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