News

National Chief Welcomes Passing on Third Reading in Parliament of United Nations Declaration Bill

on May 30, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the passing on third reading of Private Member’s Bill C-262, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, in the House of Commons today. The bill will now go to the Senate, taking another significant step closer to becoming Canadian law.

“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation and closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canada,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “It affirms the Treaty and inherent rights and title of First Nations. It is now ten years since the Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly and time for Canada to make this important commitment to move on its implementation in full partnership with First Nations. I commend all those who voted today in support of this bill. In particular, I lift up NDP MP Romeo Saganash for working so hard with his colleagues, with First Nations and Canadians across the country to advance this Bill.

I urge Members of the Senate to deal expeditiously with this Bill and look forward to the historic day, now closer than ever, when it is given Royal Assent. That will move all of us forward and create a more fair and just country.”

 

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

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
613-241-6789 ext. 116
343-540-6179 mobile
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
Communications Officer
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]

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Roy WhiteduckNational Chief Welcomes Passing on Third Reading in Parliament of United Nations Declaration Bill

Auditor General Report Shows Need for Government to Make Better Use of Data, Work with First Nations to Make Faster Progress on Closing the Gap

on May 30, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today responded to the Auditor General of Canada’s report, calling on Canada to change its approach and make better use of data it is collecting to make more informed decisions to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations people and Canada more quickly.

“Canada is requiring data and then not using it effectively to improve the lives of First Nations people,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The Auditor General’s report shows clearly the need for the federal government to engage directly with First Nations to share more information and get better decisions and better results. This has been a long-standing issue and one First Nations and the Auditor General have raised repeatedly over the years. We fully support the recommendations that the government engage directly with First Nations so we achieve better results for First Nations, and a stronger Canada.”

The report released today by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada included two chapters specific to First Nation and Indigenous peoples. Socio-economic Gaps on First Nations Reserves examines Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) with a focus on First Nations high school graduation rates on-reserve. The chapter states that ISC did not satisfactorily measure or report on Canada’s progress in closing the socio-economic gaps between on-reserve First Nations and other Canadians and that the Department’s use of data to improve education programs was inadequate. The report indicates that the education gap is actually growing, and that on-reserve high school graduation rates may be closer to 1 in 4 than the government’s reporting of 1 in 2.

The report includes an audit focused on programming by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) aimed at increasing Indigenous employment. The report concludes that ESDC’s management of the programs was not sufficient to demonstrate that these programs achieved their goals. Collecting adequate data and defining performance indicators would allow ESDC to determine whether the programs are leading to meaningful and sustainable employment and whether changes are needed.

“It is essential that all investments and resources directed towards First Nations are reaching the people in need and having a positive impact,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “It is simply unacceptable that the situation described by the Auditor General has been allowed to continue. We need to fix this broken approach, now. First Nations know what’s needed, what’s working and what isn’t, better than anyone because they are working directly with our people. This report reinforces our goals of First Nations control of First Nations education and the need for a distinct First Nations labour market strategy directed by First Nations.”

The report of the Auditor General sets out a number of recommendations for change that include engaging with First Nations and Indigenous peoples on decision-making and getting better, more accurate information. The National Chief noted this could include working towards a First Nations statistical institute.

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

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

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

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

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Sid LeeAuditor General Report Shows Need for Government to Make Better Use of Data, Work with First Nations to Make Faster Progress on Closing the Gap

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Statement on Canada’s Purchase of Trans Mountain Pipeline

on May 29, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) –Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde released the below statement following today’s announcement by the Government of Canada to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde: “Canada committed to honouring the UN Declaration and the right to free, prior and informed consent. First Nations have different positions on this project but they all agree and insist that their rights be respected, upheld and honoured by the Crown, and that includes the right to free, prior and informed consent. The onus is on the Crown to honour this duty, and that has not yet happened. One step is to bring First Nations together to have this essential dialogue.

First Nations have for centuries used our own protocols and traditional ways to solve problems and broker solutions where we are on different sides of an issue. Canada must work with First Nations and respect our rights regarding our lands and our lives.”

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

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

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

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

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Sid LeeAssembly of First Nations National Chief Statement on Canada’s Purchase of Trans Mountain Pipeline

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Wants Governments to Work with First Nations in Manitoba to Ensure Safety During the Wildfire Emergency

on May 23, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today that all governments and emergency service providers must work with First Nations leadership in Manitoba to ensure the safety and security of all those affected by the wildfire situation in the province.

“Our first thoughts are for the safety and well-being of all the families, the children, men and women in the communities that are dealing with this crisis situation,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This calls for immediate action by the federal and provincial governments and all emergency service providers to work cooperatively and collaboratively in coordination with the First Nations to find the most effective and efficient way to get our people out of harm’s way. This is not an issue of jurisdiction. This is an issue of the safety and security for First Nations families.”

The current situation is volatile and changing rapidly. The most recent reports indicate wildland fires have resulted in the need to fully evacuate Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi First Nation and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation in Manitoba.

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:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary
National Chief’s Office
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-290-0706 (cell)
[email protected]

 

 

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Angie TurnerAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Wants Governments to Work with First Nations in Manitoba to Ensure Safety During the Wildfire Emergency

National Chief Perry Bellegarde Hails New Approach to First Nations Funding as a Significant Step Towards Stronger First Nations

on May 23, 2018

May 22, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the move now underway towards ten-year funding grants for First Nations is an important step in building a new, more effective and efficient fiscal relationship between First Nations and Canada and is a significant result of the Canada-First Nations New Fiscal Relationship.

“This new approach is an essential and significant step towards a new fiscal relationship between First Nations and Canada, aimed at sufficient, predictable, sustained funding,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The current year-to-year funding approach is unpredictable and burdensome. The move to ten-year grants means our governments can take a strategic approach to long-term planning and maximize the effectiveness of all resources. This builds stronger First Nations governments and will make a real difference on the ground for our families.”

The ten-year grants were included in recommendations in a report endorsed by Chiefs-in-Assembly at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2017. A ten-year grant is intended to increase the flexibility and the predictability for First Nations governments to manage funds and reduce the administrative burden under the current annual “contributions agreements” approach. Eligibility requirements for a ten-year grant are based on a co-developed approach to assessing financial performance and administration, including a Financial Administration Law.

Chief David Jimmie of Squiala First Nation, who co-chairs the AFN Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations with the National Chief, stated: “The new approach means First Nations will be able to leverage long-term, sustainable, predictable funding to invest in their priorities. It provides an opportunity for greater planning along with the leverage needed when looking for financing partners. It also puts accountability for First Nations governments with their citizens first, where it should be. This single step benefits all of us because when First Nations succeed, we all succeed.”

Information is now being provided to First Nations about the new approach and how to access it. It is anticipated that at least 100 First Nations will be eligible for ten-year grants within the first year, with more to follow. The 2017 report by the Canada-First Nations New Fiscal Relations Working Group A New Approach: Co-development of a New Fiscal Relationship Between Canada and First Nations is available at: http://www.afn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/A-New-Approach-Co%E2%80%90development-of-a-New-Fiscal-Relationship.pdf

 

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:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
613-241-6789 ext. 116
343-540-6179 mobile
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
Communications Officer
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 WhiteduckNational Chief Perry Bellegarde Hails New Approach to First Nations Funding as a Significant Step Towards Stronger First Nations

Assembly of First Nations Marks First National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights

on May 21, 2018

May 21, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – First Nations leaders from across Canada marked May 21 this year as the first ever National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights. The day was established through AFN resolution 75/2017, dedicating the first Monday preceding May 25, or “Victoria Day”, to be recognized to honour First Nations’ rights to fish.

“Fishing is part of First Nations cultures and identities,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “It sustains our peoples and economies and is interconnected to healthy individuals and strong, sustainable nations. Fishing has been at the forefront of exercising and asserting First Nations inherent rights many times in recent history and the subject of a number of landmark court decisions. The intent of the National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights is to reaffirm and exercise First Nations’ inherent right to fish and manage our own resources, while at the same time raising awareness of our role and responsibilities in conservation and water protection.”

First Nations in Canada have inherent and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution and recognized in a number of Supreme Court decisions such as Sparrow (1990), Gladstone (1996), Delgamuukw (1997), Marshall (1999), Haida (2004) and Ahousaht (2009).  These rights include the right to traditional and customary governance of traditional lands, waters and resources, including fisheries.  First Nations rights are further articulated in international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A number of First Nations are exercising the right to institute their own laws in regard to fishing, including Sheshegwaning First Nations first aquaculture law, Listguj Miqmaq first-ever salmon law and Nisga Lisims fish and wildlife laws.

“Victoria Day reminds us of a period in our shared history when many Treaties were signed,” said AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine who co-chairs the AFN National Fisheries Committee.  “The National Fisheries Committee chose this day in an effort to decolonize a day named for the Queen who presided over many of the Treaties made with First Nations and remind everyone in this land of First Nations rights.”

“National Fishing Rights Day is about asserting our rights, but also raising awareness among Canadians,” said AFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee who co-chairs the National Fisheries Committee.  “We declare this day in the spirit of reconciliation and education of our rights and practices.”

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

 

―30―

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

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

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

read more
Roy WhiteduckAssembly of First Nations Marks First National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights

First Nations Fishing Rights – Fact Sheet

on May 18, 2018

NATIONAL DAY OF FIRST NATIONS FISHING RIGHTS – MAY 21, 2018

Fishing is part of First Nations culture and identity. It sustains First Nations peoples and economies and is a constitutionally protected inherent and Treaty right. In the spirit of reconciliation and raising awareness of our shared history and future, the Assembly of First Nations National Fisheries Committee, by direction from Chiefs across the country, have declared May 21, 2018, a National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights. This is a day to honour the inherent right to fish, to raise awareness of its interconnectedness to growing sustainable environments, conservation and water protection and fostering healthy individuals and nations. Victoria Day was chosen by the National Fisheries Committee as a statement: this is an effort to decolonize a day named for the Queen who presided over many of the Treaties made with First Nations.

 

Fisheries & Colonization

  • At Canada’s Confederation in 1867, the federal government was given authority over fisheries and set up the Department of Marine and Fisheries. First Nations governments were not consulted or involved in the development of this legislation.
  • The Numbered Treaties were a series of 11 Treaties made between the Government of Canada and First Nations from 1871 to 1921, covering the area between Lake of the Woods (northern Ontario, southern Manitoba) to the Rocky Mountains (northeastern British Columbia and interior plains of Alberta) to the Beaufort Sea (north of Yukon and the Northwest Territories). 
  • As part of the obligations of the Hudson Bay Company for the transfer of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory to the federal government, Canada had to address Indigenous claims to those lands. The Crown used the Numbered Treaties to get access to traditional territories and assert its jurisdiction in exchange for certain promises such as reserve lands, annual payments and hunting and fishing rights to unoccupied crown lands. 
  • From 1850-54, the Crown negotiated 14 treaties (known as the Douglas Treaties) with some of the Indigenous Peoples of Vancouver Island, that confirmed the right to “carry on our fisheries as formerly.”

 

Celebrating Fishing, Indigenous Cultures and Languages

  • Fishing promotes healthy family connections and activities. Fishing is more than the act of removing fish for food – it is teaching and talking about fish, the water sources and the many activities that impact First Nations rights and cultures.
  • Fishing in many First Nations is a key activity in transmitting cultures and languages. Use May 21 as an opportunity to learn, share and pass on those words and practices.
  • Fishing and food is integral in First Nations cultures. Fishing is an important part of trade, labour and the economy. It helps to shape identity, promote mental, physical and spiritual health, including suicide prevention and life promotion.
  • Sustainable, strong fishery economies and water and environmental protection fosters strong individuals and nations.

Inherent Rights and Governance Systems

  • First Nations in Canada have inherent and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution. These rights include the right to traditional and customary governance of traditional lands, waters and resources, including fisheries.
  • The duty of the Crown states that the federal government must consult and accommodate First Nations in any decision-making involved in First Nations territories. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples further articulates Indigenous rights including Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
  • Courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have made a number of decisions recognizing First Nations rights. Some significant decisions recognizing the rights of First Nations to fish and exercise governance over their traditional fisheries include Sparrow (1990), Gladstone (1996), Delgamuukw (1997), Marshall (1999), Haida (2004) and Ahousaht (2009).
  • 200+ Canadian Supreme Court decisions bear the name of many First Nations individuals who fought valiantly for their rights. First Nations must now be included in any discussions on fisheries and oceans management, water source protection.
  • First Nations rights are also articulated in international law, specifically in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Specific articles related to fishing include Article 25, Article 32 (2) and Article 32 (3).

A number of First Nations are exercising the right to institute their own laws in regards to fishing. These include the Sheshegwaning First Nations first aquaculture law, Listguj Miqmaq first-ever salmon law and Nisga Lisims fish and wildlife laws.

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Roy WhiteduckFirst Nations Fishing Rights – Fact Sheet

AFN BULLETIN – UPDATE: First Nations Education May 2018

on May 15, 2018

First Nations Control of First Nations Education

The work and progress in the area of education is guided by direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly and the long-standing goal of achieving First Nations control of First Nations Education.  First Nations control of First Nations Education means respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction. It means First Nations education systems under First Nations control and based on First Nations design, supported by direct transfers from the federal government.

While efforts continue for adequate funding and student supports, First Nations control of First Nations education is happening now in nations across the country.  Through the efforts of educators, leaders and experts across the country, courses and curricula delivered in First Nations controlled schools and institutes are beginning to reflect the perspectives and foundations of First Nations traditions and worldviews.  These important changes have led to an increasing number of relevant approaches to education that strengthen First Nations identities and dramatically improve opportunities for success. This is reconciliation in action.

It’s often said that everyone has a role in reconciliation.  One role for First Nations is to help share with Canadians our stories, our shared history and our future goals.  The AFN has prepared a digital education resource with the goal of helping to prepare non-First Nations educators.  “It’s our Time First Nations Education Toolkit” provides culturally relevant, accessible, hands-on educational tools to teach First Nations cultures and history.  The Toolkit provides First Nations and non-First Nations learners, teachers, schools, institutions and the Canadian public with a resource that fosters a spirit of cooperation, understanding and, most importantly, action.  The Toolkit is currently available at www.afn.ca.

Memorandum to Cabinet: Unlocking Investments for First Nations Education

We acknowledge and highlight success to date in achieving First Nations control of First Nations education, yet there continues to be barriers to student success.  Helping to secure fair funding for First Nations children and students remains a key priority for the AFN.  Federal funds for education were set aside in the 2016 federal budget.  Earmarked for “Transforming First Nation Education,” approximately $665 million will be available soon to First Nations across the country to design their own regional funding agreements based on real needs.  Based on direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly, the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) is working with the office of the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada on a Memorandum to Cabinet that will make these funds available to First Nations.

A Memorandum to Cabinet is a document used by a Minister to propose and explain a new measure or new initiative and to obtain cabinet approval.  In this case, it is a necessary step to achieving policy and program change for federal education programming and funding.

First Nations and the AFN have been advocating since 2001 for policy and program reform that provides core funding for education directly to First Nations governments, education organizations and schools. The intent of the Memorandum to Cabinet is not to develop federal legislation for First Nations education and the federal government will not delegate any education responsibilities or funding to any provincial or territorial government. Efforts toward the Memorandum to Cabinet are based on respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction.  The goal is to allow for direct transfers to First Nations governments for First Nations education. Jurisdiction will remain with each First Nations Chief and Council.

For more information about the Memorandum to Cabinet process please visit www.afn.ca or connect directly with the Chiefs Committee on Education representative in your region.

First Nations Post-Secondary Education Federal Review

The federal government is conducting a review of First Nations post-secondary education funding as part of commitments made in Budget 2016.  The AFN is working with First Nations education experts who are facilitating the development of a report and recommendations to be incorporated into the federal review.

Technical teams made up of First Nations leaders, learners, directors of education and representatives from First Nations education institutes from across the country are currently reviewing federal post-secondary education programming.  With the help of independent facilitators, the two technical tables (one to address the needs of First Nations students, the second to address the needs of First Nations education institutions) are analyzing current funding structures and identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement.  These teams will provide recommendations with the intent to create policy changes that will improve access to post-secondary education and improve supports required for student success.

The AFN anticipates a report with recommendations will be available for review by Chiefs-in-Assembly in July 2018. For more information and to hear more about the review process from technical team members visit www.afn.ca.

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Roy WhiteduckAFN BULLETIN – UPDATE: First Nations Education May 2018

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Opening Address to the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation

on May 3, 2018

May 1, 2018

Tawaw kahkiyaw,
okimâwak, nâpewak, iskwewak, kêhtêak, oskâyak. Okimaw piyisiw awasis nitisihkason. Miyo kisikaw anoch.

Chief Whiteduck, thank you for welcoming us to the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.

To the Elders, Bear Babin and all the pipe carriers who led the pipe ceremony, and Josie Whiteduck for that beautiful water ceremony to start us off in a good way this morning. Thank you to Ryder and Quill Cote-Nottaway for those words of welcome. And for the great job done by our Drum Group, Eagle River Singers for our songs – our Grand Entry song, our Flag song, and our Victory Song. Thank you so much, for when we hear that drum beat, we say that is the heart beat of Mother Earth and it beats in all of us. It unites us and ties us together.

Kinanāskomitin.

Chiefs, friends and relatives, good morning. I shake hands with each and every one of you in a humble and respectful way.

We come together at a time of great opportunity. A time of change. And with so many important things happening, policy and legislative initiatives, we know that you have questions. And we want to tell you what we know, and learn of the solutions you see.

We called this Special Chiefs Assembly because there is so much happening.  Several pieces of legislation are coming at us, and we want to be sure First Nations benefit from all of them.

We want to be sure any legislation respects our rights and doesn’t impact in a negative way our Treaty rights or our Aboriginal Rights and Title.

We wanted this opportunity to work together, to come together and ask questions, because there is so much happening.

When I was elected National Chief, we developed a plan to ensure First Nations priorities advanced. We wrote the Closing the Gap document. During the last federal election, we shared that plan with each of the federal parties. We asked for their commitment to work with First Nations on meaningful reconciliation, on rights adoption and implementation, with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foundation.

We did this, and that is what is driving the national agenda now. Together, we made Canadians care about First Nations priorities. And that is why we are here today – because change is happening.

Together, we are the Assembly of First Nations. We have been working for policy and legislative change for decades – and that is what is happening.

We have forged many avenues and created many opportunities to make progress. But we also need time for questions, time for you to work out the details as First Nations, time to make sure things are going in the right direction.

We have the Indigenous Languages Act which our Chiefs Committee on Languages has been working on to revitalize and restore all of our First Nations languages. We can’t afford to lose even one of them. They are so fundamental to who we are. We need to revitalize, bring about fluency and restore them. And one day in our Assembly, all we will hear are the languages of our old people.

Studies have shown that when our young people are fluent in their language, when they know who they are and where they come from, they are more successful in school and, therefore, more successful in life.

Language is key. Today, for the first time ever at an AFN Assembly, when the Chiefs get up and speak, when they speak in their own language, we will have interpreters translating. Haudenasaunee.  Mi’kmaq.  Ojibway. Cree. Nakota.  Today, we’ll hear our First Nations languages spoken at our Assembly, but with interpreters for all to understand.

Minister Joly is responsible for introducing the Indigenous languages bill. We need to get that done this fall because if it doesn’t hit that timeframe, we run the risk of not having this federal legislation, of not having a statutory responsibility for the federal budget to include funds for language recovery and revitalization.

Because in October of 2019, Canada will have another federal election. And any legislation that isn’t passed, will die on the order paper. So we need to focus and to get things done.

Another piece of legislation that is top priority is Bill C-262, which has already passed second reading. We want to be sure it becomes law. Bill C-262 provides a framework to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a Private Members Bill sponsored by Romeo Saganash, and the government is supporting it.

Bill C-262 is about realizing rights that have always existed. It’s not giving us anything. We have inherent rights. They are already recognized in Canada’s Constitution. They have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in more than 200 decisions in favour of First Nations. And Bill C-262 provides a framework to help us realize those rights in practice. It’s about finding a better way to work together so that we don’t have to keep spending millions of dollars and wasting years fighting in the courts.

The UN Declaration affirms our right to Free Prior and Informed Consent when decisions are being made that impact us. It’s in Article 19: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

There needs to be dialogue between governments and First Nations peoples to establish how Free Prior and Informed Consent will be obtained and respected. How do we operationalize Free Prior and Informed Consent? We must work together to substantively answer that question. It will be different in different circumstances.

It is not a “one size fits all.” Just as there are different points of view between the provinces.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is the perfect example. Some First Nations are for the pipeline, and some are not for it. We need to use our traditional protocols to get our people together to resolve this amongst ourselves – our dispute resolution process, using our traditional protocols.

There is a great deal of work for us to do together. One area of consensus is that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation. It provides a set of minimum standards that States have committed to fully implement. And it is a floor, not a ceiling.

There are currently two proposals to advance implementation of the Declaration. Bill C-262 is now before Parliament. Chiefs-in-Assembly expressed their support and I have urged all parties to support it. The government supports Bill C-262. This legislation represents a first important step to advance implementation of the UN Declaration through joint efforts, including development of a National Action Plan.

In the House of Commons, on February 14 of this year, the Prime Minister announced the government’s intention to develop, with Indigenous peoples, a “Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework”.

One element of this framework would be to require federal officials to carry out their duties in ways that respect our rights under the Constitution and international law.

The government talks of doing things in a new way. It is time for Canada to direct its lawyers to take positions in court that match the government’s statements on rights recognition. It’s time to abandon the old policies of rights denial. That is something that could happen right now. I have written the Prime Minister and urged the Minister of Justice to work on changes to the Crown’s approach to litigation management.

That day on the House, the Prime Minister spoke of “new ways” to recognize and implement Indigenous rights. He said this will include new legislation, and the government is moving very fast on this. The federal government wants to develop this framework, which they have described as “building on” Bill C-262 and the UN Declaration, as “going further”.

And they want to get something done before the next election, just a year and a half from now. We have said there must be greater transparency and better engagement with all First Nations.

A lot of you Chiefs have a great many questions about this Rights Recognition Framework. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Because there are so many questions to be determined by First Nations rights holders. What structure do you want to use? Is it bands or reserves? Is it Treaty areas? How do you want to reconstitute our Nations and Tribes?

We know that we need to fix Canada’s laws, policies and practices. We need to develop our own laws and move beyond the Indian Act. Comprehensive claims, specific claims, the Additions to Reserve policy and that inherent right to self-government policy. All of those current federal policies are based on termination of rights, not recognition of rights and Title. So we’ve got to fix them.

Recognition of our inherent right to self-determination – that’s what we’ve got to get to. That policy is so important. The Department of Indigenous Services has about 200 tables. Tables intended to move beyond the Indian Act. How does this fit with the rights recognition framework, and what Prime Minister Trudeau said in the House on February 14? How do affected First Nations wish to move beyond the Indian Act?

This is a big piece, this Rights Recognition Framework.

We also have Minister Jody Wilson Raybould’s 10 principles. At the Assembly of First Nations we’ve been doing our analysis of those. They don’t exactly align with the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. How do they influence the work we’re trying to do? We didn’t develop them. And the process that they are using is not our process – it’s their process, their timeframe. And they are trying to rush it. And we’re saying slow it down, slow it down so we all understand what is involved.

How will the Rights Recognition Framework work with Bill C-262, the UN Declaration Bill? How will it impact our Treaties?

And if you slow it down, you run the risk of it not making the timeframe before the next federal election. So it’s something we’ve got to digest, dialogue about, debate, and seek direction on.

And that’s why we’re here. To weigh the opportunities with the risks. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Come the fall of 2019, it could continue to be Prime Minister Trudeau. Or it could be Prime Minister Singh. It could be Prime Minister Scheer or Prime Minister May.

Another piece of legislation that we’ve got to deal with is cannabis. A Justice Department representative told a House Committee that it will apply across the board whether First Nations want it or not.  Well, what about First Nations jurisdiction and the right to determine what happens on our own lands and with our own peoples? There is also the matter of our exclusion from the dialogue regarding the Excise Tax. 75 per cent to the provinces, 25% to the federal government – what about our governments?

Then there’s Bill C68 and C69 – changes to the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Regulatory Review Process on energy projects and navigable waters. The Assembly of First Nations Environment Sector – that is the Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment, the ACCAE Committee – has been focused on advancing Indigenous Knowledge Systems and working with our Elders Council. They’ve been hosting technical briefing sessions across the country regarding this legislation.

This is another Bill the government intends to pass before the next election. It’s now at the amendments stage of the process. So we still have a chance to influence the legislation. And then the regulations and the policies that determine how the law actually works in practice.

On the Child and Family services front, we have new monies in the federal budget after four orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. $1.4 billion dollars over six years. We placed a priority on investments in child welfare during our pre-budget advocacy work, and we saw new investments in child welfare in Budget 2018.

July 18 is the next time the premiers get together at the Council of the Federation meeting. Previously, in July of 2016 the Premiers all committed to one thing, and we want to hold them to account for that one thing – child welfare. We have 40,000 children in care. Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has called our situation “a humanitarian crisis.” In January, at an emergency meeting on child and family services, I called for the establishment of tripartite working tables in each of the 13 provinces and territories to work towards addressing the challenges our children face in the off-reserve child and family services systems.

We see some pockets of progress. Just last week in British Columbia, Chief Wayne Christian and other First Nations leaders were successful in seeing legislation introduced to ensure First Nations have jurisdiction over the welfare of First Nations children in that province, no matter where they live. And in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaw worked with the province to change legislation and shift the focus to prevention, which has led to a significant decrease in the number of First Nations children in care.

We work every day on reforming these systems – fighting for fair and adequate funding for the services on reserve, and for those children in care across the provinces and territories. Our focus is on prevention, adequate funding, and acknowledging the inherent right and jurisdiction of First Nations to provide care and protection for their children. Nationally, that work is led by the National Advisory Committee chaired by Grand Chief Ed John. Minister Jane Philpott has talked about a broad review of laws and policies on child and family services, done with First Nations leadership. She will be with us tomorrow.

Under Section 88 of the Indian Act, where no federal law is in place, provincial laws apply. So we need to exert First Nations jurisdiction and put our own laws in place so that provincial acts don’t apply. We have always said we need our own laws over child and family services to protect our children and keep as many as possible safe in our communities.

Now, while we’re together this morning Chiefs, I want to take a few minutes to give you an update on a few other things.

On March 26, we had our MOU meeting with federal ministers, plus the 10 Regional Chiefs. As the Assembly of First Nations, we have an agreement to meet three times a year with federal ministers. And the Prime Minister is committed to one of those meetings each year.

We met last month, and we continued our work on a new fiscal relationship between the Crown and First Nations, a fiscal relationship that provides sufficient, predictable, and sustainable funding based on real needs.

We need to see that investments are continually made and are needed each and every year to close the gap. So every year we meet with Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister. He’s the one we need to influence to make sure that gap continues to close. And we’ve been pretty successful. $17 billion in the last three budgets over seven fiscal years – three times what was promised in the Kelowna Accord.

And let me be very clear on this point: this is a debt owed by Canada, a debt owed for the resources used to build this country and its economy. Our new fiscal relationship has to flow from the land and resource wealth we are sharing with all Canadians.

That new fiscal relationship is one of the things we talk about during those MOU meetings. And because of that work at the Chiefs Committee on fiscal table, you’re now able to carry over some of that money now from one fiscal year to the next. It was a simple policy change. Remember March madness? Spend it or lose it? Not there anymore.

We also talked about policing as an essential service. In January, Minister Goodale announced $291 million for First Nations policing. There is still a way to go for First Nations policing to be seen as an essential service, and to be able to deliver services comparable to the RCMP and other regional police services. That work continues.

Internally, at the Assembly of First Nations, we’ve put three new Chiefs Committees in place. A Chiefs Committee on Gaming. I think there is an opportunity now to amend Section 207 of the Criminal Code and exert First Nations jurisdiction over all gaming on reserve. We’ve established a Chiefs Committee on Border Crossing, and another one on Nation Building to deal with the rights recognition framework, Bill C-262, and implementing the UN Declaration. We’ve asked Regional Chiefs to appoint Chiefs to these Committees.

Work is continuing on 100 Wellington, the Indigenous Peoples House. That building directly opposite Parliament Hill is an important symbol of our presence in these lands. And working with the Algonquin peoples, and working with the Inuit and the Metis leaders, we need to identify the proper purpose for this new facility.

Internationally, we have NAFTA. I was asked to be on Minister Chrystia Freeland’s Advisory Committee and the first thing I recommended was an Indigenous Peoples Chapter. Things have changed since NAFTA was first negotiated. The three countries in these negotiations have all endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now they must honour it by including an Indigenous Peoples Chapter.

We don’t know where NAFTA is going to go, but we’ve got Canada to present an Indigenous People Chapter in NAFTA. And we’ve got to do the same with CETA and FIPA – all the other international trade agreements.

And finally, I want to close with a few words about our work to get Pope Francis to come and meet with First Nations peoples, meet with the Residential School survivors and their families, to hear from the Pope directly. The Catholic Church is the only one not to apologize. 70 per cent of children in Residential Schools were in Catholic run schools. We need him to say sorry.

And when he comes, we also want him to make a strong statement against the Doctrine of Discovery, the Doctrine of Terra Nullius – those illegal, racist doctrines. That is how the Crown assumed jurisdiction. Those doctrines are being recognized around the world as illegal racist doctrines. They were the basis for assumed Crown sovereignty and assumed jurisdiction. We want the Pope to renounce them.

Chiefs, over the next two days we will have our discussions, our respectful debates and our dialogues. As Chiefs, you want a strong, united Assembly of First Nations. We have created significant opportunities for change and the real work is upon us. That is the work we started, and that is why we are here together – to continue that work.

Kinanāskomitin

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Opening Address to the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation

April 2018 – National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin

on April 23, 2018

DetermiNATION: Moving Beyond the Indian Act Conference

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has announced the determiNATION: Moving Beyond the Indian Act conference, the first-ever Indigenous-led summit that will bring together leaders to create a plan for moving beyond the Indian Act.

Scheduled for May 23-24, 2018 on the traditional and unceded territories of the Algonquin Nation (Ottawa), determiNATION is described as a national conference to plan for a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples based on rights, recognition and reconciliation.

NAN, in partnership with Osgoode Hall Law School, aims to create a venue for a broad range of voices including Indigenous youth, women, leaders, Elders, legal and scholarly experts, keepers of traditional Indigenous knowledge, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada. NAN anticipates the participation of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Additional speakers and facilitators will be announced in coming weeks.

This conference will be structured around the themes of premises, principles, and institutional, legislative, and constitutional mechanisms, with the goal of creating a plan of action.

More information and online registration is available at www.determinationsummit.ca.

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Roy WhiteduckApril 2018 – National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin
Assembly of First Nations
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