News

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Supreme Court Win in Residential Schools Compensation Case “A Victory for Justice and for Survivors of the Indian Residential Schools”

on April 12, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde called today’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in J.W. v. Canada (Attorney General) an important victory that helps ensure fairness and justice for survivors of the Indian residential schools. The AFN was a party in the case, arguing on behalf of survivors and for the fair application of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), negotiated by the AFN.

“This Supreme Court decision is a victory for survivors of the Indian residential schools and a victory for justice and healing,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The AFN has always stood with survivors of the residential schools, right from the outset by leading negotiations on the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement through to today’s decision. We continue to push for justice, healing and reconciliation from the legacy of the schools, including our work on legislation that will strengthen our languages and legislation that gives First Nations responsibility over child welfare. We want to move out from under the long shadow of the residential schools through a shared commitment, but we will not hesitate to use the courts when we have to stand up for survivors and for justice.”

The AFN supported “J.W.”, a residential school survivor, and other claimants involved in the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) under the IRSSA, who have systematically been denied compensation under a category known as SL1 claims (which involve acts such as sexual touching). Some adjudicators were requiring IAP Claimants to prove the motive or sexual intent of a perpetrator in assessing these claims, which is a higher standard than that used under criminal law.

The Majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that the initial adjudicator’s decision constituted an unauthorized modification of the IAP and this and other errors were compounded by the adjudicator’s misinterpretation of the criminal case law with respect to sexual assault. As a result, the adjudicator’s conduct amounted to a failure to apply or implement the terms of the Agreement, warranting judicial intervention to ensure that the benefits promised in the Agreement were delivered.

“This is an important decision by Canada’s highest court that will ensure the Settlement Agreement is respected and upheld,” said AFN NWT Regional Chief Norman Yakeleya, who oversees the AFN’s work on residential schools. “In addition to respecting the agreement and the law, this will help ensure survivors of the schools are not unfairly burdened in their journey to justice and healing.”

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was initiated by the AFN and came into effect in 2007. It is the largest class action settlement in Canadian history.

 

 

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

 

―30―

 

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]

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Supreme Court Win in Residential Schools Compensation Case “A Victory for Justice and for Survivors of the Indian Residential Schools”

AFN National Mental Wellness Forum Focuses on Life Promotion and Cultural Pathways to Closing Health Gap

on April 5, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – In advance of World Health Day, First Nations from across Canada gathered in Winnipeg, Manitoba this week for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Mental Wellness Forum.  More than 500 First Nations citizens, health providers and experts gathered to identify gaps in prevention, support and care services, and to discuss and implement strategies to integrate cultural pathways for closing the health gap between First Nations and Canada.

“I am encouraged by the thoughtful discussions and deliberations that took place at the AFN National Mental Wellness Forum this week, and I lift up all delegates for their input and participation,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “I believe our culture, languages and traditions have an important and integral role in achieving overall health and wellness, and can be integrated in ways that support healing and life promotion, and close the overall health gap between First Nations and Canadians.”

Last week the Canadian Medical Journal Association released a study linking poverty among Indigenous people in Canada to challenges in mental health and suicide. The study included survey responses filed with Statistics Canada in 2012.

“We cannot implement solutions without knowing where we’ve come from. We must factor in the traumas from the past and how they relate to the present and future,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart. “I acknowledge and commend the strength and courage of the many delegates and guest speakers who shared lived experiences this week. This is how we learn and grow as leaders and as health professionals. We have a clearer path forward based on input and discussion this week. We’ve identified specific areas that require transformative change from government policy to individual behavior and approaches.  With the input and discussion this week, we have a better understanding of the overall state of First Nations wellness and can identify approaches to address specific challenges, including the growing opioid crisis, to improve overall mental wellness among our people.”

The three-day national forum included guest speakers and workshops in the areas of addiction, life promotion, culture, gender and sexuality. Discussion focused on access to health services, highlighting best practices and innovative approaches in these areas.

“Current programs and services for First Nations mental wellness must change to address the multiple barriers and challenges existing at all levels of government,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “The AFN will continue to work directly with First Nations to advocate for appropriate supports and investments in First Nations-led approaches, with the intent of creating initiatives, policies, funding mechanisms, programs and services that are culturally relevant and provide proven results for our people.”

World Health Day is recognized annually by the World Health Organization and globally April 7. 

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

 

―30―

 

For more information, please contact:

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

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

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Mental Wellness Forum Focuses on Life Promotion and Cultural Pathways to Closing Health Gap

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Statement on Departure of Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott from Liberal Caucus

on April 3, 2019

April 3, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde released the below statement following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement to remove Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott from Liberal caucus.

“I have expressed my disappointment with the departure of both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott from cabinet. Both leaders were assets to the cabinet table and have shown strong genuine interest in working directly with First Nations advancing our priorities. I commend both women for their integrity, courage and all their efforts to advance First Nations priorities to date. I hope they continue to contribute in their roles as independent Members of Parliament.

The events of the past few weeks raise serious concerns about the motivations and actions of this government. In order to regain First Nations’ trust, we must all recommit ourselves to reconciliation and I urge both the Government of Canada and all parliamentarians to focus on passing key First Nation legislative priorities in this session of parliament. This includes supporting a better future for First Nations children and families based on respect for our rights, languages, and cultures. First Nations priorities are good for First Nations and Canada.

Reconciliation is not about one political party or individual. It’s about all of us. We must all act to advance reconciliation in every avenue available to us. I will continue to advocate for the respect and implementation of First Nations rights and title and to close the gap between First Nations and Canada. “

 

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

 

―30―

 

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]

read more
Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Statement on Departure of Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Dr. Jane Philpott from Liberal Caucus

Senators must be there for reconciliation – Indigenous peoples’ organizations, human rights groups and faith communities urge Senate not to squander opportunity to pass UN Declaration implementation Bill

on April 1, 2019

Tomorrow, April 2, is the next crucial opportunity to advance the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples implementation Bill, private member’s Bill C-262, toward its eventual adoption into law.

Indigenous peoples’ organizations, human rights groups and faith communities have all called on Senators to support an anticipated vote to send Bill C-262 to Committee in preparation for its final adoption so it can receive Royal Assent before the House rises.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation and the path to closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canada,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “These are non-partisan priorities that deserve support by all parliamentarians and all Canadians. I urge all Senators to seize this opportunity to move Bill C-262 to its next step towards Royal Assent. This move will be a step toward a more fair and just country and an important step toward reconciliation.”

Bill C-262 is a private member’s bill put forward by NDP MP Romeo Saganash requiring the federal government to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including necessary reforms of laws and policies.

“Bill C-262 provides a clear and principled framework for the federal government to live up to its promise to finally address some of the most serious human rights concerns facing Canada,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Unfortunately, there is only a small window left for the Senate to bring legislation to a final vote before the current session of Parliament ends. It’s crucial that Senators not miss this opportunity.”

The House of Commons committee that reviewed Bill C-262 heard more than 70 witnesses chosen by all parties and only one of those witnesses expressed opposition to the Bill. Members of Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of Bill C-262 when it was before the House of Commons last year.

“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of adopting Bill C-262,” said Rosemarie Kuptana, a leading Inuk human rights advocate and past President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Circumpolar Council.  “There’s wide support among Canadians and Members of Parliament for Bill C-262 and we’re confident that there is a high level of support in the Senate too. The challenge now is ensuring Senators turn that support into action by showing up for the critical votes to come. Indigenous peoples are watching.”

Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine, the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said, “With Bill C-262, Canada has the opportunity to set an important and much needed example of how the UN Declaration can be implemented through a principled and collaborative process. Indigenous peoples around the world are anxious to see this bill become law.”

For more information, please see www.declarationcoalition.ca

CONTACT

Lucy Scholey
Media Relations
Amnesty International Canada
(613) 744-7667 ext 236
[email protected]

read more
Roy WhiteduckSenators must be there for reconciliation – Indigenous peoples’ organizations, human rights groups and faith communities urge Senate not to squander opportunity to pass UN Declaration implementation Bill

NATIONAL CHIEF PERRY BELLEGARDE BULLETIN – Federal Budget and Comprehensive Claims Funding

on March 22, 2019

March 2019

SUMMARY: 

  • The federal budget tabled on March 19 includes a commitment to forgive and reimburse First Nations loans accumulated through the negotiation of comprehensive claims.
  • I advocated for this commitment along with First Nations as a move consistent with our rights, title and jurisdiction, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a move in the right direction.

In follow-up to the AFN’s Federal Budget Bulletin issued earlier, I am providing this Bulletin to highlight a specific and important move in the recently tabled budget.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states in article 27 that First Nations have the right to access “a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process” to address their land rights and claims, and that we have the right to participate in this process.

Consistent with this article and consistent with our rights, title and jurisdiction, the AFN has been advocating forcefully for this principle to be applied by Canada.  I have explicitly conveyed this to the federal government many times, including a June 1, 2018 letter to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Bennett. This is about nothing less than compelling the federal government to uphold the honour of the Crown with regards to the restitution of First Nation lands.

The recent federal budget commits $1.4 billion dollars over 7 years to forgive and reimburse First Nations for loans accumulated from negotiating comprehensive claims agreements. This builds on our victory in last year’s federal budget, which finally ended the unjust practice of forcing First Nations into increasing financial debt while negotiating a federal land claim. That approach was replaced with non-repayable contribution agreements.

The recent commitment to forgive all loans and repay those that have already been paid back is an important next step in ensuring First Nations are able to negotiate on an equal footing with the Crown.  I maintain that First Nations should not have to pay for the rightful restitution of our lands and traditional territories. With your ongoing support, we will continue to move forward towards full recognition of our rights and reconstituting our lands and traditional territories. I thank you for your support in this work.

read more
Roy WhiteduckNATIONAL CHIEF PERRY BELLEGARDE BULLETIN – Federal Budget and Comprehensive Claims Funding

ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS BULLETIN – Federal Budget 2019

on March 22, 2019

March 2019

Budget 2019 Investment Areas


SUMMARY: 

  • The federal budget was tabled in the House of Commons on March 19, 2019.
  • Budget 2019 includes 24 measures for Indigenous peoples, totalling approximately $4.7 billion. More than $4.4 billion has been identified for First Nations.
  • Investments over the last four budgets total more than $21 billion, which is four times what the Kelowna Accord committed to in 2006.

Budget 2019 identifies important sustained investments for First Nations, a result of sustained advocacy by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and First Nations. These investments are good for First Nations and Canada.  AFN’s advocacy is garnering results and while we must continue to seek investments to close the gap between First Nations and Canada, we are seeing progress in priority areas as a result of the total investment of more than $21 billion over the past four budget cycles.

The federal budget released March 19, 2019 includes 24 measures for Indigenous peoples, totalling approximately $4.7 billion.  The investments are aimed at a range of initiatives, including, languages, post-secondary education, education, economic participation, emergency management, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action such as the National Council for Reconciliation, water and well-being.  This federal budget also provides loan forgiveness and reimbursement to First Nations in the area of comprehensive claims, and funding for research in specific claims.  Investments over the last four budgets total more than $21 billion. That is four times what the Kelowna Accord ($5.1 billion) committed in 2006.

Here is a breakdown of Budget 2019 investments for First Nations. The attached chart provides further detail:

$1.2 billion over 3 years for Jordan’s Principle

This new investment reflects the ongoing commitment to uphold and fully implement Jordan’s Principle and supplements the federal government’s work with First Nations to develop a long-term approach to improving services for First Nations children via Jordan’s Principle.  AFN continues to advocate for greater First Nations control of Jordan’s Principle to ensure First Nations children have access to child-centered, needs-based and First Nations-based programs and services wherever they reside.

$739 million over 5 years for water

The majority of this investment builds on previous investments to eliminate boil water advisories by funding operations and maintenance to prevent First Nations from ending up on boil water advisories again.

$333.7 million over 5 years +  $115.7 million ongoing to implement Indigenous Languages Act

This investment will support the implementation of Bill C-91, which is currently before the House of Commons.  AFN has pressed for the revitalization and strengthening of First Nations languages – to keep our people connected to our cultures and to ensure our children are healthy and are strong in their identity. The goal is for the Indigenous Languages Act to become law by June 2019 (within this parliamentary session) and within the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019).

$327.7 million over 5 years for post-secondary education

This investment helps reduce the existing wait list of First Nations post-secondary students (currently about 10,000). Without continued investments, however, the wait list will continue to grow as more and more  of our students graduate from high school.  AFN continues its work with the federal government to ensure the implementation of recommendations made by First Nations through the federal review of First Nations post-secondary education.  This work includes facilitating the drafting of a new federal policy for First Nations post-secondary education with the intent of securing adequate funding and supports for post-secondary students and First Nations institutions of higher learning.

Loan forgiveness and reimbursement for comprehensive claims and research for specific claims

This investment pertains to any loan taken by a First Nation for the negotiation of comprehensive claims and self-government, including any loans that were taken and paid back by the First Nation. These loans will be forgiven or, where they have already been paid, they will be reimbursed.  National Chief Bellegarde, AFN and First Nations in BC, the Yukon and Northwest Territories pressed hard for this commitment and this is a step in the right direction.  First Nations should not have to pay for the restoration of our rightful land base.

$127 million to create the National Council for Reconciliation

This is a one-time funding commitment to create the National Council for Reconciliation, the key accountability mechanism identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action.

read more
Roy WhiteduckASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS BULLETIN – Federal Budget 2019

2019 Federal Budget Provides Sustained Investments for Continued Momentum and Progress for First Nations: AFN National Chief Bellegarde

on March 19, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the federal budget tabled today in Ottawa includes key sustained investments that continue to support success for First Nations children and First Nations governments.

“This federal budget shows important and sustained investments to advance First Nations priorities as a result of sustained advocacy by First Nations and the AFN, and that’s good for First Nations and Canada,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “The investments in First Nations children through Jordan’s Principle, funding for First Nations languages, safe drinking water, emergency services, land claims, economic development and other areas will help close the gap between First Nations and the rest of Canada. They will build healthier First Nations, stronger governments and a stronger Canada. Now it’s time to keep up the momentum to ensure we see results on the ground – in our nations, in our homes and in our families.”

The federal budget released today includes 24 measures for Indigenous peoples, totalling approximately $4.7 billion aimed at a range of initiatives, including languages, post-secondary education, education, economic participation, emergency management, implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, water, health and well-being. The budget also identifies commitments to loan forgiveness and reimbursement in the area of comprehensive claims and funding for research in specific claims. Specific commitments to support Jordan’s Principle will supplement AFN’s ongoing advocacy efforts for adequate support for its implementation.

Investments over the last four budgets total more than $21 billion, which is four times what the Kelowna Accord committed to in 2006.

AFN is conducting a full analysis on investments and will be made available in coming days.

 

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

―30―

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]

read more
Roy Whiteduck2019 Federal Budget Provides Sustained Investments for Continued Momentum and Progress for First Nations: AFN National Chief Bellegarde

Broken Systems Failed Tina Fontaine – AFN Says Coordinated Action Required to Implement Manitoba Child Advocate Report’s Recommendations

on March 12, 2019

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the report released today by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth underscores the need to address long-standing failures in approaches by governments across a range of systems, including education, health and mental wellness, and victim support services, in regard to the care and safety of First Nations children.

“This report lays bare the reality that First Nations children and families are still impacted by a history of colonialism and government policies aimed at breaking apart our cultures, our families and our nations,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “Children are our most sacred gifts from the Creator, and the systems that should be protecting them are failing them. I continue to offer support to the family and friends of Tina Fontaine as they seek justice and healing. The focus now must be reducing risk. We need urgent action by governments and agencies to work with First Nations families, leaders and experts to act on these recommendations among others. Our guiding principle must be the best interests of the child, including fostering strong connections to their kin and their cultures. I look forward to public progress reports on this important work.”

Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth Daphne Penrose this morning released a special report published after an investigation in accordance with The Advocate for Children and Youth Act. The report, A Place Where it Feels Like Home: The Story of Tina Fontaine, contains five recommendations directed at the Manitoba government, government systems and public bodies. It was released in Tina Fontaine’s home community of Sagkeeng First Nation and aims to uncover truths and honour Tina Fontaine’s legacy.

The 115-page report contains pointed comments on the impacts of colonialism, specifically stating that Tina Fontaine “carried a burden that was not her own”. It offers five recommendations in the areas of education, health and mental wellness, victim support services and child and family services. Ms. Penrose revealed her office will be tracking government compliance with the recommendations publicly.

“This report is a clear call to action for the government to work with First Nations to keep our children safe,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who holds the portfolio for Child Welfare. “The report states that Manitoba has the highest prevalence rate of missing children and youth in the country. We cannot stand by and wait for another tragedy to prompt action. Our children are the center of the circle of our nations. We are taking action and we must keep up momentum. The AFN worked to ensure legislation on First Nations child welfare was put forward last month that will support our right and our jurisdiction to take responsibility for our children. This is one piece of much larger reforms that are needed. My thoughts are with the family of Tina Fontaine as they receive this report, and I want today to mark a new beginning in the safety and protection of our children.”

The August 2014 death of 15-year old Tina Fontaine drew national attention and highlighted the national priority of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Raymond Cormier was acquitted of second-degree murder charges by jury in February 2018.

First Nations have called for changes to the justice system in Canada, including increased representation by First Nations on juries and support for First Nations approaches to justice, including restorative justice.

Following years of pressure and advocacy for action and reform, last month the federal government introduced federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare that recognizes First Nations jurisdiction over child and family services.

The AFN continues to call for a coordinated national action plan to provide safety and security for First Nations women and girls that would include shelters and safe spaces, education and training, transportation, daycare and other supports. The National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is expected to conclude June 2019.

The full report by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth is available at https://manitobaadvocate.ca/wp-content/uploads/MACY-Special-Report-March-2019-Tina-Fontaine-FINAL1.pdf

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

 

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]

 

 

 

read more
Sid LeeBroken Systems Failed Tina Fontaine – AFN Says Coordinated Action Required to Implement Manitoba Child Advocate Report’s Recommendations

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.

read more
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.

 

―30―

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]

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