The Assembly of First Nations Economic Sector focuses on advocating for improved economic policy, programs, services, incentives, economic relations, increased revenue development options and strategic economic development.
The work of the Economic Sector is guided by the national resolutions passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly. The Chiefs-in-Assembly have passed national resolutions on the importance of resource revenue sharing, new investments, e-community, procurement, inter-nation trade cooperation, sustainability, wealth creation, and energy and natural resource development as it relates to First Nations involvement. The Economic Partnerships portfolio equally pursues activities in relation to taxation and gaming but these areas are currently limited due to lack of resources.
The Chiefs Committee on Economic Development provides leadership and guidance on strategic economic development matters.
Labour Market and Human Resources Development
The AFN Economic sector advocates for First Nations jurisdiction in human resources, skills and employment training. The Chiefs Committee on Human Resources Development (CCHRD) provides leadership and guidance on First Nations Labour Market and Human Resources Development matters. The work is also informed by technical and policy advice from the First Nations Technical Working Group (TWG) on Human Resources Development which is comprised of representatives of First Nations Labour Market Agreement holders.
The AFN Economic Sector has been working with the CCHRD and First Nations technical networks in the transitional phase in preparation for the coming into effect of a First Nations Labour Market Strategy for April 1, 2019.
The work on a new distinct First Nations labour market strategy supports the implementation of Chiefs-in-Assembly resolutions on human resources development matters. These resolutions, including AFN Resolution 25/2018,Next Steps on a Distinct First Nations Labour Market Strategy,and 32/2017, Distinct First Nations Labour Market Strategy, provide the following direction to the AFN: affirm First Nations rights to improved economic and social conditions; mandate efforts to address personal and systemic barriers to labour market opportunities faced by First Nations; and support access and options to secure greater economic independence.
The AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly mandated the CCHRD to work jointly with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and ESDC officials on a new distinct First Nations Labour Market Strategy that will seek changes to ensure First Nations jurisdiction togovern and manage investments for training strategies for their citizens are implemented. This includes the pursuit of necessary structural change and support for capacity, new authority, and fiscal resources that are rooted in a government-to-government relationship between Canada and First Nations, and recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.
The February 2018 Federal Budget identified a First Nations stream that will provide $1.1 billion over five years and $235.7 million ongoing to support a stronger focus on training for high quality, better-paying jobs – as opposed to rapid re-employment – and allow for long-term career success.
The AFN Economic Sector and technicians from First Nations labour market organizations continue to work with ESDC officials in the transition to a new distinct approach for First Nations human capital development. Transition Working Groups, comprised of First Nations labour market organizations, have been established to work with ESDC in the transition and implementation phase.
A First Nations Labour Market Council and Secretariat Working Group is reviewing the planning, concept, and role of a Labour Market Council and Secretariat to provide leadership and capacity, act at arm’s length from the Government of Canada, direct research development and maintain outreach with First Nations labour market partners, organizations and agencies under the control and leadership of First Nations.
A Financial Model Working Group is examining and refining a financial model by working with ESDC officials to ensure that all information is considered in developing a distribution methodology that is fair and equitable based on the amounts in Budget 2018.
A Communications Working Group will focus on sharing information on the proposed policy approach and governance approach in the transition to a new labour market structure.
The CCHRD continues to provide guidance to the AFN Economic Sector and the Technical Working Groups to coordinate a new strategy for First Nations Labour Market Development.
AFN First Nations Labour Market Forum recommended a joint cabinet submission with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
With no agreement for joint drafting, a First Nations policy document was developed to provide First Nations views and direction.
The CCHRD recommends a new policy approach for a distinct First Nations Labour Market Strategy and recommends it to the Chiefs-in-Assembly.
Chiefs-in-Assembly passed AFN Resolution 32/2017, Distinct First Nations Labour Market Strategy,supporting a new policy approach and provided guidelines for implementation.
Federal Budget announcement for a First Nations stream within the Indigenous Skills Employment and Training Strategy (ISETS).
AFN First Nations Technical Working Group on Human Resources Development (TWG) 1st National Meeting on the First Nations Labour Market dialogue focused on the key elements of a new First Nations Labour Market Strategy.
AFN TWG 2nd National Meeting on the First Nations Labour Market.
The inherent right to trade and trade relations continues to be a priority for First Nations communities. Strategic considerations regarding First Nations trade relations must be based on the inherent right to trade within and between Nations. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms that “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions to be secure in their enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” guaranteed under Section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.
There are a number of Chiefs-in-Assembly resolutions that provide direction to the AFN through the Chiefs Committee on Economic Development (CCED) to affirm the First Nations inherent right to trade, and to undertake efforts to advocate for First Nations economic growth and the development of options to secure greater economic independence.
The AFN has conducted research and has advocated for enhanced Indigenous people’s trade networks in North America, and globally. The work to date on cooperative trade development has included approaching the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) to establish a working relationship on trade; a memorandum of understanding on trade cooperation with the National Centre for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED); and the 2009 AFN InterNation Trade and Economic Summit which initiated discussions on trade options among First Nations and other Indigenous peoples.
In March 2017, the AFN hosted a Trade Roundtable to initiate a technical dialogue on the elements of a First Nations trade strategy. The AFN’s proposed activity includes plans to continue the dialogue on the development of a First Nations Trade Strategy with First Nations leaders and First Nations trade experts.
The Economic Sector supports opportunities for meaningful dialogue towards First Nations involvement in Canada’s energy sector. The opportunities and the regulation that accompany the development and transmission of energy resources are of great interest to First Nations.
The Chiefs-in-Assembly have passed numerous resolutions that mandate the AFN secretariat to work to ensure that First Nations rights and territorial integrity are respected in each and every circumstance. The focus of this work is on First Nations’ approaches to economic and energy development and the role, rights and jurisdiction (including consent requirements) of First Nations in development regulation to ensure environmental protection and sustainable, responsible development.
The Economic Sector supports the need to re-examine federal and provincial and territorial regulatory regimes to properly take into account First Nations inherent rights and title, including the right to self-determination recognized under international human rights law.
Revenue and benefit sharing, regional/national development planning, engagement approaches by industry, the First Nations work force, capital markets, and financial instruments are areas of substantive work. The federal government’s agenda for greening the economy presents unique opportunities for First Nations governments, individuals and businesses.
Working Group on Natural Resources Development
The Working Group on Natural Resources Development was established in December 2013 to examine ways for First Nations to fully share in natural resource development projects, where interest among First Nations rights holders may exist. The working group released its report titled “First Nations and Natural Resource Development: Advancing Positive, Impactful Change” in early March 2015. The report focused on four central themes: governance, environment, prosperity, and finance. Currently, the Working Group is no longer active.
Empowering First Nations Persons with Disabilities and First Nations Governments on Distinct First Nations Accessibility/ Disability Legislation
At the 2016 Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, ON, the Chiefs-in-Assembly provided direction to the AFN to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to develop a First Nations Agriculture Strategy.
In December 2016, the AAFC met with the AFN to discuss how the two organizations could work together on a strategy. The AFN have engaged in three working group level discussions with AAFC on planning engagement sessions with First Nations on developing an agriculture strategy.
Ongoing work is needed on a long-term, First Nation-specific approach that will continue through the development, implementation and beyond of an agriculture strategy ensuring lasting program benefits for First Nations involved in the many aspects of the agriculture sector.
A timeframe is set out for two initial engagement sessions with First Nations leadership and First Nation agriculture technicians and practitioners. One session is proposed to be held in the east and another in the west. The AFN will continue to plan for engagement sessions that will provide the best information and opportunity for First Nations to engage in the agriculture strategy.