Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly Concludes, Reaffirmed Resolve for First Nations Control of First Nations Education
December 12, 2013
(Ottawa, ON) – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Special Chiefs Assembly concluded today in Gatineau, Quebec with direction and strategy on key priorities facing First Nations including nation building, education, developing a First Nations energy strategy, giving life to Treaties and First Nations rights, resolving comprehensive land claims, engaging youth and fostering safe and secure First Nations communities.
“This week leaders from across this country unanimously reaffirmed the assertion of First Nation inherent rights, title, Treaties and jurisdiction as the way forward to take control of all the activities that affect our lives, our lands and our citizens,” said AFN Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Regional Chief Morley Googoo. “This includes our reaffirmation of First Nations control of First Nations education, a key issue coming into this Assembly. First Nations confirmed through resolution that we will settle for nothing less than an approach aimed at First Nations control of education that values our languages and cultures supported by stable, sustainable and fair funding. The current federal proposal is unacceptable and it is time for the federal government to step up and work with us on an approach that will lead to success for our students and children. Our children need action now and we must get it right, right now.”
Almost 1,000 delegates met in Gatineau, QC for the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly taking place from December 10-12 this week. First Nations Elders, youth, leaders and citizens gathered for dialogue and to set strategy for the coming year. At the same time, AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo was in Johannesburg, South Africa representing First Nations at the memorial ceremonies for Madiba Nelson Mandela.
“As a foundation of all of our work, First Nations are asserting our rights and title and taking action,” said AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief Perry Bellegarde. “We will continue efforts to organize the work on a treaty-by-treaty basis and then to press the federal government to maintain the honour of the Crown and implement Treaties according to their spirit and intent.”
BCAFN Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, reflecting on the passing of Madiba Nelson Mandela, commented, “When great leaders and visionaries pass it is a time for mourning, but it is also a time for self-refection and contemplation. The passing of Madiba is an important moment for all of Canada. Former Prime Ministers are rightfully being stood up for their support in ending apartheid, yet at the very same time, our country still struggles with reconciling the pre-existence of our peoples and our Nations with the assumed sovereignty of the Crown. We struggle with the fact that most of our peoples are not self-governing, but rather are governed over, separate and apart from other Canadians under the Indian Act, which is itself a legislative instrument that the framers of colonial South Africa consulted when legally constructing apartheid. The work of reconciliation in Canada must be accelerated. As many of the chiefs have reflected upon this week, there is a growing lack of trust among our peoples, particularly in light of proposed resource development and proposed federal legislation dealing with the education of our children. To rebuild trust, Canada, for its part, needs to commit to developing a broad reconciliation framework based on recognition to guide all departments and ministries and facilitate meaningful engagement with our Nations. Today such a framework does not exist and there are limited or no mechanisms to actually reconcile even if, politically, there is the will to do so. This is a national issue that requires the full engagement and the commitment of the highest level of Government. Beyond the apology offered in 2008, beyond the important work of truth telling and of healing, reconciliation requires laws to change and policies to be rewritten. It requires our legitimate political institutions to be recognized and respected.”
Resolutions in a number of priority areas were discussed by delegates and will be finalized and available at www.afn.ca in coming weeks.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
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