The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country.
First Nation leaders (Chiefs) from coast to coast to coast direct the work of AFN through resolutions passed at Chiefs Assemblies held at least twice a year. The AFN National Executive is made up of the National Chief, 10 Regional Chiefs and the chairs of the Elders, Women’s and Youth councils. Regional Chiefs are elected every three years by Chiefs in their regions. Chiefs, who are elected by the citizens and members of their respective communities, elect the National Chief every three years.
The role of the National Chief and the AFN is to advocate on behalf of First Nations as directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly. This includes facilitation and coordination of national and regional discussions and dialogue, advocacy efforts and campaigns, legal and policy analysis, communicating with governments, including facilitating relationship building between First Nations and the Crown as well as public and private sectors and general public.
The term “First Nations” refers to one of three distinct groups recognized as “Aboriginal” in the Constitution Act of 1982. The other two distinct groups characterized as “Aboriginal” are the Métis and the Inuit.
There are 634 First Nation communities (also known as reserves) in Canada, with First Nation governments. First Nations are part of unique larger linguistic and cultural groups that vary across the country. In fact, there are over 50 distinct nations and language groups across the country.
First Nations have a unique and special relationship with the Crown and the people of Canada as set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and manifested in Treaties, the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982, Canadian common law and International law and as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This special relationship between First Nations and the Crown is grounded in First Nation inherent and Aboriginal rights and title, Treaties and negotiated agreements with a view toward peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, recognition and the equitable sharing of lands and resources. Many Treaties, reflected in written documents, wampum and oral understanding, were entered into between First Nations and the British Crown (the Government of Canada after Confederation) between 1701 and 1923. Treaty promises and agreements included non-interference, protection of hunting and fishing rights, sharing of lands and resources, health and education benefits, economic tools and benefits for the duration of the Treaty relationship.