International Advocacy and Activity

AFN Annual Report 2016

The Chiefs-in-Assembly have directed AFN engagement in international activities and mechanisms to advance First Nations rights. Therefore, the AFN is required to have an international dimension to its advocacy and activities.

The AFN advances the rights and interests of First Nations internationally by: strategically participating in key international fora and events; forging relationships and partnerships with other Indigenous peoples and their organizations and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs); facilitating international political, economic, cultural, and social relationships between First Nations and foreign States; and, seeking to establish working relationships with Canada towards informing their foreign and international policy approaches and objectives on matters of shared interest.

Key Issues and Activities

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
The fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum occurred from May 9 to May 20, 2016. Canada's participation in the forum was unprecedented, with statements from Minister Wilson-Raybould and Minister Bennett and participation from Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations.

The fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum was Grand Chief Ed John's last Permanent Forum meeting, as his term expires at the end of 2016. The Assembly of First Nations commends Grand Chief John for his leadership and his tireless efforts to advance the rights of all Indigenous peoples globally.

At this Permanent Forum, Canada issued a statement of unqualified support for the Declaration, receiving a standing ovation from the Forum. Canada committed to moving forward with First Nations as "full partners" on implementation of the Declaration. In other words, Canada will not proceed on a plan to implement the Declaration without the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations

The AFN co-hosted a side event with the Government of Canada and the Métis National Council on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the importance of full implementation of all Calls to Action of the TRC. The Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs committed to full implementation of the Calls to Action.

Climate Change
The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) met from November 21 to December 10, 2015. First Nations leadership in attendance worked closely with Canada and with other states to protect and advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in multilateral action on climate change.

The advocacy of First Nations leadership led Canada to champion language in the Paris Agreement on the importance of recognizing human rights, including the rights of Indigenous peoples, when taking action on climate change. The Paris Agreement is the first multi-lateral environmental agreement which specifically uses the term 'indigenous peoples' in the text of the agreement itself.

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Canada appeared before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on February 23-24, 2016. The Committee examined Canada on a range of issues, including housing, health, free, prior and informed consent, and languages.

As with other treaty body reviews, the AFN intends to ensure Canada develops a strategy to address the recommendations of the Committee, with the full and effective participation of First Nations.

Follow up from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples
Follow-up from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples continues, with ongoing international consultations on reviewing and reforming the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and on developing means to improve the participation of indigenous peoples in international forums.

The AFN has been actively engaged on reforming the mandate of the EMRIP, emphasizing the importance of sufficient human and financial resources for the EMRIP to serve as an effective mechanism for advancing the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The President of the General Assembly has appointed four facilitators – two Indigenous representatives and two state representatives, to engage Indigenous peoples and states on proposals to improve the participation of Indigenous peoples in United Nations fora. The facilitators held both formal and informal meetings at the Permanent Forum. The AFN participated in one of these informal meetings and helped to organize another informal meeting prior to another consultation in New York on June 30.

Proposals to improve Indigenous participation should be finalized at the next meeting of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be forwarded to the General Assembly in September 2016.

American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Organization of American States approved the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at its General Assembly from June 13-15, 2016. The AFN and the Grand Council of the Crees expressed several concerns about the text of the Declaration, as well as the procedures used in the final negotiation sessions. While Canada joined in the consensus approving the Declaration, Canada issued an interpretive statement suggesting it would not take a position on the American Declaration until it had fully engaged with First Nations. Such an engagement should occur later in 2016.

Domestic Education and Lobby Efforts
At the Permanent Forum, Canada publicly committed to unqualified support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The AFN has expressed full support for MP Romeo Saganash's Private Member's Bill, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a floor for action on implementation.

Next Steps – Moving Forward

The AFN will propose that the Government of Canada and AFN jointly develop a proposal to engage First Nations in reporting to human rights treaty bodies and implementing recommendations from treaty body reporting or individual complaints.

There is currently no proposed strategy from the government for implementation of the UN Declaration. The AFN anticipates First Nations will be engaged, on a nation-to-nation basis, so that Canada and First Nations can jointly develop a strategy to fully implement the UN Declaration and all Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Assembly of First Nations