Message from the National Chief - January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

First Nations citizens have just witnessed one of the most important chapters in our recent history. Through the pressure of the grassroots, the sacrifices made by Chief Spence and her fellow strikers, and the work of many regional Chiefs and the National Executive of the AFN, we have seized the attention of Canadians and of this government.

We forced open the door to the PMO and to the Governor-General. We achieved a commitment to the personal leadership of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office and other senior ministers. Now they know that the whole world is watching what progress we make. Now they understand the consequences of failure.

We have a responsibility to work together to push forward our work that relates to each of the eight elements that emerged from our discussions this week – on Treaty, on comprehensive claims, resource revenue sharing, action to assess and halt provisions of legislation that contravene our rights, on the urgent needs of our communities and justice for our missing women. We have leaders in place to ensure that detailed work gets done. And now we have the public commitment of this government and this Prime Minister that they will treat these issues as their priorities.

I am proud of the support we received from First Nations citizens and Chiefs across Canada, even during the most difficult days. There were many long conference calls, late night meetings, and frustrations in the past two weeks. I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me. This weekend, my doctor ordered that I take some time now to rest and recover and I have agreed with my family that I do this now.  

I ask that Regional Chief Augustine continue to chair and facilitate our National Executive meetings in my brief absence and that Regional Chief Bellegarde and Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould continue the work that they led this week on Treaty implementation and on comprehensive claims. As we did in the meeting on January 11 – we must seize the agenda and drive the next steps on each and every element. I encourage everyone to contribute fully to these next steps. I have also directed the senior staff of the Assembly of First Nations to mobilize staff working teams on these elements to provide the analysis and support required.

Finally as we have done from the very beginning, we continue to offer our support and prayers for Chief Spence, the hunger strikers and for all of our peoples standing up through peaceful demonstrations and protest. As we told the Prime Ministers – our voices, the voices of all of our citizens will not be silenced. We will drive change now.

Friends and colleagues, this has been a fateful moment in the decades of struggle by our peoples. We have secured important new ground. Now the harder, but less visible, work of turning promises into action begins. I look forward to working with all of you on those tasks in the weeks and months ahead. Together I am confident we ensure that this week marks the end of a long bitter chapter of paralysis and provocation in our relationship with the GoC, and that it truly is the beginning of a new chapter.

I will see you all very soon and will return re-invigorated and strengthened to work with you to drive this change together with all of you.

Kleco Kleco

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
National Chief

Assembly of First Nations