News

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Supports First Nations in Their Stand Against BC Salmon Farms, Crown Must Respect First Nations Rights, Title and Jurisdiction

on September 1, 2017

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde supports First Nations in British Columbia who are peacefully occupying salmon fish farms and asserting inherent rights and title in their lands and waters.

“I stand with First Nations in BC in their long struggle with federal and provincial governments to fully recognize and address the threat of salmon fish farms to wild salmon,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The AFN fully supports First Nations in their assertion and exercise of inherent rights and title. First Nations have long identified the threat of the fish farm industry to wild salmon that have sustained our Peoples for generations. Wild salmon is an integral part of the ecosystem and a central part of First Nations cultures on the west coast. This situation presents a clear opportunity for both the federal and provincial governments to respect and act on their obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including the standard of free, prior and informed consent. It is time for the Crown to meet with the affected First Nations and resolve this matter.”

Citizens and leadership of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw are at the Wicklow Point salmon farm, and citizens from the ‘Namgis, Tlowitsis and Mamalilikulla First Nations are on Swanson Island while other First Nations are providing support.

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. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
jamiem@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 254
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

Alain Garon
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (cell)
agaron@afn.ca

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Angie TurnerAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Supports First Nations in Their Stand Against BC Salmon Farms, Crown Must Respect First Nations Rights, Title and Jurisdiction

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says New Federal Ministries a Positive Step for First Nations Relationships with the Crown

on August 28, 2017

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today that the changes to the federal cabinet are significant steps toward restoring and revitalizing the nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and the Crown.

“First Nations have a government-to-government, nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown, as reflected in the Treaties and other agreements,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Today’s announcement of a Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and a Minister of Indigenous Services signals a new approach to increasing action across our agenda. First Nations are working to move beyond the Indian Act and re-asserting our jurisdiction and sovereignty over our own lands, title and rights.”

Today, the Prime Minister announced that former Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett will now become the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and former Health Minister Jane Philpott will become the Minister of Indigenous Services. During the 2015 federal election, National Chief Bellegarde issued the AFN’s “Closing the Gap” document that set out priorities, including changes to the federal government to ensure consistency with section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Changes to the machinery of government have been recommended in many previous studies and reports, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and have been supported by First Nations.

“First Nations are an order of government in Canada and the government has to be organized to address that reality,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “I look forward to meeting with Minister Bennett and Minister Philpott soon, and to continuing to work with them.”

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. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
jamiem@afn.ca

Alain Garon
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (cell)
agaron@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 254
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

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Angie TurnerAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says New Federal Ministries a Positive Step for First Nations Relationships with the Crown

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Meeting with Cultural and Heritage Ministers Must Lead to Action to Protect and Strengthen First Nations Languages

on August 24, 2017

August 24, 2017

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today that the commitments on First Nations languages made at the National Indigenous Organizations and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Heritage and Culture Ministers Roundtable and Meeting held on August 22, 2017, in Orford, QC must lead to immediate action with First Nations involved as full partners.

“This meeting was important because the federal, provincial and territorial governments all have a role in working with us to protect and strengthen First Nations languages,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “We need to act now because no Indigenous language is safe. Recent studies show that Indigenous people are learning their languages as second languages, so we know our people want to recover their language and identity. Our languages are central to our ceremonies, our culture and our right to self-determination. We need to work together now to build on this momentum and make sure our languages survive and get stronger.”

National Chief Bellegarde reminded the Federal Government of its commitment to work with First Nations as full and equal partners in co-developing an Indigenous Language Act, and this requires joint efforts on outreach and engagement, communications, preparing a memorandum to cabinet and joint drafting. As well, sustained long-term investments are needed to produce fluent speakers and use of language on a regular basis, including the operations of First Nations governments and in federal and provincial government services.

National Chief Bellegarde urged the provinces and territories to act immediately and not wait until the federal legislation is in place. He told the representatives at the meeting that First Nations are looking for a respectful and effective process for intergovernmental participation that reflects First Nations status under the Constitution and international law as peoples and nations with inherent rights, title and jurisdiction.

National Chief Bellegarde stated: “We want all governments to support the federal Indigenous Languages legislation as a fundamental part of reconciliation. We all have a role to play in healing the damage from the Indian Residential School system, the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop and the overall approach of assimilation. There are efforts we can make right now, like training fluent speakers and certifying them as teachers or adopting regulations that provide them a role in the classroom. This is important work that requires our full focus and commitment but we can succeed. I look forward to hearing the next generation of First Nations children speaking their languages and learning them from their Elders.”

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

For more information, please contact:

Alain Garon Bilingual
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (cell)
agaron@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 254
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

BACKGROUND

Situational Analysis of Indigenous Languages in Canada

Language Context

  • Approximately 60 Indigenous languages in Canada
  • 10 separate and distinct language families
  • Most languages have multiple dialects, often with issues with multiple writing systems
  • Only 3 languages account for two-thirds of all mother-tongue language speakers
  • Most languages have relatively few fluent speakers
  • Most languages are not spoken by children, a key indicator of language survival
  • Language and cultural identity are intrinsically linked; maintaining both is urgent

Indigenous Rights, Legislation & Policy in Canada

The current federal government has promised to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which contains several articles that support the recovery, revitalization, preservation and education of and in the Indigenous languages of Canada. In addition, the Ministerial mandate letters, signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made the federal government’s commitment to Indigenous peoples clear, and the commitment to the recognition, preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages being no exception.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is posted online at:
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

The current federal government promised implementation of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which contains four Calls to Action relating to language and culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action is posted online at:
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

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Angie TurnerAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Meeting with Cultural and Heritage Ministers Must Lead to Action to Protect and Strengthen First Nations Languages

Culture for Life

on August 21, 2017

How?

Send in a photo or video of yourself connecting with your culture (fishing, cooking a feast, attending a gathering, etc).

Share the power of culture through any medium (drawings/paintings/poetry/ photos/videos). Show the world how creative you are!

Share how your culture promotes your own wellness, and LIFE!

Submission Form

When?

Send your submission to cultureforlife@afn.ca by September 5th. All those that submit before the deadline and are twenty-five and under will be entered to win an iPad! *Include your age and contact information with your submission to be entered

Your submission will reach other youth across the country via AFN and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation social media and cultureforlife.ca

My Culture. My Life.

Message from National Chief Perry Bellegarde

Message from Regional Chief Isadore Day

Connect with culture for life

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Angie TurnerCulture for Life

TECHNICAL BULLETIN – First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy

on August 17, 2017

“All First Nation members living on or away from their community have a right to shelter and they must be provided with an opportunity to access safe, secure, adequate and affordable housing.” (AFN: National First Nations Housing Strategy)

This Bulletin is an update from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on the First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy, a new approach to housing (including off-reserve housing) and infrastructure.

First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy

First Nations people must lead the development of a First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy to ensure the transformative change of housing and infrastructure is envisioned from a First Nations perspective. First Nations care and control of housing and infrastructure is the guiding principle.

First Nations are responsible for our members both on and off reserve. We need to ensure off-reserve housing is included in the scope of our Strategy, and we also need to include infrastructure as we can’t talk about housing without having the infrastructure to support it.

A new approach to meeting First Nations housing and infrastructure needs requires long-term sustainable investments and respect for regional perspectives and approaches. For example, First Nations north of 60 (Yukon and Northwest Territories) are not involved in the decision making process on how funds are spent for housing and infrastructure. As part of this transformative change, First Nations need to be involved in all decision making processes, and furthermore, funding needs to be flowed directly to First Nation communities for the care and control of housing and infrastructure.

The AFN’s Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure (CCoHI) provides political and technical guidance with respect to AFN’s engagement with Canada on housing and infrastructure related issues, thereby supporting the identification and development of strategies to better pursue a new approach to housing and infrastructure.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is mandated pursuant to but not limited to resolutions, 70/2015, 74/2015, 96/2016, 98/2016 passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly, to engage with the Federal Government on housing and infrastructure.

At the recent 2017 AFN Annual General Assembly held in Regina, Saskatchewan, a resolution was passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly that directed the AFN and Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure to jointly develop, with the federal government, a Terms of Reference for the establishment of a joint Working Group that will develop a First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy, which will include housing both on- and off-reserve.

This resolution further directs the AFN and the CCoHI to work in partnership with First Nations and the Government of Canada on the co-development of a strategic plan with short, medium and long-term objectives and outcomes, which will be implemented to contribute to the development of a National First Nations Housing and Infrastructure Strategy.

Next Steps

The AFN, Chiefs Committee on Housing and Infrastructure (CCoHI) and AFN Regional Housing Technicians are working towards developing a Terms of Reference with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and other federal departments and agencies with a mandate for housing and on-reserve community infrastructure (e.g. the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Health Canada).

The Working Group will work towards obtaining and sharing information on First Nation views on a new approach to housing, including off-reserve housing and infrastructure. The Working Group will ensure First Nations leadership and their representatives’ take a lead role on the transformative change of housing and infrastructure as envisioned from their perspective and regional priorities.

The immediate work of the Working Group will be to develop the scope and parameters to assist regional engagement sessions so that information gathered will lead to the development of the First Nations Housing and Infrastructure Strategy.

First Nations led regional engagement sessions will commence over the summer and fall of 2017.

The AFN will continue to engage with First Nations at upcoming forums and think tank sessions to seek broader input from First Nations leadership, technician, regional organizations and other stakeholders on housing and infrastructure reform. A Housing Forum is being planned for October 30th to November 1st, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec.

Further information on these upcoming engagement sessions, AFN forums and think tank sessions will be posted on the AFN website.

For more information please contact Irving Leblanc, Director, Housing, Infrastructure and Emergency Services, ileblanc@afn.ca.

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Roy WhiteduckTECHNICAL BULLETIN – First Nations National Housing and Infrastructure Strategy

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Marks International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration

on August 8, 2017

August 8, 2017

(Ottawa, ON): To mark the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today expressed his commitment and his solidarity with Indigenous peoples worldwide to realize Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Today, First Nations stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples everywhere to revitalize and restore our collective rights as peoples and to support one another in that goal,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This is a day for all governments to recommit to work with us to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration affirms Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and sets out minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being. Implementing the UN Declaration will promote peace and help close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians. Canada has stated its unqualified support for the UN Declaration and, as we approach the 10th anniversary of its adoption by the UN General Assembly, it is time to work together to give life to the Declaration in Canada and around the world.”

The AFN is mandated to support and advocate for First Nations in international human rights bodies. The AFN recently submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which highlighted key priorities and concerns including:

  • the urgent need for measures to address diverse forms of racial discrimination impacting Indigenous peoples in Canada;
  • co-development by Canada and Indigenous peoples of Indigenous languages legislation to support Indigenous peoples work to revitalize the original languages of this land;
  • co-development of federal legislation to support the full implementation of the UN Declaration, and;
  • investments to ensure all First Nations can access essential government services such as potable water, health, emergency services, education and community infrastructure.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 49/214 establishing August 9 as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The date marks the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. The UN Working Group played a critical role in launching the development of the UN Declaration as a joint endeavor of Indigenous peoples in partnership with the member States of the United Nations.

The theme for this year is the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada is now part of several consensus resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly respecting the UN Declaration and has expressed unqualified support for its full implementation.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow the 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. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
jamiem@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 254
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Marks International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Disappointed with Supreme Court Decision – Time to Implement UN Declaration

on July 26, 2017

July 26, 2017

(Regina SK,) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde responded today to the Supreme Court of Canada decisions today in the Chippewas of the Thames and Clyde River cases dealing with Indigenous peoples right to consultation and accommodation.

“It’s clear today that our right to consultation and accommodation must be respected and upheld. The AFN’s position is that the Crown’s consultation and accommodation obligations must be understood in the context of the standards set by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the standard of free, prior and informed consent,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The federal government has endorsed the UN Declaration without qualification in Canada and internationally. Implementation of the Declaration will reduce conflict and court cases and ensure our rights are respected. We supported the Chippewas of the Thames in this action and commend them for taking a strong stand for our rights. We congratulate the Inuit of Clyde River for ensuring Indigenous rights are respected.”

AFN National Chief Bellegarde stood with the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation at the Supreme Court of Canada when their hearing began. The Chippewas of the Thames sought to have the court overturn a permit given to Enbridge Inc. to reverse and expand the flow of the Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia, ON and Montreal, QC. The First Nation insisted it was not meaningfully consulted at any time during the process, a requirement under Canadian law. National Chief Bellegarde was there to support First Nations and First Nations rights, including the right to self-determination.

In its decision today, the Supreme Court said that Enbridge had met its duty to consult the Chippewas of the Thames. However, they also underlined the importance of the right to a duty to consult. They warned the National Energy Board and the energy industry that “any decision affecting Aboriginal or treaty rights made on the basis of inadequate consultation will not be in compliance with the duty to consult.” The decision in Clyde River also dealt with the duty to consult, and the Supreme Court ruled Canada had not fulfilled this duty.

The AFN will be doing a close review and legal analysis of the decision, but it is clear from the Supreme Court’s comments that First Nations’ rights must be respected.

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
343-540-6179 (cell)
jamiem@afn.ca

Alain Garon
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-292-0857 (cell)
agaron@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Disappointed with Supreme Court Decision – Time to Implement UN Declaration

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Announces Major Changes Giving First Nations Greater Financial Control

on July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017

(Regina, SK) – As First Nations leaders, Elders, women and youth from across Canada gathered in Regina, SK today for the opening of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, announced First Nations will have more control of financial resources from one year to the next.

“The changes we’re announcing today are important first steps in building stronger First Nations, better communities for our families and a stronger economy for all Canadians,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “First Nations will soon be able to carry forward funds from year to year, which means they will have more flexibility and independence to plan better and spend better for better results. Second, we are going to work together on a new approach to funding essential services for First Nations – like fire and emergency services, potable drinking water. The current policy is inadequate, outdated and inequitable. Our goal is ensuring First Nations governments can provide these services for their people based on the real needs of our communities and families. The changes we’re announcing today benefit First Nations and all Canadians and show the value of working together to find solutions.”

The announcement was made today at the AFN’s Annual General Assembly in Regina, SK. The changes to the are the result of changes put forward through the Canada-First Nations New Fiscal Relations Working Group, established under the AFN-INAC Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a new fiscal relationship.

“These new changes simply make sense. These are the first steps in our Fiscal Relations work and I am encouraged that it is already benefitting our people and governments. We have momentum for real progress and change,” said National Chief Bellegarde.

The first change announced today allows First Nations to carry over funding from year to year. Often, First Nations had to return funds not because they weren’t needed but because there was not enough time to spend them properly. The problem is compounded by the fact that First Nations often receive funds late in the fiscal year, increasing the pressure to spend. The change announced today reduces these problems and will also increase the certainty of resources for multi-year programs and projects. This change will take effect in the new fiscal year beginning April 1, 2018.

The second change announced today deals with the federal government’s Operations and Maintenance funding policy. Under the policy, the federal government funds only a portion of the estimated costs of essential government services like emergency services or potable drinking water and First Nations are expected to fund the remaining portion. Many First Nations are already under-funded and cannot cover these costs so these essential services cannot be provided. This can cause critical problems in far too many communities.

The Canada-First Nations New Fiscal Relations Working Group will work on a new approach to ensure all First Nations can provide these services and provide options in a joint report to be presented in December 2017. This is part of the work to identify options and opportunities for new fiscal relations between Canada and First Nations that are appropriate to a government-to-government relationship.

The AFN Annual General Assembly continues in Regina, SK from July 25 – 27 and is being webcast live on the AFN website at www.afn.ca.

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. 222
343-540-6179 (cell)
jamiem@afn.ca

Alain Garon
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (cell)
agaron@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 254
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Announces Major Changes Giving First Nations Greater Financial Control

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde – Opening Remarks to the AFN Annual General Assembly

on July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017

Tawaw kahkiyaw,

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

My friends and relatives I welcome you all.

I acknowledge the Elders and lift them up for the pipe ceremony this morning and for getting us all connected to the Creator.

I acknowledge that we are in Treaty 4 Territory.

I also acknowledge the drum group for singing our beautiful songs – the Whitefish Juniors. Thank you so much for being here with us.

I acknowledge and thank the work of the Regional Chiefs and Elmer Courchene, Chair of the Elders Council, Chief Denise Stonefish, Chair of the Women’s Council. I want to thank the outgoing Co-Chairs of the Youth Council, Andre Bear and Jennifer Obamsawin, and welcome and congratulate the two newly elected Co-Chairs of the Youth Council – Cheyenne Fineday and Mark Hill, and all of the members of our Assembly of First Nations Councils.

It’s good to be home in Saskatchewan. I grew up on Little Black Bear, about an hour and a half from here, near Fort Qu’Appelle, the lands where the Treaty 4 Chiefs met with the Crown’s representatives. And that land, that sacred site is still there. It’s good to be here with you in Treaty 4 Territory.

Our theme for this Assembly is something that all of us have in our hearts and in our minds everyday – “Our Priority: Our Children, Our Future.” It’s why we do what we do every day.

To make life better for our children. To create a world where there is a better future, one where our human rights, inherent rights, collective rights, our Treaty rights are respected and not something that we have to fight for every day.

Our Annual General Assembly is always a time to look back on progress made, and to talk about the work we still have to do.

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past few weeks thinking about what I want to say. And it’s been more challenging than usual to put these words together, more challenging to find the right words.

In some ways we have made a great deal of progress over the past year, but it’s also clear, we still have many challenges to face and go through.

I want to talk about the progress we’ve made, and I will do that in a few minutes. But I also

acknowledge that our thoughts are with the many people displaced by the fires in British Columbia. The Ashcroft Indian Band has seen all of their homes burnt.  Governments in Canada, please deal with that new, urgent situation.

And I see those who continue to face challenges while they push for change, like those in Halifax where a group tried to intimidate people while they were in ceremony at a peaceful gathering to oppose the statue of a man linked to the genocide against the Mi’kmaq peoples.

And I want to remember and recognize names we carry in our thoughts as we work together over the next few days, and into the year ahead.

Names of people like Barbara Kentner, the young mother in Thunder Bay struck down while walking with her sister, by someone who threw a trailer hitch in hatred.

Colton Boushie, a young man, just 22, at the start of his adult life, out for a day with his friends who lost his life seeking help for a flat tire. And we all remember how the laying of charges in Colton’s case triggered an ugly online firestorm of racism and hatred.

Another name, Tammy Keeash, who died just weeks ago at 17, in a river in Thunder Bay, something that is happening with frightening regularity in that community where several of our First Nations children have drowned, and their families are still waiting for answers.

The prevalence of racism and violence is very troubling.

On July 12, I walked the streets of Winnipeg’s North End with the Bear Clan Patrol, a group that walks the streets in the evenings in an effort to keep their people and neighbourhood safe.

It’s a sad truth that safety is an issue for our children and families in many places.

So while we are all working to make progress on important issues like clean water, better housing, education and health, Treaty and inherent rights, preserving and revitalizing our languages, and so many other important things, we also need to stop the terrible loss of life.

I have served as a Chief and, like all of you, I know we are elected by our people to stand up for our children’s rights, as well as those of future generations.

Every child has a right to a safe and healthy home and to grow up in a society where they are treated with dignity and respect and have the same opportunities as other children.

And so my first message this morning is for Canada: this has to end. The racism, the discrimination, the poverty. These are not just First Nations problems.

Racism kills.

It is as simple and as tragic as that. This has to end. It’s time for action.

These are Canada’s problems. And we must work together to solve them. We need to build bridges and find solutions.

It’s a very challenging time for all of us as leaders. We are witnessing alarming acts of racism and violence.

And at the same time, we are on cusp of positive change on certain fronts. Commitments to change are important. And we must see these commitments lead to action. And action is the only thing that matters for our people.

In some ways, we are on the right path.

One indication of this is the process we now have in place to sit regularly with members of the federal cabinet, including the Prime Minister, to assess and discuss First Nations’ priorities, and plan a way forward and make the proper investments.

The Assembly of First Nations – Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities I signed with the Prime Minister on June 12 is part of that work. It outlines a commitment for us to engage regularly with the key people who make federal laws and policies, so we can make the changes necessary to respect inherent rights, Aboriginal rights and Treaty rights.

These meetings will be used to identify key issues and find solutions so we can break through the barriers facing our people.

We have also been working hard over the past year to establish a joint process to review federal laws and policies to make sure they uphold and respect First Nations rights. In order to fully realize First Nations Treaty rights and inherent rights, title and jurisdiction – and make no mistake, we will make that happen. Canada’s laws, written over decades to deny us those rights, must be rewritten.

All these laws – C-38, C-45, C-51, C-27 – all of these laws were not written to respect the recognition of rights and title but are based on the termination of rights and title. They have to change. First Nations scholars, Elders, policy experts and our best legal minds must be part of this process.

Our people will write the laws that govern our own Nations, and we must help Canada to revise those laws, policies and procedures that conflict with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with Canada’s own constitution, including Section 35, which recognizes existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Just over a week ago, Minister Wilson-Raybould released her 10 principles to guide this work and we are doing the assessment and the analysis on this piece. We lift her up for this work, and it is a whole of government approach.  We want to make sure it is done as a respectful joint process together.

In addition to those laws, there has to be a separate and equally important process to change policies that also need to be re-written: the Comprehensive Claims policy, the Specific Claims policy, the Additions to Reserve policy, the Inherent Right to Self-Government policy.

All of these are based on termination of rights and title, not recognition of rights and title. There needs to be a process and a plan for that policy work to happen, and it has to be done together.

This year, another intense effort was made by the Assembly of First Nations ahead of the federal budget. We meet with that Soniyaw Okimaw, the “Big Money Chief” – the Finance Minister. Every year, we advocate for First Nations in those meetings with Finance Minister Bill Morneau. He’s the one responsible for the federal budget, but Minister Morneau also meets with all of the other Cabinet Ministers about their budgets. So we meet with them too.

We meet with Minister Bennett to talk about investments in education, and housing, for clean water and Operations and Maintenance. That’s one department. And then we meet with Minister Philpott, the Minister of Health, and we ask about her priorities: mental health, Non-Insured Health Benefits, medical transportation. Then Minister Hajdu, Employment, Skills Development and Labour for on-reserve daycare and other programs. On policing and emergency services, we meet with Minister Ralph Goodale. Minister Joly on languages.

It’s all about persuading that Big Money Chief who is putting the budget together.

This year, $3.4 billion was allocated for Indigenous peoples’ priorities over five years. That’s in addition to the $8.4 billion budgeted in 2016 to help close the socio-economic gap for First Nations. In total that’s $11.6 billion so far.

Budget commitments are one important measure of progress. But alone, they are not enough.

That’s why the Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations has worked so hard over the past year to map out options for First Nations to consider on new fiscal relations with the federal government, working towards long-term sustainable, predictable funding.

It is simply unacceptable that money is delayed well into the year and then clawed back at the end of that fiscal year despite the pressing needs of our peoples. That’s why we’ve pressed for changes to the system to get resources to where they are needed, when they are needed – out to our First Nations.

So I am pleased to announce that there is going to be an announcement this morning with Minister Carolyn Bennett about how things can move from one fiscal year to the next. We’ll have more information for you on that.

We’re also working on the INAC policy on Operations and Maintenance. The federal government funds only a portion of the estimated costs of essential government services like fire and emergency services, water treatment and the provision of clean drinking water, forcing First Nations to find the rest or go without.

It’s an appalling policy with terrible risks associated with it. We know it. INAC knows it. And we now have an agreement to fix it. It’s another important step in the right direction.

We will keep working for our children, families and all our citizens. And I use that term deliberately. We want to re-build our Nations and that means moving away from the colonial concept of “membership” to “citizenship.” Citizenship is another area that has received a lot of our attention in recent months. You’ve heard of the “Descheneaux” case.

In May the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples heard testimony on Bill S-3, an Act to amend the Indian Act, with the intention of eliminating sex-based inequities in registration (as they call it).

The Assembly of First Nations has made it clear, we support the elimination of all forms of discrimination regarding Indian status and band membership.

Appearing before the Committee, I talked about the need for additional financial resources for us to provide essential services to new Status Indians. More money for the Non-insured Health Benefits program, for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. But I also spoke of the need for additional reserve lands to account for increases in new citizens.  And I encouraged First Nations’ authority over First Nations’ citizenship and identity.

Citizenship is a key function of governments and of nationhood.

You’ve heard me say it before: we do not need to wait for government action. We can occupy the field. Create your own laws in this area. Exert jurisdiction over citizenship.

The Assembly of First Nations is here to support you. We have produced a template ‘Citizenship Act’ for First Nations governments to use and adapt based on your own needs.

We know that if we stay under the Indian Act for Status, there will be no more Status Indians in 50 years. That’s why we have to move beyond the Indian Act.

Another area where we have been focused is child welfare and family services.

The Assembly of First Nations has funded and provided legal expertise to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal challenge since it began in 2007. Working with the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, we continue to fight to finally bring an end to racial discrimination against our children, and to uphold Jordan’s Principle.

This year we marked the 10th anniversary of that challenge.

In May, the Tribunal found that Canada is taking an overly narrow approach to honouring Jordan’s Principle. They reaffirmed that Jordan’s Principle applies to all First Nations children in need of care, regardless of where they reside, and they set out specific directives and timelines for Canada to comply.

We have been very successful in fighting this case. It is shameful that we had to go to the Tribunal to prove that our children were being discriminated against in the first place.

It is unconscionable and unacceptable that with a Tribunal decision and three compliance orders in our favour, Canada has still not complied. They have dragged their heels on the matter of jurisdiction and failed to recognize First Nations are best placed to know what is needed to ensure our children thrive.

The solution ultimately lies in the reassertion of First Nations jurisdiction over child welfare and our children regardless of where they live.

Now, the United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada expressed its unqualified commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2016. But statements made by the previous government regarding objections to free, prior and informed consent were still on record from 2014.

This May at the United Nations, at our urging, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett put Canada formally on the record as fully committed to the standard of free, prior and informed consent stated in the UN Declaration.

That was a welcome statement. The next step is to work together on a National Action Plan for implementation of the UN Declaration, including jointly developing legislation to support the full implementation of the Declaration.

Another important area is languages. The Assembly of First Nations pressed the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues to act on Assembly of First Nations Resolutions and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action that call for federal legislation to secure funding to revitalize, to protect, to recover, and maintain Indigenous languages. I have always said that our languages should be viewed as Canada’s national treasures.

Last month, I participated in a joint announcement with the Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, on the co-development of an Indigenous Languages Act. We will work together with her Department and we will press for that Legislation to include recognition of the special status of First Nations languages as the original languages of these lands.

There are more than 58 distinct Indigenous languages and none are considered safe.

The recognition, promotion, and recovery of our languages is a vital part of self-determination. It is vital to our Nations’ cultures and central to our songs, our stories, and our ceremonies.

It’s central to our right of self-determination. As Indigenous peoples we have our own lands, our own laws, our own languages, our own peoples and our own identifiable forms of government – five elements that are internationally recognized for the right to self-determination.

Our languages are fundamental to self-determination. So when someone asks “why do we need languages legislation?” We need a law that says statutory funding to revitalize and preserve our languages is a requirement. It cannot be taken away at a whim.

We are working towards having that legislation drafted and introduced in Parliament next year, and passed by Parliament before the next federal election. And we will get it done.

Now, I want to talk about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Families who have waited decades are still waiting. We share their concerns.

The Assembly of First Nations has made many offers to support the Inquiry, because the work is so important, and we want to see it succeed for the families. We’ve invited the Commissioners to speak at this Assembly. We are pleased that two of them are able to join us, Michèle Audette and Brian Eyolfson.

We wanted to invite them here because many of you – Women, Chiefs, Elders, and our Young People – are directly affected. Too many of our people have lost loved ones – grandmothers, mothers, Aunties, sisters, cousins, friends. This is not simply a policy matter for us. This is about our families.

We need to support the work of these Commissioners and their staff. We need to pray with them, hold them up, help them. And there is no more powerful way than with prayer and ceremony.

Yes, we want to make sure the families are not forgotten. The families must be front and centre. Yes, we want to help improve communications. And that’s why the Commissioners are here.

The work of the Inquiry is so important. It must succeed. And we will continue to lend our support.

Action – that is our watchword. That is our focus.

On every file that touches the rights or the wellbeing of First Nations – languages, environment, climate change, housing, health care, clean water, education, mental wellness, justice and policing, fire prevention, First Nations rights – action is what we are seeking.

Before I close, I want to return to our theme – “Our priority: Our Children.”

I cannot open this Assembly without talking about the losses we have all grieved, the losses of the young ones who chose to end their lives by their own hand.

We grieve and we are angered when we hear the statistics – that the leading cause of death for a First Nations person under the age of 44 is self-harm. I don’t think there is anyone among us who has totally escaped the shock of loss of a loved one or a friend or relative or someone we’ve known.

We know that solutions must come from within our Nations.

As leaders, we cannot be afraid to talk about what’s happening to our children and among our families. We are all too well aware of the causes.

The intergenerational effects of the Residential Schools system. Colonization and loss of control of our governments and our lives. The lateral violence. The depression. Substance abuse to numb the pain. Loss. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Incest.

These are ugly words. But we cannot be afraid to speak them. We cannot be afraid to listen when someone says them.

We must create safe places for those who want to break free of abuse, be that in their schools, in their community, or in their own home.

Our children are paying with their lives for generations of human rights violations, oppression, neglect and abuse, loss of culture, loss of language, loss of hope.

We call on the federal government to work more closely with First Nations and First Nations leadership on First Nations-led solutions – not only for mental health supports but for the infrastructure and community services so that our children and young people live in places that they are proud of and where they can be all who they can be.

As leaders we can bring people together. And we can help to nurture healing for ourselves, for our children and for future generations – getting our young people connected to their languages, our culture and ceremonies, and back to the land.

And to our young people – you matter. You are loved. You are important. You are special. And you have great gifts the Creator has given you.

All young people need hope.  And I witnessed that hope, this past week – last week at the North American Indigenous Games. The energy, the pride, not only showcasing their talents in sports, culture and recreation, but building relationships. More than 5,000 young people showing their pride in who they are as First Nations people.

I hold up the leaders, the organizers, the host Nations, the parents and especially the young people who represented their people with pride, honour and dignity. I acknowledge the territory that won the Games: British Columbia.

This was a display of Indigenous strength and endurance that captivated the continent.

My last points, Chiefs.

Canada did celebrate a birthday a few weeks ago. And we participated as First Nations peoples. Not so much to celebrate the birthday but more to recognize that in spite of the genocide of the residential schools, in spite of the colonization, oppression and control of the Indian Act – we’re still here as First Nations peoples.

And we’re getting stronger.

And in what is now Canada, the best story is yet to be written.  And it’s all of our children and all of our grandchildren who will write the story of the next 150 years.

I look forward to speaking with you during this Assembly.

I value your wisdom and value your guidance.

Kinanāskomitin.

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Roy WhiteduckAssembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde – Opening Remarks to the AFN Annual General Assembly

Assembly of First Nations to Convene 38th Annual General Assembly July 25-27 in Regina, SK – “Our Priority: Our Children, Our Future”

on July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017

(Ottawa, ON)― First Nation leaders, Elders, Women, youth and citizens from across the country are set to gather next week for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 38th Annual General Assembly (AGA), to be held at the Evraz Place from July 25-27.  Chiefs and delegates will discuss key issues and determine strategy to advance First Nations priorities based on Treaty rights and inherent rights, title and jurisdiction.

AFN AGA delegates will gather under the theme “Our Priority: Our Children Our Future”, reflecting the reality that the work at the AGA is for the children and future generations based on closing the gap and building stronger First Nations families, communities and governments. Delegates will assess progress over the past year, identify priorities for the coming year and set strategy for action and change.

The AGA Grand Entry will take place Tuesday, July 25 at 8:30 a.m. AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde will deliver his opening address at approximately 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, July 25. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, will speak on Tuesday, July 25. A number of federal cabinet ministers are scheduled to address the Assembly on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Commissioners from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will address the Assembly. Agenda highlights are attached.

A detailed agenda (subject to change) is available on the AFN website at: http://www.afn.ca/uploads/files/17-07-14_afn_38th_aga_-_draft_provisional_agenda.pdf

The main plenary of the AGA will be webcast on the AFN website at www.afn.ca

There is no cost to accredited media to attend and media can register onsite but are encouraged to register in advance through the AFN Communications contacts on this advisory.

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

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Contact information:

Alain Garon
AFN Bilingual Communications Officer
613-292-0857
agaron@afn.ca

Michael Hutchinson
Communications Officer
613-299-6330 (cell)
mhutchinson@afn.ca

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Roy WhiteduckAssembly of First Nations to Convene 38th Annual General Assembly July 25-27 in Regina, SK – “Our Priority: Our Children, Our Future”
Assembly of First Nations
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