Crown – First Nations Gathering Backgrounder

What is it?

The Crown – First Nations Gathering is a meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations.  The Crown – First Nation Gathering is aimed at re-setting the relationship between First Nations and the federal government.  This gathering represents the first meeting for Prime Minister Stephen Harper with collective First Nation leadership.  Building directly on the historic statement of apology, the endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the Specific Claims Tribunal and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Crown - First Nation Gathering creates the next step to move our relationship forward.

How did the meeting come about?

This meeting is a direct result of a call from First Nations to meet with the Crown.   During the Annual General Assembly July 2010 in Winnipeg, discussion centered on First Nations advancing their rights and jurisdiction. As one of the principal suggestions of how to advance overall national advocacy and momentum in support of First Nation governments, the concept of a Crown - First Nations Gathering emerged.  In December 2010 the Prime Minister sent a letter agreeing to the gathering taking place. 

In June 2011 the Canada–First Nations Joint Action Plan was announced, which further committed to the gathering.   The Joint Action Plan based on recognition of key milestones including Canada’s endorsement of the UN Declaration and commits to a constructive relationship based on the core principles of mutual understanding, respect, ensuring mutually acceptable outcomes and accountability.

Building on these important steps, we can reset the Crown - First Nation relationship in real terms. The Crown - First Nation Gathering is an important opportunity to respectfully engage and focus interaction and advancement of key interests for First Nations and all Canadians.

What is the agenda?

The Crown – First Nation Gathering provides us with an opportunity to move forward various mandates provided by Chiefs-in-Assembly. The Gathering is designed with three specific goals:

  1. Renewing and affirming the relationship
  2. Marking progress being achieved on key, agreed upon topic areas
  3. Setting a future agenda through open dialogue and reflecting mutual interests

This means our broader interests in education, treaties, improving negotiations and policy reform, advancing First Nation governments, economic development and others will all be a focus.

The Crown - First Nation Gathering is also an opportunity to highlight future areas for consideration and exploration.  Our goal is that this gathering signal the beginning of regular such gatherings confirming an interactive relationship that is responsive to mutual needs and interests.

The format of the Crown – First Nation Gathering may include:

Part One: Ceremony reflecting and affirming the enduring relationship between First Nations and the Crown as well as Indigenous peoples heritage and future as important aspect of Canadian reality, identity and culture.

Part Two: Opening addresses by Prime Minister and First Nation leadership

Part Three: Concurrent sessions on agreed-upon topics for submission by First Nation delegation and dialogue with members of Cabinet/caucus and officials as designated

Part Four: Setting forward looking agenda

How can First Nations participate?

It is recognized that not everyone is going to be able to come to Ottawa to participate, so extraordinary measures are being put in place to maximize everyone’s participation.  Leading up to the Crown – First Nations Gathering an aggressive social media and online presence will be created to foster dialogue in the topics being discussed.  We are reaching out to Chiefs to ensure that they can provide their input on the areas being discussed.

The Crown - First Nation Gathering itself will have the opening, plenary, key note address and final plenary webcast for all to observe. As with past AFN events, a live web-chat will take place to encourage as much discussion and dialogue as possible!

In addition, ten (10) regional video conference facilities are being identified to provide access to Chiefs regionally to participate in the breakout sessions.  The AFN will be working with Regional Chiefs to help identify locations and facilitate access for every First Nation across Canada.

Finally, the gathering is just the beginning of the discussions and action.  The AFN will be producing a series of short video clips from the Gathering and continuing to engage in dialogue online.  The Crown – First Nation Gathering website will remain live for some time to be a gathering place for updates, documents and ongoing engagement.

Where can I get more information?

In the coming days a specific website will be launched to act as a clearing house for information.  In the meantime a special session has been added to our Special Chiefs Assembly on December 8, 2011 at 5:30pm.

Assembly of First Nations