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.
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.