First Nations Fishing Rights – Fact Sheet

on May 18, 2018


Fishing is part of First Nations culture and identity. It sustains First Nations peoples and economies and is a constitutionally protected inherent and Treaty right. In the spirit of reconciliation and raising awareness of our shared history and future, the Assembly of First Nations National Fisheries Committee, by direction from Chiefs across the country, have declared May 21, 2018, a National Day of First Nations Fishing Rights. This is a day to honour the inherent right to fish, to raise awareness of its interconnectedness to growing sustainable environments, conservation and water protection and fostering healthy individuals and nations. Victoria Day was chosen by the National Fisheries Committee as a statement: this is an effort to decolonize a day named for the Queen who presided over many of the Treaties made with First Nations.


Fisheries & Colonization

  • At Canada’s Confederation in 1867, the federal government was given authority over fisheries and set up the Department of Marine and Fisheries. First Nations governments were not consulted or involved in the development of this legislation.
  • The Numbered Treaties were a series of 11 Treaties made between the Government of Canada and First Nations from 1871 to 1921, covering the area between Lake of the Woods (northern Ontario, southern Manitoba) to the Rocky Mountains (northeastern British Columbia and interior plains of Alberta) to the Beaufort Sea (north of Yukon and the Northwest Territories). 
  • As part of the obligations of the Hudson Bay Company for the transfer of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory to the federal government, Canada had to address Indigenous claims to those lands. The Crown used the Numbered Treaties to get access to traditional territories and assert its jurisdiction in exchange for certain promises such as reserve lands, annual payments and hunting and fishing rights to unoccupied crown lands. 
  • From 1850-54, the Crown negotiated 14 treaties (known as the Douglas Treaties) with some of the Indigenous Peoples of Vancouver Island, that confirmed the right to “carry on our fisheries as formerly.”


Celebrating Fishing, Indigenous Cultures and Languages

  • Fishing promotes healthy family connections and activities. Fishing is more than the act of removing fish for food – it is teaching and talking about fish, the water sources and the many activities that impact First Nations rights and cultures.
  • Fishing in many First Nations is a key activity in transmitting cultures and languages. Use May 21 as an opportunity to learn, share and pass on those words and practices.
  • Fishing and food is integral in First Nations cultures. Fishing is an important part of trade, labour and the economy. It helps to shape identity, promote mental, physical and spiritual health, including suicide prevention and life promotion.
  • Sustainable, strong fishery economies and water and environmental protection fosters strong individuals and nations.

Inherent Rights and Governance Systems

  • First Nations in Canada have inherent and Treaty rights protected in the Canadian Constitution. These rights include the right to traditional and customary governance of traditional lands, waters and resources, including fisheries.
  • The duty of the Crown states that the federal government must consult and accommodate First Nations in any decision-making involved in First Nations territories. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples further articulates Indigenous rights including Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
  • Courts in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, have made a number of decisions recognizing First Nations rights. Some significant decisions recognizing the rights of First Nations to fish and exercise governance over their traditional fisheries include Sparrow (1990), Gladstone (1996), Delgamuukw (1997), Marshall (1999), Haida (2004) and Ahousaht (2009).
  • 200+ Canadian Supreme Court decisions bear the name of many First Nations individuals who fought valiantly for their rights. First Nations must now be included in any discussions on fisheries and oceans management, water source protection.
  • First Nations rights are also articulated in international law, specifically in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Specific articles related to fishing include Article 25, Article 32 (2) and Article 32 (3).

A number of First Nations are exercising the right to institute their own laws in regards to fishing. These include the Sheshegwaning First Nations first aquaculture law, Listguj Miqmaq first-ever salmon law and Nisga Lisims fish and wildlife laws.

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Roy WhiteduckFirst Nations Fishing Rights – Fact Sheet

AFN BULLETIN – UPDATE: First Nations Education May 2018

on May 15, 2018

First Nations Control of First Nations Education

The work and progress in the area of education is guided by direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly and the long-standing goal of achieving First Nations control of First Nations Education.  First Nations control of First Nations Education means respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction. It means First Nations education systems under First Nations control and based on First Nations design, supported by direct transfers from the federal government.

While efforts continue for adequate funding and student supports, First Nations control of First Nations education is happening now in nations across the country.  Through the efforts of educators, leaders and experts across the country, courses and curricula delivered in First Nations controlled schools and institutes are beginning to reflect the perspectives and foundations of First Nations traditions and worldviews.  These important changes have led to an increasing number of relevant approaches to education that strengthen First Nations identities and dramatically improve opportunities for success. This is reconciliation in action.

It’s often said that everyone has a role in reconciliation.  One role for First Nations is to help share with Canadians our stories, our shared history and our future goals.  The AFN has prepared a digital education resource with the goal of helping to prepare non-First Nations educators.  “It’s our Time First Nations Education Toolkit” provides culturally relevant, accessible, hands-on educational tools to teach First Nations cultures and history.  The Toolkit provides First Nations and non-First Nations learners, teachers, schools, institutions and the Canadian public with a resource that fosters a spirit of cooperation, understanding and, most importantly, action.  The Toolkit is currently available at

Memorandum to Cabinet: Unlocking Investments for First Nations Education

We acknowledge and highlight success to date in achieving First Nations control of First Nations education, yet there continues to be barriers to student success.  Helping to secure fair funding for First Nations children and students remains a key priority for the AFN.  Federal funds for education were set aside in the 2016 federal budget.  Earmarked for “Transforming First Nation Education,” approximately $665 million will be available soon to First Nations across the country to design their own regional funding agreements based on real needs.  Based on direction from Chiefs-in-Assembly, the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) is working with the office of the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada on a Memorandum to Cabinet that will make these funds available to First Nations.

A Memorandum to Cabinet is a document used by a Minister to propose and explain a new measure or new initiative and to obtain cabinet approval.  In this case, it is a necessary step to achieving policy and program change for federal education programming and funding.

First Nations and the AFN have been advocating since 2001 for policy and program reform that provides core funding for education directly to First Nations governments, education organizations and schools. The intent of the Memorandum to Cabinet is not to develop federal legislation for First Nations education and the federal government will not delegate any education responsibilities or funding to any provincial or territorial government. Efforts toward the Memorandum to Cabinet are based on respecting, protecting and enforcing First Nations inherent rights and Treaty rights, title and jurisdiction.  The goal is to allow for direct transfers to First Nations governments for First Nations education. Jurisdiction will remain with each First Nations Chief and Council.

For more information about the Memorandum to Cabinet process please visit or connect directly with the Chiefs Committee on Education representative in your region.

First Nations Post-Secondary Education Federal Review

The federal government is conducting a review of First Nations post-secondary education funding as part of commitments made in Budget 2016.  The AFN is working with First Nations education experts who are facilitating the development of a report and recommendations to be incorporated into the federal review.

Technical teams made up of First Nations leaders, learners, directors of education and representatives from First Nations education institutes from across the country are currently reviewing federal post-secondary education programming.  With the help of independent facilitators, the two technical tables (one to address the needs of First Nations students, the second to address the needs of First Nations education institutions) are analyzing current funding structures and identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement.  These teams will provide recommendations with the intent to create policy changes that will improve access to post-secondary education and improve supports required for student success.

The AFN anticipates a report with recommendations will be available for review by Chiefs-in-Assembly in July 2018. For more information and to hear more about the review process from technical team members visit

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Roy WhiteduckAFN BULLETIN – UPDATE: First Nations Education May 2018

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Opening Address to the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation

on May 3, 2018

May 1, 2018

Tawaw kahkiyaw,
okimâwak, nâpewak, iskwewak, kêhtêak, oskâyak. Okimaw piyisiw awasis nitisihkason. Miyo kisikaw anoch.

Chief Whiteduck, thank you for welcoming us to the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.

To the Elders, Bear Babin and all the pipe carriers who led the pipe ceremony, and Josie Whiteduck for that beautiful water ceremony to start us off in a good way this morning. Thank you to Ryder and Quill Cote-Nottaway for those words of welcome. And for the great job done by our Drum Group, Eagle River Singers for our songs – our Grand Entry song, our Flag song, and our Victory Song. Thank you so much, for when we hear that drum beat, we say that is the heart beat of Mother Earth and it beats in all of us. It unites us and ties us together.


Chiefs, friends and relatives, good morning. I shake hands with each and every one of you in a humble and respectful way.

We come together at a time of great opportunity. A time of change. And with so many important things happening, policy and legislative initiatives, we know that you have questions. And we want to tell you what we know, and learn of the solutions you see.

We called this Special Chiefs Assembly because there is so much happening.  Several pieces of legislation are coming at us, and we want to be sure First Nations benefit from all of them.

We want to be sure any legislation respects our rights and doesn’t impact in a negative way our Treaty rights or our Aboriginal Rights and Title.

We wanted this opportunity to work together, to come together and ask questions, because there is so much happening.

When I was elected National Chief, we developed a plan to ensure First Nations priorities advanced. We wrote the Closing the Gap document. During the last federal election, we shared that plan with each of the federal parties. We asked for their commitment to work with First Nations on meaningful reconciliation, on rights adoption and implementation, with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foundation.

We did this, and that is what is driving the national agenda now. Together, we made Canadians care about First Nations priorities. And that is why we are here today – because change is happening.

Together, we are the Assembly of First Nations. We have been working for policy and legislative change for decades – and that is what is happening.

We have forged many avenues and created many opportunities to make progress. But we also need time for questions, time for you to work out the details as First Nations, time to make sure things are going in the right direction.

We have the Indigenous Languages Act which our Chiefs Committee on Languages has been working on to revitalize and restore all of our First Nations languages. We can’t afford to lose even one of them. They are so fundamental to who we are. We need to revitalize, bring about fluency and restore them. And one day in our Assembly, all we will hear are the languages of our old people.

Studies have shown that when our young people are fluent in their language, when they know who they are and where they come from, they are more successful in school and, therefore, more successful in life.

Language is key. Today, for the first time ever at an AFN Assembly, when the Chiefs get up and speak, when they speak in their own language, we will have interpreters translating. Haudenasaunee.  Mi’kmaq.  Ojibway. Cree. Nakota.  Today, we’ll hear our First Nations languages spoken at our Assembly, but with interpreters for all to understand.

Minister Joly is responsible for introducing the Indigenous languages bill. We need to get that done this fall because if it doesn’t hit that timeframe, we run the risk of not having this federal legislation, of not having a statutory responsibility for the federal budget to include funds for language recovery and revitalization.

Because in October of 2019, Canada will have another federal election. And any legislation that isn’t passed, will die on the order paper. So we need to focus and to get things done.

Another piece of legislation that is top priority is Bill C-262, which has already passed second reading. We want to be sure it becomes law. Bill C-262 provides a framework to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a Private Members Bill sponsored by Romeo Saganash, and the government is supporting it.

Bill C-262 is about realizing rights that have always existed. It’s not giving us anything. We have inherent rights. They are already recognized in Canada’s Constitution. They have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in more than 200 decisions in favour of First Nations. And Bill C-262 provides a framework to help us realize those rights in practice. It’s about finding a better way to work together so that we don’t have to keep spending millions of dollars and wasting years fighting in the courts.

The UN Declaration affirms our right to Free Prior and Informed Consent when decisions are being made that impact us. It’s in Article 19: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

There needs to be dialogue between governments and First Nations peoples to establish how Free Prior and Informed Consent will be obtained and respected. How do we operationalize Free Prior and Informed Consent? We must work together to substantively answer that question. It will be different in different circumstances.

It is not a “one size fits all.” Just as there are different points of view between the provinces.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is the perfect example. Some First Nations are for the pipeline, and some are not for it. We need to use our traditional protocols to get our people together to resolve this amongst ourselves – our dispute resolution process, using our traditional protocols.

There is a great deal of work for us to do together. One area of consensus is that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation. It provides a set of minimum standards that States have committed to fully implement. And it is a floor, not a ceiling.

There are currently two proposals to advance implementation of the Declaration. Bill C-262 is now before Parliament. Chiefs-in-Assembly expressed their support and I have urged all parties to support it. The government supports Bill C-262. This legislation represents a first important step to advance implementation of the UN Declaration through joint efforts, including development of a National Action Plan.

In the House of Commons, on February 14 of this year, the Prime Minister announced the government’s intention to develop, with Indigenous peoples, a “Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework”.

One element of this framework would be to require federal officials to carry out their duties in ways that respect our rights under the Constitution and international law.

The government talks of doing things in a new way. It is time for Canada to direct its lawyers to take positions in court that match the government’s statements on rights recognition. It’s time to abandon the old policies of rights denial. That is something that could happen right now. I have written the Prime Minister and urged the Minister of Justice to work on changes to the Crown’s approach to litigation management.

That day on the House, the Prime Minister spoke of “new ways” to recognize and implement Indigenous rights. He said this will include new legislation, and the government is moving very fast on this. The federal government wants to develop this framework, which they have described as “building on” Bill C-262 and the UN Declaration, as “going further”.

And they want to get something done before the next election, just a year and a half from now. We have said there must be greater transparency and better engagement with all First Nations.

A lot of you Chiefs have a great many questions about this Rights Recognition Framework. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Because there are so many questions to be determined by First Nations rights holders. What structure do you want to use? Is it bands or reserves? Is it Treaty areas? How do you want to reconstitute our Nations and Tribes?

We know that we need to fix Canada’s laws, policies and practices. We need to develop our own laws and move beyond the Indian Act. Comprehensive claims, specific claims, the Additions to Reserve policy and that inherent right to self-government policy. All of those current federal policies are based on termination of rights, not recognition of rights and Title. So we’ve got to fix them.

Recognition of our inherent right to self-determination – that’s what we’ve got to get to. That policy is so important. The Department of Indigenous Services has about 200 tables. Tables intended to move beyond the Indian Act. How does this fit with the rights recognition framework, and what Prime Minister Trudeau said in the House on February 14? How do affected First Nations wish to move beyond the Indian Act?

This is a big piece, this Rights Recognition Framework.

We also have Minister Jody Wilson Raybould’s 10 principles. At the Assembly of First Nations we’ve been doing our analysis of those. They don’t exactly align with the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. How do they influence the work we’re trying to do? We didn’t develop them. And the process that they are using is not our process – it’s their process, their timeframe. And they are trying to rush it. And we’re saying slow it down, slow it down so we all understand what is involved.

How will the Rights Recognition Framework work with Bill C-262, the UN Declaration Bill? How will it impact our Treaties?

And if you slow it down, you run the risk of it not making the timeframe before the next federal election. So it’s something we’ve got to digest, dialogue about, debate, and seek direction on.

And that’s why we’re here. To weigh the opportunities with the risks. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Come the fall of 2019, it could continue to be Prime Minister Trudeau. Or it could be Prime Minister Singh. It could be Prime Minister Scheer or Prime Minister May.

Another piece of legislation that we’ve got to deal with is cannabis. A Justice Department representative told a House Committee that it will apply across the board whether First Nations want it or not.  Well, what about First Nations jurisdiction and the right to determine what happens on our own lands and with our own peoples? There is also the matter of our exclusion from the dialogue regarding the Excise Tax. 75 per cent to the provinces, 25% to the federal government – what about our governments?

Then there’s Bill C68 and C69 – changes to the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Regulatory Review Process on energy projects and navigable waters. The Assembly of First Nations Environment Sector – that is the Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment, the ACCAE Committee – has been focused on advancing Indigenous Knowledge Systems and working with our Elders Council. They’ve been hosting technical briefing sessions across the country regarding this legislation.

This is another Bill the government intends to pass before the next election. It’s now at the amendments stage of the process. So we still have a chance to influence the legislation. And then the regulations and the policies that determine how the law actually works in practice.

On the Child and Family services front, we have new monies in the federal budget after four orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. $1.4 billion dollars over six years. We placed a priority on investments in child welfare during our pre-budget advocacy work, and we saw new investments in child welfare in Budget 2018.

July 18 is the next time the premiers get together at the Council of the Federation meeting. Previously, in July of 2016 the Premiers all committed to one thing, and we want to hold them to account for that one thing – child welfare. We have 40,000 children in care. Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott has called our situation “a humanitarian crisis.” In January, at an emergency meeting on child and family services, I called for the establishment of tripartite working tables in each of the 13 provinces and territories to work towards addressing the challenges our children face in the off-reserve child and family services systems.

We see some pockets of progress. Just last week in British Columbia, Chief Wayne Christian and other First Nations leaders were successful in seeing legislation introduced to ensure First Nations have jurisdiction over the welfare of First Nations children in that province, no matter where they live. And in Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaw worked with the province to change legislation and shift the focus to prevention, which has led to a significant decrease in the number of First Nations children in care.

We work every day on reforming these systems – fighting for fair and adequate funding for the services on reserve, and for those children in care across the provinces and territories. Our focus is on prevention, adequate funding, and acknowledging the inherent right and jurisdiction of First Nations to provide care and protection for their children. Nationally, that work is led by the National Advisory Committee chaired by Grand Chief Ed John. Minister Jane Philpott has talked about a broad review of laws and policies on child and family services, done with First Nations leadership. She will be with us tomorrow.

Under Section 88 of the Indian Act, where no federal law is in place, provincial laws apply. So we need to exert First Nations jurisdiction and put our own laws in place so that provincial acts don’t apply. We have always said we need our own laws over child and family services to protect our children and keep as many as possible safe in our communities.

Now, while we’re together this morning Chiefs, I want to take a few minutes to give you an update on a few other things.

On March 26, we had our MOU meeting with federal ministers, plus the 10 Regional Chiefs. As the Assembly of First Nations, we have an agreement to meet three times a year with federal ministers. And the Prime Minister is committed to one of those meetings each year.

We met last month, and we continued our work on a new fiscal relationship between the Crown and First Nations, a fiscal relationship that provides sufficient, predictable, and sustainable funding based on real needs.

We need to see that investments are continually made and are needed each and every year to close the gap. So every year we meet with Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister. He’s the one we need to influence to make sure that gap continues to close. And we’ve been pretty successful. $17 billion in the last three budgets over seven fiscal years – three times what was promised in the Kelowna Accord.

And let me be very clear on this point: this is a debt owed by Canada, a debt owed for the resources used to build this country and its economy. Our new fiscal relationship has to flow from the land and resource wealth we are sharing with all Canadians.

That new fiscal relationship is one of the things we talk about during those MOU meetings. And because of that work at the Chiefs Committee on fiscal table, you’re now able to carry over some of that money now from one fiscal year to the next. It was a simple policy change. Remember March madness? Spend it or lose it? Not there anymore.

We also talked about policing as an essential service. In January, Minister Goodale announced $291 million for First Nations policing. There is still a way to go for First Nations policing to be seen as an essential service, and to be able to deliver services comparable to the RCMP and other regional police services. That work continues.

Internally, at the Assembly of First Nations, we’ve put three new Chiefs Committees in place. A Chiefs Committee on Gaming. I think there is an opportunity now to amend Section 207 of the Criminal Code and exert First Nations jurisdiction over all gaming on reserve. We’ve established a Chiefs Committee on Border Crossing, and another one on Nation Building to deal with the rights recognition framework, Bill C-262, and implementing the UN Declaration. We’ve asked Regional Chiefs to appoint Chiefs to these Committees.

Work is continuing on 100 Wellington, the Indigenous Peoples House. That building directly opposite Parliament Hill is an important symbol of our presence in these lands. And working with the Algonquin peoples, and working with the Inuit and the Metis leaders, we need to identify the proper purpose for this new facility.

Internationally, we have NAFTA. I was asked to be on Minister Chrystia Freeland’s Advisory Committee and the first thing I recommended was an Indigenous Peoples Chapter. Things have changed since NAFTA was first negotiated. The three countries in these negotiations have all endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now they must honour it by including an Indigenous Peoples Chapter.

We don’t know where NAFTA is going to go, but we’ve got Canada to present an Indigenous People Chapter in NAFTA. And we’ve got to do the same with CETA and FIPA – all the other international trade agreements.

And finally, I want to close with a few words about our work to get Pope Francis to come and meet with First Nations peoples, meet with the Residential School survivors and their families, to hear from the Pope directly. The Catholic Church is the only one not to apologize. 70 per cent of children in Residential Schools were in Catholic run schools. We need him to say sorry.

And when he comes, we also want him to make a strong statement against the Doctrine of Discovery, the Doctrine of Terra Nullius – those illegal, racist doctrines. That is how the Crown assumed jurisdiction. Those doctrines are being recognized around the world as illegal racist doctrines. They were the basis for assumed Crown sovereignty and assumed jurisdiction. We want the Pope to renounce them.

Chiefs, over the next two days we will have our discussions, our respectful debates and our dialogues. As Chiefs, you want a strong, united Assembly of First Nations. We have created significant opportunities for change and the real work is upon us. That is the work we started, and that is why we are here together – to continue that work.


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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Opening Address to the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation

April 2018 – National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin

on April 23, 2018

DetermiNATION: Moving Beyond the Indian Act Conference

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has announced the determiNATION: Moving Beyond the Indian Act conference, the first-ever Indigenous-led summit that will bring together leaders to create a plan for moving beyond the Indian Act.

Scheduled for May 23-24, 2018 on the traditional and unceded territories of the Algonquin Nation (Ottawa), determiNATION is described as a national conference to plan for a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples based on rights, recognition and reconciliation.

NAN, in partnership with Osgoode Hall Law School, aims to create a venue for a broad range of voices including Indigenous youth, women, leaders, Elders, legal and scholarly experts, keepers of traditional Indigenous knowledge, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada. NAN anticipates the participation of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Additional speakers and facilitators will be announced in coming weeks.

This conference will be structured around the themes of premises, principles, and institutional, legislative, and constitutional mechanisms, with the goal of creating a plan of action.

More information and online registration is available at

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Roy WhiteduckApril 2018 – National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin

Assembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart Congratulates Treaty 1 First Nations for Agreement in Principle on Former Kapyong Barracks

on April 13, 2018

April 13, 2018

(Winnipeg, MB) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart attended the April 10 announcement of the Agreement in Principle between Treaty 1 First Nations and the Government of Canada for the Kapyong Barracks land in Winnipeg, MB.

“I commend the leadership of Treaty 1 for their diligence and determination in pursuing this Agreement in Principle,” said Regional Chief Hart. “It took many years and there were times when they had to fight the federal government in court, but they stood strong and now we see their success. This is a positive outcome that benefits everyone, not just First Nations but the city and the province as well. We congratulate the leaders and citizens of Treaty 1 and stand with them as they continue their journey towards a Final Agreement.”

Kapyong Barrack in Winnipeg was abandoned in 2004 when the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry moved from the military base near Kenaston and Grant to the Canadian Forces Base in Shilo, Manitoba. The Canadian Forces then declared the site a surplus and the Federal Treasury Board tried to sell it to a Crown Corporation. This decision was challenged in court by Treaty 1 First Nations, stating it was outstanding Treaty Land Entitlement claims which meant they had the right to the site. Treaty 1 First nations prevailed and achieved the Agreement in Principle, and will now work towards a Final Agreement.


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



For media requests or more information, please contact:

Monica Poirier
AFN Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-290-0706 (cell)
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAssembly of First Nations Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart Congratulates Treaty 1 First Nations for Agreement in Principle on Former Kapyong Barracks

AFN BULLETIN – Meeting on AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities

on April 9, 2018

April 2018

The third meeting under the AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Joint Priorities took place March 26, 2018. The MOU calls for regular meetings to discuss key issues and assess progress on shared priorities and is not a decision-making forum. These meetings provide an opportunity for AFN leadership to engage with senior federal cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries in open, constructive dialogue to advance First Nations priorities.

Following an opening prayer discussion proceeded on the jointly developed agenda:

  • Federal Budget 2018
  • Co-development of an Indigenous Languages Act
  • Closing the Gap: First Nations Child and Family Services, New Fiscal Relationship, First Nations Housing
  • Policy Review: Specific Claims Policy, Additions to Reserve Policy
  • Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework, Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Comprehensive Claims Policy, and Inherent Right to Self-Government Policy
  • Next Steps

This Bulletin provides some highlights and key information from the discussion.

On the federal budget, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde acknowledged that over the last three federal budgets provide investments of more than $16 Billion over 7 years for First Nations and Indigenous peoples. These unprecedented investments are a result of strong advocacy by the AFN under National Chief Bellegarde’s leadership. The National Chief stated the key is to get these resources to First Nations governments, communities and people effectively and efficiently so that they can make a real difference on the ground, in people’s lives. The resources provided to help close the gap in First Nations child welfare are welcome, though overdue.

Work on co-developing an Indigenous Languages Act is making progress. First Nations leadership called for more engagement. This is expected as part of the process, but it must be robust, comprehensive and reach the community level.

In the discussion around Closing the Gap Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) Minister Jane Philpott noted that funds for First Nations education will flow as a result of the current Memorandum to Cabinet process (see AFN Bulletin of November 2017, AFN Update on First Nations Education, available on the AFN website), including funding for First Nations language instruction on-reserve.

The Fiscal Relations work continues and has already resulted in helpful changes like the ability to carry over funding. Next steps include a move towards 10-year grants instead of unpredictable annual contribution agreements. There is potential for this to happen with some First Nation governments by April 2019. The National Chief wants the working table expanded to include Finance and Treasury Board.

On Housing, the ISC Minister noted the need for continued advocacy for more resources for First Nations housing. The Minister said that addressing First Nations housing needs requires not only more funding but also more support for innovation and First Nations-driven approaches. Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Ignace Gull spoke to the immediate need in his community for 350 homes, and issues around the land needed for housing.

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart requested a detailed breakdown from the federal government on funding for First Nations child and family services, including amounts that will reach First Nations child welfare agencies directly. This information was not immediately available and there is a commitment to follow-up.

Regional Chief Kluane Adamek spoke about the need for an innovative approach to closing the gap in the North. She cited the Arctic Policy Framework as one current government initiative which has required a Northern distinctions-based approach.

First Nations policing was raised as an urgent matter, including the need for it to be deemed an essential service and funded as such. AFN Quebec-Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard stated that “public safety is an essential service” yet this does not seem to be the case for First Nations. The government was urged to finalize agreements with First Nations policing services before those agreements expire.

In the Legislative and Policy review discussion, the National Chief reiterated the need to reorient federal laws and policies so that they are based on rights recognition instead of termination. AFN Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras noted the variability in implementing and communicating policy changes in the regions and called for more consistent information from the federal government on changes to the Additions to Reserve Policy.

National Chief Bellegarde spoke to the government’s announcement in February 2018, about working with Indigenous peoples to create a Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework. The National Chief stated concerns about the current approach to engagement, including a disconnect between the Prime Minister’s announcement and public information materials being used by the government.

The National Chief noted that timeframes the government has set for itself are very tight if the government is going to try to get legislation in place before the next election. The overriding priority must be getting this work right. It must not be rushed. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould put forward her thoughts on potential elements: legislation must confirm the standards of rights as the basis for all decisions; it must establish new mechanisms to recognize Indigenous governments’ jurisdiction – that where an Indigenous government brings forward a vision, Canada must honour it; new tools necessary to support this work, such as new institutions and new ways to resolve disputes and avoid litigation, which should include Indigenous approaches; and substantive transformation to the Inherent Rights Policy and Claims Policy.

AFN Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day set out key areas for work, including Health transformation as a top priority for the ISC Minister. Regional Chief Day also spoke about the importance of Treaties and lands and resources.

The meeting closed with an agreement to identify a date for the next gathering.

The AFN is convening a Special Chiefs Assembly on May 1 & 2, 2018, in Gatineau, Quebec, to focus on federal legislation impacting First Nations. More information is available on the AFN website at

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Roy WhiteduckAFN BULLETIN – Meeting on AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities

Assembly of First Nations Supports Indigenous-Led Conservation in Canada, Report by Indigenous Circle of Experts Points the Way Forward

on April 6, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, together with Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek, commend the work of the Indigenous Circle of Experts on the release of their report recommending changes in the way conservation areas in Canada are created and managed.

“This report’s recommendations provide an essential guide for all governments in respecting and asserting Indigenous rights and our responsibilities to the lands and waters,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “This report and its recommendations help point a way forward to partnerships that respect Indigenous peoples, governments, cultures and laws in ways that benefit all of us.”

The report, “We Rise Together – Achieving Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the spirit of practice and reconciliation”, explores the concept of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) and their contribution to conservation outcomes in Canada.  It was shared by the Indigenous Circle of Experts with federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in ceremony March 28, 2018.

The report includes 28 recommendations to support the establishment of IPCAs, including through the reconciliation of existing areas, appropriate recognition of Indigenous-led initiatives and the role of partners in this process. Recommendations include expanded and shared responsibilities between Indigenous and Crown governments for protected areas through appropriate recognition and support of IPCAs.  IPCAs prioritize the connection between a healthy environment and strong culture.

“Indigenous-led protected areas are part of the effort needed now to uphold our rights and environmental responsibilities and we urge the Government of Canada to work together with First Nations and other Indigenous governments to implement these recommendations,” said AFN Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek, Co-Chair of the AFN’s Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment.

In addition to supporting overall conservation objectives, IPCAs will emphasize the primary leadership role of Indigenous governments and respect for Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems, support the revitalization of Indigenous languages, create opportunities for sustainable conservation economies, apply holistic approaches to governance and planning, and respect protocols and ceremony.

The report further outlines principles to support the efforts of governments to meet global biodiversity targets by respecting Indigenous rights, Treaties and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous Circle of Experts is comprised of Indigenous experts and members from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada, and includes representatives from the AFN.  It was created as part of the Pathway to Canada Target 1 to develop a report providing advice to federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments on how to achieve Canada Target 1 through the appropriate recognition of Indigenous leadership and knowledge systems in the conservation of the land and water.

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

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
Assembly of First Nations
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

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


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Angie TurnerAssembly of First Nations Supports Indigenous-Led Conservation in Canada, Report by Indigenous Circle of Experts Points the Way Forward

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde on World Water Day 2018: “We Must Redouble Our Efforts to End all Drinking Water Advisories by 2021”

on March 22, 2018

March 22, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement today on World Water Day 2018 – Nature of Water, marked every year on March 22.

“Water is sacred for First Nations and key to a healthy environment and the health and well-being of all living things,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “Yet too many First Nations are living at risk with no access to clean water. It affects our health, education and livelihood. This is unacceptable in a developed country like Canada. The federal government’s goal of ending all drinking water advisories in First Nations communities by 2021 is clearly a challenge, but we can achieve it by working together in a spirit of partnership and reconciliation. World Water Day is a time to reaffirm this goal and redouble our efforts.”

The United Nations states that 2.1 billion people in the world do not have safe drinking water in their homes. In Canada, as of March 5 there are 81 long-term drinking water advisories in 56 First Nation communities affecting 45,000 First Nations citizens who do not have access to safe drinking water.

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who holds the portfolio for Water, Housing and Infrastructure, said: “Access to clean water is a human right. We cannot wait any longer to address the question as to why we have so many existing and re-occurring drinking water advisories for our First Nations communities. The only way the federal government will achieve their commitments to end drinking water advisories by March 2021 is through significant investments in First Nation communities and by working with us to support capacity and innovation.”

Today marks the launch by the UN General Assembly of the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028. The Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives, the implementation and promotion of related programs and projects, as well as furthering cooperation and partnership at all levels to help to achieve internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits to ensure everyone in the world has access to safe drinking water by 2030.


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


For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary
National Chief’s Office
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-290-0706 (cell)
[email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde on World Water Day 2018: “We Must Redouble Our Efforts to End all Drinking Water Advisories by 2021”

AFN Says International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination a Time for All Canadians to Commit to National Strategy to Combat Racism

on March 21, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marked every year on March 21:

“Canada is embarking on a new era of reconciliation. This requires us all to confront hard truths about our shared history and our current reality. In recent weeks and months, many Canadians have witnessed incidents that show how the system and society is failing First Nations, our families and our children – from court rulings that deny justice for our peoples, to expressions of racism and intolerance by Senators and other officials, to hateful and harmful incidents in towns and cities across the country.

First Nations know this reality firsthand because it is our lived experience far too often. Our colonial past is holding us back. But together we can make the changes needed to overcome it and move forward.

I believe that education and awareness lead to understanding and action. I believe more and more Canadians are standing with First Nations and standing up for justice. We can build on this understanding and momentum.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I am calling on all levels of government to commit to working with First Nations to develop a national strategy to address racism in Canada.

The federal government can show leadership by driving this initiative and taking a hard look at its own laws, policies and institutions, and working with First Nations to set in place a new foundation of rights, respect and recognition. They can support other governments in doing the same. Provincial governments can work with First Nations and Indigenous peoples to build bridges and plans for action. Municipalities can work with our people in urban areas on strategies that make a real difference on the ground and in the streets.

It’s encouraging that this kind of work is already happening in some places. Let’s support success and create a stronger country for all of us. When First Nations succeed, Canada succeeds. We can eliminate racism and embark on a new era of reconciliation.”

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21. This year’s theme is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination.”

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

For more information please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary
National Chief’s Office
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-290-0706 (cell)
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
AFN Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 201
613-314-8157 (cell)
[email protected]



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Angie TurnerAFN Says International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination a Time for All Canadians to Commit to National Strategy to Combat Racism

Assembly of First Nations Offers Condolences, Remembers Justa Monk

on March 16, 2018

March 16, 2018

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today offers condolences to the family, friends and community of Justa Monk who passed away March 14 in his home community of Tl’azt’en Nation near Prince George, B.C.

“Today we remember Justa Monk, his strong leadership and passion for all his work grounded in First Nations rights, governance and the Dakelh language and traditions,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “Justa made significant contributions to Tl’azt’en Nation, the Dakelh Territory, British Columbia and all First Nations through his work in many leadership roles as band manager, Chief, Tribal Chief, and First Nations Summit Executive member.  We offer condolences to his family, friends and nation. He will be missed.”

Justa Monk was the first ever Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and held this position from 1981 to 1983 and then again from 1990 to 1994.  He later acted as advisor to the Tribal Council and served on the executive of the First Nations Summit. As band manager and Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation, he achieved clean drinking water, electricity and improved roads.

Justa Monk chronicled his life story, including his time at residential school, his work in the forest industry and his leadership roles and efforts, in a biography written with Bridget Moran and published in 1994. Justa Monk was 75.

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



For media requests or more information, please contact:

Jamie Monastyrski
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
343-540-6179 (cell)
[email protected]

Jenna Young Castro
AFN Communications Officer
613-241-6789 ext. 201
613-314-8157 (cell) or [email protected]

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Roy WhiteduckAssembly of First Nations Offers Condolences, Remembers Justa Monk
Assembly of First Nations