News

AFN National Chief Bellegarde Says Newly Passed Legislation will Help Build Stronger and Healthier First Nations

on June 20, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today welcomes the passing of two new pieces of federal legislation passed in the House of Commons today. The Indigenous Languages Act, Bill C-91 and An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, Bill C-92 are expected to receive Royal Assent in the Senate tomorrow, on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

“Today we have made history and arrive at a turning point in our work to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen our languages,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Language is life and central to our identities and cultures. We know that when states uphold Indigenous languages their likelihood of survival increases. This is why we pushed for The Indigenous Languages Act, and it’s why I’m so proud we now have the federal government’s full support for this work. Today we celebrate the work of our language champions who worked with Canada to create this legislation that will help ensure our children grow strong in their language and stronger in life, confident and proud in their identities and connected to their nations. This is an example of reconciliation in action and a meaningful way to mark 2019, the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.”

On February 5, 2019, Bill C-91, an Act respecting Indigenous languages, was tabled in the House of Commons with the objective to protect, promote, revitalize and strengthen Indigenous languages in Canada. The initiative to co-develop legislation with the AFN and other national Indigenous organizations was announced by Prime Minister Trudeau at an AFN Assembly in December 2016.

Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, was introduced in the House of Commons in February 2019. It was developed with direction from AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly and input by the AFN legislative working group which is comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

“Bill C-92 puts First Nations children first and is a major step in the right direction to address decades of failures that resulted in far too many of our children being torn from their families,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The goal with this legislation is to apply laws, policies and values to systems designed and implemented by First Nations for First Nations with the focus on providing every opportunity for our children to grow up feeling valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations. No one piece of legislation will fix the drastic and long-lasting impacts of a broken system, but with First Nations jurisdiction paramount we have a solid base for change. I urge all provinces and territories to work directly with First Nations on the implementation of this legislation.”

The Act to Respect First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families affirms First Nations jurisdiction and creates space for First Nations laws and practices regarding their families. It respects rights in the context of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is the minimum international standard for the survival and dignity of Indigenous peoples. It sets out key principles that will prevent children from being removed from their homes unnecessarily, promotes children staying in their communities and nations and ensures the best interests of the child principle is understood and applied with a First Nations lens for our children and families.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (mobile)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (mobile)
[email protected]

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Sid LeeAFN National Chief Bellegarde Says Newly Passed Legislation will Help Build Stronger and Healthier First Nations

AFN National Chief Bellegarde Statement on River Run 2019 – Walk with Grassy Narrows for Mercury Justice

on June 19, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today provided the below statement in support of justice for Grassy Narrows Fist Nation.

“The Assembly of First Nations supports Chief Rudy Turtle and Grassy Narrows First Nationin their calls for action to address long-standing dangers to the health and well-being of community members as a result of mercury contamination in their territory,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “I continue to urge the federal and provincial governments to work directly with the people of Grassy Narrows on an action plan with tangible solutions to the impacts of mercury poisoning. The people of Grassy Narrows have been dealing with mercury poisoning for more than 40 years. The situation has claimed lives, disrupted families and has hurt the entire nation. Justice is long overdue. It is time for concrete action so the people of Grassy Narrows can rebuild their ways of life, livelihood and nation.”

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For media requests or more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 282
613-292-0857 mobile
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
613-241-6789, ext. 201
613-314-8157 mobile
[email protected]

 

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Sid LeeAFN National Chief Bellegarde Statement on River Run 2019 – Walk with Grassy Narrows for Mercury Justice

First Nations Will Ensure Their Rights, Title and Jurisdiction Are Respected in TransMountain Expansion Project – AFN National Chief Bellegarde

on June 19, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Following the federal government’s decision today on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says First Nations will ensure their rights, title and jurisdiction are respected and the federal government must respect these rights.

“First Nations are not mere stakeholders. We are the rights and title holders and our rights, title and jurisdiction must be respected,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “It’s clear First Nations have different positions on this project but they all stand firm that their rights be respected and their traditional territories be protected. Only First Nations can determine if those conditions are met. The government needs to engage fully with First Nations – to uphold rights and for the basis of good business. This entire situation is an important reminder why the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent is the way forward. It’s the way we avoid conflict, lengthy and costly court cases. It’s how we create peaceful approaches and economic certainty for everyone.”

The Government of Canada originally approved the TransMountain pipeline expansion project in November 2016. In July 2018, the Federal Court ruled the Government of Canada must consult with Indigenous peoples and groups and conduct a marine-related environmental assessment. At the same time, The National Energy Board was instructed to reassess the project, including the impact of increased oil tanker traffic. The Government of Canada purchased the pipeline for $4.5 billion in May 2018.

The Government of Canada committed to implementing the UN Declaration in 2010. The UN Declaration implementation act, Bill C-262, is currently in the Senate and is central to honouring that promise. National Chief Bellegarde, among others, have been urging this bill is passed before the end of the current parliamentary session to give life to the Declaration and to further enforce free, prior and informed consent as the basic standard of approaches to development.

“Implementing and enforcing free, prior and informed consent will ensure that governments, business and First Nations are onboard and onside before any development begins,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Implementing this basic international standard should not delay development. It’s a way forward and a way to better ensure economic certainty. Avoiding it actually creates economic instability for the country.”

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro, Senior Communications Advisor – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201, 613-314-8157 (mobile) or [email protected] 

Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 (mobile) or [email protected]

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Sid LeeFirst Nations Will Ensure Their Rights, Title and Jurisdiction Are Respected in TransMountain Expansion Project – AFN National Chief Bellegarde

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde to Address Economic Club of Canada on First Nations Priorities: A New Relationship and a New Agenda – June 19, 2019

on June 18, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde will address the Economic Club of Canada tomorrow in Ottawa, setting out First Nations priorities for a new relationship and a new agenda. The speech will focus on current priorities for progress that will strengthen First Nations and Canada, including immediate action for the federal government and key priorities as the country approaches the next federal election.

Event:
Speech by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde
“A New Relationship and a New Agenda: First Nations’ Priorities Are Canada’s Priorities”

Date and Time:
Wednesday June 19, 2019 – 7:30 a.m. ET.

Location:
The Fairmont Château Laurier, The Canadian Room
1 Rideau St., Ottawa

The speech is open to media and media can register onsite. The speech will begin at 8:00 a.m. ET. For more information please visit https://www.economicclub.ca/events.

 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro, Senior Communications Advisor – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201, 613-314-8157 (mobile) or [email protected] 

Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 (mobile) or [email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde to Address Economic Club of Canada on First Nations Priorities: A New Relationship and a New Agenda – June 19, 2019

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Fully Supports the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Demand for Consultations for the Outlet Channel Project in Manitoba

on June 12, 2019

(Ottawa, Ontario) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde fully supports Interlake Reserves Tribal Council (IRTC) in its demand that the Government of Manitoba halt all work on the Outlet Channel Project around Lake St. Martin.  The IRTC states that there was an agreement with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister to consult with First Nations that is not being honoured.

“I fully support the position of Interlake Reserves Tribal Council that the Government of Manitoba consult with the First Nations affected by the Outlet Channel Project,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The construction of the Outlet directly affects their lands and livelihoods and that means First Nations have a right to be consulted. We must ensure these rights are respected, upheld and honoured by the Crown, and that includes the right to free, prior and informed consent as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

In 2017, Premier Pallister promised that consultations with Indigenous communities on the Outlet Channels Project would be the most comprehensive in the history of Manitoba, and committed to the affected communities that they would share in the economic opportunities arising from construction of the project.  The IRTC has discovered a 23-kilometre route in the Interlake was cleared in preparation for a channel from Lake St. Martin to Lake Winnipeg, but were not informed by the government of Manitoba and are not aware if the necessary approvals were obtained.

“Despite a written agreement, the Government of Manitoba has stopped all funding for consultations with the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council and our member communities” says IRTC Chairman and Chief Cornell McLean of Lake Manitoba First Nation.  “Since January 2018, the province’s actions don’t look like the actions of a government that has a genuine commitment to consult with Indigenous communities.”

Karl Zadnik, IRTC Chief Executive Officer, stated: “The government of Manitoba illegally cleared the right-of-way for the channel, even before the environmental assessment has been filed, and they refuse to start the necessary traditional land use studies.”

“We have been pushing for more than a year for resources to start the studies necessary to assess the impacts of the Channels Project on our Treaty and Aboriginal rights,” said Chief Cornell McLean. “These studies must be included in Environmental Impact Statement. Without these studies, the Project cannot move forward. We do not understand why the Province is refusing to undertake these studies.  We are tired of attending meetings where nothing is moving forward and we are fed platitudes by the Province, with actions on the ground that don’t match.  Frankly, the province is setting itself up for failure on this Channel Project.”

The IRTC says there has been no funding for Traditional Land Use (TLU) studies or consultations with First Nations for about two years. The TLU studies are required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to proceed with the work on the Outlet Channel Project. The IRTC states that Right of Way clearing and other work has taken place prior to impact assessment without any consultation with First Nations.

 

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (mobile)
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Fully Supports the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council Demand for Consultations for the Outlet Channel Project in Manitoba

AFN Fully Supports Natoaganeg First Nation in Exercising Their Treaty Right to Fish in their Territory

on June 10, 2019

June 7, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says immediate action is required to ensure the rights of Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation are respected and upheld by all governments.  The Natoaganeg First Nation, a Mi’kmaq First Nation in New Brunswick, has been trying to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for years to exercise their rights to a moderate livelihood fishery – a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 – with no positive result.

“Canada and all its agencies must recognize the Treaty rights of Natoaganeg First Nation to fish and to a moderate livelihood fishery,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Fishing is part of their culture, identity and economy and has been for generations. Natoaganeg First Nation has been pursuing a peaceful and cooperative way forward for years and they are still open to discussions, but any path must recognize and respect their Treaty rights, inherent rights and the decision of Canada’s own Supreme Court. We want Canada to immediately stop seizing their traps and work with them. I stand with the citizens and leaders of Natoaganeg First Nation.”

In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in the Marshall Decision that the Mi’kmaq have a Treaty right to hunt, fish, harvest and gather in their territory for the purposes of trade and to earn a moderate livelihood. The direction from the court was clear that the Natoaganeg First Nation has a right to fish and operate their fisheries under the Natoaganeg Treaty Fisheries Authorization Plan and the Snow Crab Stewardship Plan, both of which are consistent with the management framework and regulations under the Fisheries Act.

“In this time of reconciliation, First Nations and Canadians need to embrace and build on the relationship set out in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, some of the earliest Treaties in this land” said AFN New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Regional Chief Roger Augustine. “The people of Natoaganeg sustained themselves through the fishery, yet today there is a high incidence of food insecurity for the people. Many of them rely heavily on fishing to support themselves and their families.  It is disturbing to me and does not make sense that a First Nation would be given a license but no quotas. This issue must be resolved to ensure the livelihood and prosperity of Natoaganeg. They are asking for nothing more than for Canada to honour their rights and the decisions of its own courts.”

Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation began to exercise their Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title to fish for a moderate livelihood through the implementation of a snow crab moderate livelihood fishery.  DFO, as of today, has seized 31 snow crab pots. Natoaganeg First Nation is requesting the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, Jonathan Wilkinson, to step in, direct the DFO to return the snow crab pots, and work with them to respectfully resolve this issue.

 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For media requests or more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 or [email protected]

Jenna Young Castro, Senior Communications Advisor – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201, 613-314-8157 (cell) or [email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN Fully Supports Natoaganeg First Nation in Exercising Their Treaty Right to Fish in their Territory

Coordinated and Immediate Action Required to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls and those at Risk:  AFN National Chief

on June 3, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says immediate and sustained action in coordination with First Nations is essential to fully implement the recommendations and Calls to Justice in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (National Inquiry) released in Gatineau this morning.

“The final report of the National Inquiry reaffirms what First Nations and families have been saying for many years – we need immediate, sustained and coordinated action to address the long-standing and systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women and girls and those at risk,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “Lives are at stake. We cannot wait any longer for real action and real results to ensure the respect, safety and security of all First Nations at risk, and these efforts must be in coordination with survivors and families. I lift up survivors, family members and all those who shared their experiences. I thank them for their strength and courage in this important truth-telling exercise. We continue to stand with you in your healing journey.”

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was formally presented to federal government officials today at a closing ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History.  The two volume report includes 11 chapters, four overarching findings and more than 200 recommendations.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be acting right now and AFN is already working in many of the areas identified for action, including First Nations control of child welfare, the revitalization of Indigenous languages and a new fiscal relationship that will help build healthier and safer First Nations,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

The AFN, together with First Nations, families and other Indigenous organizations, has consistently called for immediate action prior to the Inquiry and during the Inquiry process, and has outlined specific areas where immediate action can be taken to address and end violence.

“I support the call for a strength-based approach that recognizes the deep and abiding love and care that we have for our women and girls,” said AFN Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who holds the national portfolio for women’s priorities.  “We must always remember that we are talking about people – mothers, daughters, sisters, our children and family members who are loved. These are not just numbers and statistics. I also urge governments to invest funding in Indigenous women for new and innovative programs and services that will create substantive equality for our women so they are strengthened and can live safe and secure lives.”

“We can take action right now while work is underway toward a coordinated implementation plan on the Inquiry’s recommendations,” said AFN BC Regional Chief Terry Teegee, who leads the justice portfolio at AFN.  “We can move on safe spaces and shelters for First Nations women, girls and LGBTQ2S, safe transportation, increased access to day-care and mental health supports for women affected by gender-based violence and all forms of abuse, and improved law enforcement for human trafficking and appropriate supports for those in and out of the sex trade.”

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls launched in December 2015 with the mandate to look into and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls, including sexual violence. The National Inquiry concluded its truth gathering process mid-December 2018. The AFN was a party with standing in the National Inquiry and made its final submission in Calgary in November 2018.

 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro, Senior Communications Advisor – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201, 613-314-8157 (cell) or [email protected]

Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer – Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382, 613-292-0857 or [email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckCoordinated and Immediate Action Required to End Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls and those at Risk:  AFN National Chief

AFN National Chief Meets with Prime Minister and U.S. Vice President on International Trade

on May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today in Ottawa met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States Vice President Mike Pence, among others, on the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). National Chief Bellegarde participated in the meeting as a member of the CUSMA (formerly NAFTA) Council involved in the negotiations that led to the trade agreement.

“The Canada-US-Mexico Agreement is the most inclusive trade agreement to date for Indigenous peoples, and that’s because Indigenous peoples had a voice throughout the negotiations,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “First Nations have a right to be at every table where decisions are made that can impact our rights, title and territories.  Our participation leads to better outcomes and results for stability, certainty and integrity in trade and other domestic and international agreements.  I will continue to urge Canada to ensure First Nations are involved at all tables and that all agreements recognize and implement our rights.”

National Chief Bellegarde has participated on the CUSMA (formerly NAFTA) Council since 2017. Today’s meeting also included Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, Ambassador of Canada to the U.S. David MacNaughton, the Hon. Rona Ambrose and regular members of the CUSMA Council.

“There are many opportunities for First Nations to benefit under this trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico in ways that respect and protect our rights, including inter-nation trade with our brothers and sisters in the United States, as we did long before the border was imposed on us,” said National Chief Bellegarde.  “This agreement sets the tone for other international trade agreements to be inclusive of Indigenous peoples and to ensure recognition of our rights.”

The CUSMA was signed in November 2018. The agreement recognizes the important role First Nations and other Indigenous peoples play in the long-term conservation of the environment, and puts emphasis on the importance of cooperation activities to promote and enhance opportunities for First Nations businesses and services. The general exception clause for Indigenous Peoples Rights helps ensure the protection of inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights which provides a foundation for greater economic stability, certainty and integrity to international trade and prosperity to North America. The provisions addressing Indigenous peoples in the CUSMA make it the most inclusive international trade agreement for Indigenous peoples to date.

AFN resolution 36/2017, First Nations Trade Relations, affirms First Nations inherent right to trade and mandates efforts to advocate for First Nations economic growth and the development of options to secure greater economic independence.

 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Meets with Prime Minister and U.S. Vice President on International Trade

Respect for First Nations Rights is Essential to Canada’s Economy, Says AFN National Chief Bellegarde in Wake of BC Court of Appeal Decision

on May 27, 2019

May 25, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says economic certainty can only be achieved when First Nations rights, title and jurisdiction are respected and upheld, including the standard of free, prior and informed consent. The National Chief made the comments following the decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the B.C. government’s reference question on regulatory powers over crude oil.

“First Nations rights over any decisions that affect our lives or traditional territories, including the duty to consult and free, prior and informed consent, must be respected by all governments,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Respect for these rights is not a barrier to economic certainty. Ignoring these rights leads to uncertainty, conflict and costly litigation. It’s unfortunate that this decision ignores First Nations rights and fails to recognize that First Nations are an order of the government within Canada’s Constitutional framework. The federal and provincial levels of government must ensure that First Nation customary laws and processes are respected at all times. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is the only way forward.”

The AFN intervened in this reference case – Proposed Amendments to the Environmental Act – insisting the court ensure the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent be upheld, along with customary laws and practices. AFN also called on the court to consider the perspectives of First Nations, their relationship to the lands and natural environment, and the way these relationships are uniquely and inextricably connected to First Nations health, well-being and cultural, social and economic vitality.

AFN Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek, co-chair of the AFN Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment, said: “This court decision does not speak to the very obvious fact that a true partnership with First Nations is required for any decisions that impact our territories. Building an honest trusting relationship with First Nations is key to building a future that protects and sustains the environment regardless of jurisdiction. We can work on the environment and still invest in education, in healthcare and still find new ways to build a modern innovative economy that thrives. But the relationship with First Nations must be genuine, respectful, open and we must be involved right from the very start.”

The decision on the proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act dealt with the jurisdiction and authority of the Government of B.C. to regulate and restrict companies that transport diluted bitumen through B.C. The unanimous ruling found that the draft legislation was not within BC’s jurisdiction to enact.

 

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
613-241-6789, ext. 201
613-314-8157 mobile
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 282
613-292-0857 mobile
[email protected]

read more
Roy WhiteduckRespect for First Nations Rights is Essential to Canada’s Economy, Says AFN National Chief Bellegarde in Wake of BC Court of Appeal Decision

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Calls for Fundamental Changes in Justice System to Reflect Respect for Indigenous Women and Girls and First Nations Approaches to Justice

on May 24, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision inR v. Bartonincludes some positive steps but reinforces the need for fundamental changes to Canada’s legal system to ensure fairness and dignity for Indigenous women and girls, and respect for First Nations approaches to justice.

“I agree with the statement in today’s decision that ‘we can – and must – do better’ to address the failings of the justice system when it comes to Indigenous women and girls,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The decision includes some important changes to the law, notably instructions that judges must provide to juries in cases of sexual assault involving Indigenous women. Canada’s highest court is acknowledging the prejudices and biases against Indigenous women and girls, and the need for reform. I am disappointed that the case is being sent back for re-trial on the reduced charge of manslaughter. We will continue to push for fundamental change in the justice system to embrace First Nations approaches like restorative justice and respect for our peoples and rights.”

The AFN was an intervenor in R v. Barton. The AFN intervened in support of justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and for more respectful treatment of Indigenous women in the justice system. Bradley Barton was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cindy Gladue in June 2011 and a jury acquitted him following a month-long trial in 2015. In its submissions, the AFN argued the importance of the mandatory requirements of s. 276 of the Criminal Code to protect the equality and privacy rights of a victim, and the necessity for fair and balanced instructions to the juries regarding racial biases. The AFN also argued that the characterizations of Cindy Gladue during the trial perpetuated myths and stereotypes about Indigenous women that should not form any part of Canadian law.

“The lives of Indigenous peoples must be valued and we need to fix the broken systems that consistently suggests our lives are worth less than others,” said AFN BC Regional Chief Terry Teegee who holds the justice portfolio with the AFN.  “First Nations are underrepresented on juries and overrepresented in jails. This is why we continue to push for the support and implementation of restorative justice and to increase the representation of Indigenous people on juries and in the judiciary. We want all Canadians to stand with us in this work.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (mobile)
[email protected]

read more
Sid LeeAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Calls for Fundamental Changes in Justice System to Reflect Respect for Indigenous Women and Girls and First Nations Approaches to Justice
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