parliament to bring them in line with our inherent and Treaty rights.
  • Treaty regions require the capacity to participate in any Treaty Implementation process. This could include resources to engage their citizens, develop their required institutions and manage the administrative procedures in the process.
  • Our Treaties are international.  As such, continued efforts are required to work with bodies of the United Nations and to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

The AFN was given clear direction to continue to support each of the Treaty regions as they drive the process towards Treaty implementation. We will continue to facilitate the necessary dialogue as well as advocate for the capacity needs of each Treaty region, as directed by the Treaty Nations.

National Forum on Community Safety and Ending Violence

The AFN and the Native Women’s Association of Canada are jointly hosting a National Forum on Community Safety and Ending Violence, April 9 & 10, 2013 at the Ramada Conference Centre in Edmonton.  The purpose of the Forum is to work towards a National Action Plan to End Violence Against Indigenous women and girls, and overall improve community safety.  It will consist of facilitated planning sessions along with experiential panels to provide context and examples of promising practices and challenges.  The Forum will include a special session for the families of murdered and missing indigenous women, and presentations from leadership, justice and shelter workers and others, including Ms. Sue O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Howard Sapers, the federal Correctional Investigator, the Honourable Steven Point, Chair of the BC advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women, which provides guidance on implementation of the recommendations from the BC Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
 
To register and for more information please go to www.afn.ca

read more
rdbrinkhurstCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – March 28, 2013

A Communiqué from AFN National Executive Committee – February 28, 2013

on April 4, 2013

February 28, 2013

The Assembly of First Nations National Executive Committee is pleased to offer this update regarding recent discussions, strategy sessions and meetings regarding the continued priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations.

Throughout the beginning weeks of 2013, we have witnessed near unprecedented attention on the issues facing First Nations, and more importantly, the mobilization and engagement of our peoples.  The opportunity created by this tremendous energy demands that each and every one of us be respectful and fully responsive to all voices.  We must also fully commit to finding ways to move forward together, mindful of our diversities, while at the same time united in our assertion of our rights and responsibilities and our common care and concern for the people and communities, our languages cultures, families and our children. 

The Assembly of First Nations National Executive met most recently in Ahousaht, British Columbia on February 20 and 21, 2013.  This was an important opportunity to come together, as our peoples do, first in ceremony and then to have open and frank discussion about how we work together and to advance our respective roles and responsibilities.  This is our work as the national executive, and we renew our commitment to sustaining the momentum and the drive to achieving the justice, fairness and fundamental and transformative change that our peoples demand and deserve. 

Our greatest strength as First Nations is the solid foundation of our principles and is built on the achievements of many.  We exist based on fundamental beliefs and the understanding of who we are as Indigenous peoples, in the assertion of our rights and our responsibilities and the practice of our strong culture, traditions and languages across our Nations. 

We have always recognized that our peoples and their leaders are the decision-makers.  As leaders at the regional and national levels, we come together to support, advocate and to fight for and achieve the priorities as directed by the people. 

This work of the Assembly of First Nations has always involved change.  When we transformed the National Indian Brotherhood into the Assembly of First Nations, we did it during the politically charged atmosphere of the Constitution talks.  In December 1980, our Declaration of Nations was adopted creating the foundation for the transformation to the AFN.  We come together as the Assembly of First Nations, as it says in our Charter, “to respect our diversity, to practice tolerance and work together as good neighbours, to unite our strength to maintain our security, and to employ national and international machinery for the promotion of the political, economic and social advancement of our peoples.” 

In 2005, the Assembly of First Nations Renewal Commission encouraged us to look to the future and to establish the conditions that will ensure our organization is respected by all levels of government, is rooted in our languages and cultures, is representative of the diverse Nations we serve and, most importantly, is responsive to the demands of our Nations and our peoples.  Many changes were made, many more conversations remain. 

Today we carry forward this work and the National Executive Committee has tasked a time-limited Standing Committee to be led by Regional Chiefs Morley Googoo and Stan Beardy, together with the councils represented by Youth co-chair Sasha Maracle, to reflect on and provide recommendations for clarification and strengthening of the purpose of the Assembly of First Nations, its structures, reporting and communications protocols.  Implicit in every aspect of our work will be finding new ways and means to engage our peoples, to strengthen our advocacy efforts and the support for all First Nations in the achievement of the objectives as determined by them. 

This respectful reflection and consideration is vital and will happen quickly.  At the same time this will not hamper or delay progress on the issues before us.  This work is urgent and demands our energy and attention as we are reminded daily by our peoples. 

Accordingly, the National Executive Committee has discussed and provided an update on the work before us available in a document titled “January 11 meeting between First Nation Leaders and the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet: Outcomes and follow-up steps”.  This update is for full discussion and we encourage and intend further and ongoing reflection through committees and working groups, and most importantly by communities and our peoples from coast to coast to coast. 

It is important to note that these elements are not new and they are not inclusive of all that is being undertaken.  We understand the priority of work on many fronts, including matters of urgency beyond this list.  Specific efforts on the environment, health and social issues, housing and infrastructure continue.  The elements are further informed by the “Declaration of Commitment: First Nations Working Towards Fundamental Change”, adopted on January 23, 2013 and directly relate to and are fully consistent with resolutions passed through Assembly of First Nations Assemblies for many, many years. 

Today, with new challenges and opportunity, the priorities remain anchored in First Nation rights as directed through the decades of effort of those who have gone before us.  We are advancing the work through the development of parallel political, legal and advocacy strategies as well as local, regional, national and international activities and actions.  On each item, we look to strengthen and improve communications and engagement of all to enable and support the energy to drive change where it is needed on the ground – in our homes, in our communities and on our lands and waters. 

Together, the National Executive welcomes this dialogue, particularly at a critical time in our shared history, and further invite and extend our hands and our voices to all First Nation citizens to find ways in which we support and strengthen our work together.  We do not underestimate the challenges and have much work ahead.  At the same time we have great strength that we see every day in our Nations, in the wisdom of our Elders, the resilience of our families, the incredible support of the grandmothers and all those that nurture and care for us and for our Nations every day.  With the determination of our peoples, we can and will seize this moment of real opportunity and fundamental and transformative change for our peoples and our Nations. 

We must remain inspired and strengthened by the vision of a better day for every one of our children.  We must bring every effort to every challenge.  And we must do this together.

read more
rdbrinkhurstA Communiqué from AFN National Executive Committee – February 28, 2013

Message from the National Chief – January 14, 2013

on January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

First Nations citizens have just witnessed one of the most important chapters in our recent history. Through the pressure of the grassroots, the sacrifices made by Chief Spence and her fellow strikers, and the work of many regional Chiefs and the National Executive of the AFN, we have seized the attention of Canadians and of this government.

We forced open the door to the PMO and to the Governor-General. We achieved a commitment to the personal leadership of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office and other senior ministers. Now they know that the whole world is watching what progress we make. Now they understand the consequences of failure.

We have a responsibility to work together to push forward our work that relates to each of the eight elements that emerged from our discussions this week – on Treaty, on comprehensive claims, resource revenue sharing, action to assess and halt provisions of legislation that contravene our rights, on the urgent needs of our communities and justice for our missing women. We have leaders in place to ensure that detailed work gets done. And now we have the public commitment of this government and this Prime Minister that they will treat these issues as their priorities.

I am proud of the support we received from First Nations citizens and Chiefs across Canada, even during the most difficult days. There were many long conference calls, late night meetings, and frustrations in the past two weeks. I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me. This weekend, my doctor ordered that I take some time now to rest and recover and I have agreed with my family that I do this now.  

I ask that Regional Chief Augustine continue to chair and facilitate our National Executive meetings in my brief absence and that Regional Chief Bellegarde and Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould continue the work that they led this week on Treaty implementation and on comprehensive claims. As we did in the meeting on January 11 – we must seize the agenda and drive the next steps on each and every element. I encourage everyone to contribute fully to these next steps. I have also directed the senior staff of the Assembly of First Nations to mobilize staff working teams on these elements to provide the analysis and support required.

Finally as we have done from the very beginning, we continue to offer our support and prayers for Chief Spence, the hunger strikers and for all of our peoples standing up through peaceful demonstrations and protest. As we told the Prime Ministers – our voices, the voices of all of our citizens will not be silenced. We will drive change now.

Friends and colleagues, this has been a fateful moment in the decades of struggle by our peoples. We have secured important new ground. Now the harder, but less visible, work of turning promises into action begins. I look forward to working with all of you on those tasks in the weeks and months ahead. Together I am confident we ensure that this week marks the end of a long bitter chapter of paralysis and provocation in our relationship with the GoC, and that it truly is the beginning of a new chapter.

I will see you all very soon and will return re-invigorated and strengthened to work with you to drive this change together with all of you.

Kleco Kleco

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
National Chief

read more
rdbrinkhurstMessage from the National Chief – January 14, 2013
Assembly of First Nations
    ×