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National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin – March 2019

on March 12, 2019

Federal Legislation on Indigenous Child Welfare – Bill C-92


SUMMARY:

  • On February 28, 2019 Indigenous Services Canada Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare (Bill C-92) that recognizes First Nations jurisdiction over child and family services.
  • The proposed legislation was developed with input by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) legislative working group, comprised of First Nations leaders, technicians and experts from across the country, drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

The initiative to develop this legislation was announced on November 30, 2018 by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, the former Indigenous Services Canada Minister and leaders of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council.

Our children are sacred.  They are gifts from the Creator.  They are the focus and center of our nations, and they deserve every opportunity to fulfil their dreams and succeed.  Decades of underfunding and misguided approaches have harmed our children and families.  Outdated laws and policies have created a situation where our children are grossly over-represented in the child welfare system. We need comprehensive reform across the system, and federal legislation is an essential piece of this reform.

On February 28, the federal government introduced legislation on Indigenous child welfare that recognizes our jurisdiction over child and family services. This follows years of pressure and advocacy for action and reform.  It is a major step toward regaining responsibility over our children.

Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Children, Youth and Families, was introduced in Parliament by Indigenous Services Canada Minister Seamus O’Regan. The AFN legislative working group, comprised of First Nations leaders, technicians and experts from across the country, had direct input into the development of this legislation.  The group drew from years of advocacy and direction to secure key clauses in respect to jurisdiction and prevention.  With a focus on the safety, security and future of First Nations children, this legislation recognizes First Nations jurisdiction to build systems based on First Nations governance, laws and policies. It is about recognizing First Nations jurisdiction as paramount over federal and provincial jurisdiction.  The goal is prevention over apprehension, and keeping our children close and connected to their cultures, healthy and loving families and nations.

The recognition of our jurisdiction is a critical and essential element of reform.  The legislation recognizes the right of First Nations to be responsible for child welfare as an inherent right under section 35 of Canada’s Constitution.  Based on First Nations direction, this legislation helps fill the “box of rights” in section 35.

There are two provisions in the proposed legislation that are key to First Nations and will take effect as soon as the law is passed – family unity, and automatic standing.  Family unity means that every placement of an Indigenous child can be reassessed under the new law. Automatic standing means that a family member will have legal standing in any cases before the courts and First Nations representatives may make representations to courts.

This legislation does not infringe on any existing agreements or impede existing processes that First Nations are working on, including recent agreements in regions across the country. Many First Nations have already built successful child welfare systems or are in the process of doing so. This legislation will give every First Nation the ability to build a system based on their laws, values and priorities.  Every government – federal, provincial and territorial – must work together with First Nations to ensure a seamless transition that supports and recognizes First Nations jurisdiction and ensures no child is left behind.

One area that requires continued advocacy is funding and investments to support our systems.  As you know, legislation never contains specific dollar amounts but this legislation does reference the need for funding in the preamble.  We must continue to advocate for the inclusion of explicit funding provisions that provide for equitable and sustained funding for First Nations.  We will continue to push on all fronts for the right investments to ensure our children are safe, secure and enjoy a fair start in life to pursue every opportunity before them.

I am proud of the efforts to date by everyone involved and want to see this legislation passed before the parliamentary session ends this June. There is some urgency to this work and I look forward to working with you to realize this longstanding goal.

This legislation is truly a new chapter for our children and families – one where we write the laws, policies and values that apply to our children regardless of where they reside. It’s time to end the epidemic of apprehension and ensure our children grow up with a strong connection to their families, nations, cultures and languages.  We can and will create a better day for our children and families.

The AFN is conducting a full review and analysis of the proposed legislation and we will make it available once complete.

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Roy WhiteduckNational Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin – March 2019

AFN National Chief Bellegarde Says First Nations Responsibility for Child Welfare Key to New Legislation, Urges Investments to Support New Approach

on February 28, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Following the introduction of federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare today in Parliament, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that First Nations children are the first priority and any legislation must ensure they grow up valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations.

“This legislation is first and foremost about First Nations children and their safety, their security and their future,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The tragedy of thousands of First Nations children in care tells us we need a new approach. This legislation will recognize First Nations jurisdiction so they can build their own systems based on their own governance, laws and policies. Our focus has to be on prevention over apprehension, and keeping children close to their cultures and families.  We need investments to support this work, and we need everyone to support this approach. The time is long overdue for First Nations to finally regain responsibility over our children.”

Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced the proposed federal legislation this morning in the House of Commons.  The legislation was developed with input by the AFN legislative working group comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

“First Nations value our children and want to keep them in the centre of the circle of our families and nations,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who leads AFN’s work in this area.  “We have our traditional laws, approaches and protocols that will guide our work in setting up systems to care for our children, keep them safe and ensure they learn and live their cultures and languages. It is time for all governments to work with First Nations to ensure a seamless transition so that no child is left behind.  We must all commit to this work on the understanding that our children are at the heart of our efforts.”

On November 30, 2018, National Chief Bellegarde stood with former Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and the leaders of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council to announce work aimed at introducing the federal legislation on Indigenous child and family services.

January 26 marked three years since the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government discriminates against First Nations children and families on reserve. Last January former Indigenous Services Minister Philpott convened an emergency meeting of First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders, provincial and territorial representatives and child welfare experts and committed the federal government to six points of action which included co-developed legislation on Indigenous child welfare.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For media requests or more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Bellegarde Says First Nations Responsibility for Child Welfare Key to New Legislation, Urges Investments to Support New Approach

AFN National Chief Says Safe Drinking Water and Proper Sanitation for First Nations is a Human Right at AFN Annual Water Symposium

on February 26, 2019

February 26, 2019

(Niagara Falls, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde addressed delegates this morning at the opening of the 2nd Annual Water Symposium and Tradeshow in Niagara Falls, Ontario, calling for a new approach and new investments to ensure that First Nations families have safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

“There is much work to be done to address the serious and urgent water and wastewater issues facing First Nations children and families,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “This is a priority. This is about the health and safety of our citizens who are being denied a basic human right. We need significant investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, repeal and replacement of the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act and new legislation co-developed with First Nations that actually results in safe drinking water. The situations many First Nations are facing would not be tolerated anywhere else in this country. First Nations have the solutions and the work over the next three days will help guide the work that lies ahead”.

Many First Nations in Canada are facing water and wastewater issues, boil water advisories and poor sanitation. A new approach supported by new investments is needed. The three day Symposium that opened today will focus on recent developments and approaches that impact First Nations and water and highlight innovative approaches driven by First Nations. The event includes plenary addresses from First Nations leaders and experts, government representatives, and a keynote presentation from Te Pou Tupua, the official voice of the Whanganui River located in Aotearoa/New Zealand, established under the Whanganui River Treaty settlement as the first river ever to possess formal legal personhood.

“This Symposium is an important opportunity for dialogue that will lead to action to ensure First Nations have equity in water, quality standards and equity in water access” said Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald and AFN Water Portfolio Holder.  “Many First Nations in Canada continue to deal with unsafe drinking water, boil water advisories and inadequate sanitation.  In a time of reconciliation, access to safe water is a human right and essential in order to build healthy communities”.

The AFN 2nd Annual National Water Symposium and Tradeshow is being held in Niagara Falls, Ontario, from February 26 to 28, 2019.  The Symposium is targeted to First Nations leaders or their representatives, Community Housing and Infrastructure Councillors, Water Operators, Community Water Monitors, Tribal Councils, Provincial/Territorial Organizations, and federal and provincial officials involved in water or wastewater infrastructure.

 

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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For more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

 

 

 

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Says Safe Drinking Water and Proper Sanitation for First Nations is a Human Right at AFN Annual Water Symposium

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Congratulates NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on Election Victory

on February 26, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today congratulates NDP leader Jagmeet Singh on his electoral victory in the riding of Burnaby South, B.C.

“I congratulate the NDP leader and the new Member of Parliament for Burnaby South, Jagmeet Singh, on his victory today,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “I have met with Mr. Singh many times and I know he understands the importance of working together to build strong First Nations and a stronger country for all of us. He has attended a number of AFN Assemblies and has demonstrated a commitment to listening and engaging directly with First Nations. I look forward to working with him at this critical time to advance some key legislative priorities that will support First Nations languages, First Nations children, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and protection for the environment.”

Jagmeet Singh was elected today as MP for the riding of Burnaby South in British Columbia. He became leader of the federal New Democratic Party in October 2017.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Congratulates NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on Election Victory

ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS BULLETIN – Tabling of an Act respecting Indigenous languages in the House of Commons

on February 7, 2019

February 2019

Bill C-91: Act respecting Indigenous languages

On February 5, 2019, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the tabling of Bill C-91, an Act respecting Indigenous languages. The objective of the Bill, also known as the Indigenous Languages Act, is to reclaim, revitalize, strengthen and maintain Indigenous languages in Canada. Here is some key information about the Bill.

The preamble of the Bill:

  • reiterates that the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), including the affirmation of Indigenous language rights
  • recognizes that Indigenous languages played a significant role in the establishment of Indigenous-European relations
  • acknowledges the contribution of discriminatory policies, such as residential schools, in eroding Indigenous languages
  • respects that Indigenous languages are fundamental to Indigenous identities, cultures, spirituality, relationships to the land, world views and self-determination
  • recognizes the Government of Canada’s role in supporting the work of entities with a mandate to promote the use of Indigenous languages and to support Indigenous peoples in reclaiming, maintaining and strengthening their languages
  • acknowledges that the control and initiative to lead Indigenous language reclamation, revitalization, maintenance, and strengthening is best placed in the hands of Indigenous peoples

The key purposes of the Act are:

  • the promotion of the use of Indigenous languages
  • the support of a multifaceted approach to Indigenous language revitalization including, but not limited to, language nests and immersion programs
  • the establishment of measures for adequate, sustainable and long-term funding
  • the establishment of mechanisms to work with provinces, territories, Indigenous representative organizations and Indigenous governments to create effective support for Indigenous languages in Canada
  • respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action 13 to 15,
  • advance the UN Declaration as it relates to Indigenous languages

The Act includes recognition and protection of language rights:

  • The Act states that: “The Government of Canada recognizes that the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 include rights related to Indigenous languages”.

The Act responds to First Nations’ calls for funding for Indigenous languages:

  • First Nations made funding a clear priority throughout the engagement process.
  • Bill C-91 addresses funding requirements in three places and obligates the Minister to consult with Indigenous peoples, governments and organizations to provide “adequate, sustainable, and long-term funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages.”

The Act establishes an Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages:

  • The Office would be an independent, arms-length entity working outside of the federal government.
  • The Commissioner must be appointed through an order in council and in consultation with Indigenous governments, governing bodies, and organizations.
  • It is mandated to support Indigenous communities, governments, and/or governing bodies in their efforts to reclaim, revitalize, maintain, and strengthen Indigenous languages.
  • The Commissioner must review complaints related to Indigenous language agreements, funding, obligations of the Government of Canada under the Act, and in the implementation of the Act. Following the review, the Commissioner must prepare a report with concrete recommendations.

The Act includes provisions for regulation and rule-making:

  • Legislation requires the Minister to conduct consultations to ensure that the unique circumstances and needs of Indigenous peoples, groups and communities are considered.

A Five-year Review:

  • An independent review of the Act is required five years after the entry into force of the proposed legislation and every five years thereafter.

Immediate next steps

The legislation received first reading. After it has gone to second reading in the House of Commons, the proposed Act is referred to a Standing Committee. While at Committee, interested parties can submit their views and suggestions to the Committee to consider as amendments to the Bill.

Towards implementation

Co-development will continue on an inclusive basis to address implementation requirements. In preparing for the implementation of the legislation, co-development efforts will prioritize funding measures, operationalizing the Office of the Commissioner, and supporting capacity building in relation to regional entities to assist local efforts in language assessments and language revitalization initiatives. The objective is for the proposed Indigenous Languages Act to become law by June, 2019, and before the upcoming general federal election.

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Roy WhiteduckASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS BULLETIN – Tabling of an Act respecting Indigenous languages in the House of Commons

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Welcomes Tabling of Federal Legislation to Revitalize Indigenous Languages, Says the Bill Deserves Support from All Canadians and Parliamentarians

on February 5, 2019

February 5, 2019

Statement from National Chief Perry Bellegarde

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today welcomed the tabling in Parliament of the federal Indigenous Languages Act, saying it deserves the support of all Parliamentarians and all Canadians.

“This is landmark legislation to protect and strengthen Indigenous languages, the original languages of these lands, that embrace our identity, our worldview and our nationhood,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “No Indigenous language in Canada is safe. But now there is hope. This legislation will support First Nations efforts to keep their languages alive, vital and strong. Canadians and all parliamentarians must support this Bill because we all understand that language is identity, languages is culture, language is life. There is no better way to mark 2019 – the International Year of Indigenous Languages – than to see the country that once tried to eliminate our languages enact a law to protect, promote and revitalize our languages.”

The Indigenous Languages Act was tabled today in the House of Commons with the aim of it becoming law before the end of the current Parliamentary session. The initiative to co-develop legislation to “protect, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages” was first announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in December 2016 at an AFN Assembly. The announcement was a response to years of advocacy by the AFN, National Chief Bellegarde and First Nations. The AFN helped co-develop the legislation to ensure that First Nation perspectives, priorities and rights were included in the legislation.

Last week on February 1st, National Chief Bellegarde spoke about the legislation in his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative: “We need legislation to ensure sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding toward the revitalization of our languages. We need schools on-reserve as well as in urban and rural settings to create and implement effective bilingual and immersion education programs beginning with pre-school age children. And we need programs that inspire all of our people to speak our languages, regardless of age, to renew the vibrancy of our communities as our cultural places. We want our languages to be our living languages – sourced from our lands, expressing our creation stories, and alive in our ceremonies and daily lives.”

The text of the National Chief’s remarks at the UN are available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca. The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages.

 

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Welcomes Tabling of Federal Legislation to Revitalize Indigenous Languages, Says the Bill Deserves Support from All Canadians and Parliamentarians

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Addresses UN General Assembly at Launch Event for the International Year of Indigenous Languages and Calls for Support for Upcoming Indigenous Languages Legislation in Canada

on February 1, 2019

(National Chief’s remarks)

(New York City, NY) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today addressed the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative at the UN Launch Event for the 2019 International Year of the Indigenous Languages. National Chief Bellegarde marked the day by urging Canadians and all parliamentarians to support the work underway in Canada to revitalize, reclaim, and protect First Nations languages, including the Indigenous Languages Act that is expected to be tabled soon in Parliament.

“Indigenous languages are the founding languages of this land, embracing our identity, our worldview and our nationhood,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “But in Canada, no Indigenous language is safe. Now there is hope. The Indigenous Languages Act that we co-developed will help ensure our languages survive and thrive. Canada will be a stronger, richer country when we hear First Nations children and families speaking their languages. It will be a historic way to mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages when this country – that once tried to eradicate our languages – passes a bill that was developed with us to protect, promote and revitalize our languages.”

In December 2016, the Prime Minister responded to years of advocacy by the AFN, First Nations and the National Chief to create an Indigenous Languages Act. The AFN helped co-develop the legislation to ensure that First Nation perspectives, priorities and rights were included in the legislation. The bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament in the near future with the aim of having it become law before the end of the current session.

In his remarks to the UN General Assembly as the North American Indigenous Representative, National Chief Bellegarde spoke of the upcoming Indigenous languages legislation: “We need legislation to ensure sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding toward the revitalization of our languages. We need schools on-reserve as well as in urban and rural settings to create and implement effective bilingual and immersion education programs beginning with pre-school age children. And we need programs that inspire all of our people to speak our languages, regardless of age, to renew the vibrancy of our communities as our cultural places. We want our languages to be our living languages – sourced from our lands, expressing our creation stories, and alive in our ceremonies and daily lives.”

The text of the National Chief’s remarks are available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca.

 

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information, please contact:

Jenna Young Castro
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Addresses UN General Assembly at Launch Event for the International Year of Indigenous Languages and Calls for Support for Upcoming Indigenous Languages Legislation in Canada

AFN National Chief Attending United Nations General Assembly Launch Event of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

on January 31, 2019

January 31, 2019

(Ottawa, ON):  Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde will attend the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Launch Event of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages at the UN New York Headquarters on February 1, 2019. National Chief Bellegarde will deliver a strong statement on the need for action to revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada and the work the AFN is doing to achieve this urgent goal.

DATE: February 1, 2019
TIME: Media availability 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. EST
LOCATION:  New York, United Nations Headquarters

The National Chief will participate in the ceremonies and general plenary, and will address a forum at the UN organized by Ecuador, Estonia and FILAC (Fondo para el desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina y el Caribe). His remarks will be publicly available upon delivery.

The President of the UN General Assembly is convening this High-Level meeting of the General Assembly to launch the International Year of Indigenous Languages. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), in its capacity as the leading UN agency for the International Year, organized the official Global Launch at its headquarters in Paris, France, on January 28. 

The Assembly of First Nation is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information please contact:

Michael Hutchinson, Press Secretary, 613-859-6831, [email protected]
Jenna Young Castro, Sr Communications Advisor, 613-314-8157, [email protected]
Monica Poirier, Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-292-0857, [email protected]

 

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Attending United Nations General Assembly Launch Event of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

AFN National Chief Congratulates AFN Quebec-Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard on Re-Election

on January 30, 2019

January 30, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde congratulates Regional Chief Ghislain Picard on being re-elected to represent the Quebec-Labrador region on the AFN National Executive.

“Regional Chief Picard is the longest serving member of the AFN National Executive,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Through his leadership he has made significant contributions to the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations across the country.  I value his extensive experience and deep knowledge of our issues. This is his tenth term as a strong advocate for the rights of First Nations in the Quebec-Labrador region. I lift him up and congratulate him for earning the continued support of First Nations in his region.”

Regional Chief Picard was re-elected in Montreal, Quebec during the AFNQL Chiefs Assembly. He is a proud Innu from the community of Pessamit.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on @AFN_Updates.

 

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For more information:

Michael Hutchinson
Press Secretary for National Chief
613-859-6831
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Congratulates AFN Quebec-Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard on Re-Election

AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities Meeting

on January 23, 2019

On January 14, 2019, the National Chief, members of the Executive Committee and other Chiefs met with Prime Minister Trudeau and members of his Cabinet as part of the AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities. The Prime Minister and the National Chief co-chaired this meeting, the first of three meetings that will take place under the MOU in 2019. The MOU, signed in 2017, calls for regular meetings to discuss key issues and assess progress on shared priorities. These meetings are an opportunity for open, constructive dialogue to advance First Nations priorities.

The National Chief opened by speaking about the RCMP action on Wet’suwet’en lands the previous week. He stated that reconciliation requires that First Nations laws must be recognized, respected and upheld, and there must be room in Canada for not only common law and civil law, but recognition of First Nation law and jurisdiction too. First Nations inherent rights, Treaty rights and title were themes that flowed throughout the meeting.

The MOU meeting took place shortly after the federal Cabinet shuffle, giving the National Chief and Regional Chiefs the opportunity to connect with the newly-appointed Minister of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Seamus O’Regan. Due to the importance of the meeting, the former Minister of ISC, Jane Philpott, also attended to provide final comments on her files. The Cabinet shuffle and the upcoming federal election in October were mentioned numerous times throughout the meeting. Minister Rodriguez (Heritage), Minister Bennett and Parliamentary Secretaries McCrimmon (Public Safety), Anandasangaree (Heritage) and Lightbound (Finance) also attended.

The National Chief and the Prime Minister agreed that progress is being made in many areas but there is still much work to do to close the gap.

The National Chief and Regional Chiefs put forward a number of opportunities to maintain progress and the Prime Minister responded with some key commitments.

One commitment is for the AFN and Canada to work toward a National Action Plan for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). Such an Action Plan would focus on implementation, which is crucial to fulfilling the principles of the UN Declaration.

Another significant commitment was for the AFN and Canada to initiate new processes to address the problems with Canada’s policies on the Inherent Right to Self- government and Comprehensive Claims, and to reinvigorate processes on Specific Claims and Additions to Reserve. It is important that Canada dismantle or change policies based on the termination of First Nations rights, title and jurisdiction so that they are based on recognition of rights, title and jurisdiction. This work must be done in partnership and cooperation with First Nations.

These assurances at the MOU meeting come after Canada’s commitment to support three pieces of legislation:

  • Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, currently at second reading in the Senate;
  • A new bill on First Nations jurisdiction over child welfare, co-developed with First Nations, to be tabled in parliament within a few weeks; and
  • A new bill on Indigenous languages, co-developed with First Nations and to be tabled in parliament within a few weeks.

Throughout the meeting, the National Chief and the Regional Chiefs emphasized the importance of these bills passing prior to parliament rising in June which then leads into a federal election. The Executive Committee did an excellent job of presenting on their files and the agenda allowed numerous topics to be discussed. Updates on the progress of work on the joint priorities identified in the MOU were also shared at the meeting.

Much work in other areas, including reconciliation, was already underway before the MOU Meeting. Prior to the Cabinet shuffle, Canada announced its Litigation Directive to Department of Justice counsels to give preference to negotiation over litigation, effective immediately. This government has also committed to covering the costs of intervention under the Default Prevention and Management Policy, removing a burden on First Nations governments’ Band Support Funding.

The meeting was an important opportunity to share information and perspectives on joint priorities with the Prime Minister and cabinet members, and advancing the shared commitment to moving those priorities forward.

The agenda for the meeting, the National Chief’s opening statement and the MOU itself are available on the AFN website at www.afn.ca.

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Roy WhiteduckAFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities Meeting
Assembly of First Nations
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