Treaty-making processes of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were undertaken in the spirit of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect by First Nations with the Crown. However, the Crown has failed to fully recognize or respect First Nation rights and title, and instead, with legislation such as the Indian Act, undermined the Treaty relationship. It is critical that First Nations understandings about the nature of Treaties, the significance of the Treaty-making processes and the spirit and intent of Treaties be respected and placed at the centre of a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.
The AFN has participated in numerous Treaty initiatives over the years to assist First Nations Treaty rights holders define shared Treaty implementation priorities and strategies. The AFN national strategy on Treaties is guided by resolution 07/2010, “Sacred Treaties – Sacred Trust: Working Together for Treaty Implementation and Advancing our Sovereignty as Nations”. This resolution calls on AFN to support Treaty First Nations by coordinating the necessary dialogue and facilitating advocacy efforts led by each Treaty region.
The last attempt at the national level to move Treaty implementation efforts forward occurred in 2013 with the AFN – Canada Senior Oversite Committee (SOC) process.
While initially promising, the Chiefs-in-Assembly ultimately chose to withdraw from the SOC process due to a lack of clear federal mandates.
In 2016, the Chiefs-in-Assembly passed resolution 12/2016 which calls on Canada to work with First Nations to develop a comprehensive consultation process that clearly defines the nation-to-nation relationship and includes the full implementation of Treaty rights.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that no relationship is more important than the one with Indigenous peoples, and has committed to seeking reconciliation through a renewed nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition of rights. For many First Nations the nation-to-nation relationship finds meaning, and is defined, by Treaties.
The AFN will continue to look for opportunities to support Treaty implementation initiatives that are defined and driven by Treaty rights holders and Treaty regions, and guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.