A Communiqué from National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on the National Chief’s activities and work underway at the national office. More information can be found on the AFN’s website at www.afn.ca
The Assembly of First Nations is embarking on a strategic and forward-looking agenda. I believe this is our time, a time for Indigenous peoples to come together in recognition and respect to lead the change that is required for our people. In that spirit, I am pleased to provide the following update on recent activities.AFN Special Chiefs Assembly December 8-10, 2009
“First Nations – Crown Relations”
The Assembly of First Nations has announced that its Special Chiefs Assembly will be held in Ottawa, Ontario from December 8 – 10. Information has been sent to all First Nations and is available on the AFN website.
The theme of this Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) is First Nations – Crown Relations. The format of this SCA is going to be somewhat different from previous Assemblies. We are taking a different approach that is aimed at achieving ideal outcomes, including clear statements and clear direction on key issues. This is our opportunity to set an agenda aimed at addressing our priorities and achieving our goals. We can all agree that we do not want to spend all our time responding to federal or external initiatives. Our responsibility is to create a plan of action, not a plan of reaction. We are putting forward an agenda that will help us achieve this objective.
Both the first and second day will have a portion of time dedicated to Caucus Sessions reflective of the various First Nation – Crown relationships. The three broad categories are Treaties; Aboriginal Title and Rights; and Implementation/Land Claims Coalition. There will be an opportunity for all First Nations to gather within their respective groups based on your primary focus. There will be facilitated discussions aimed at providing an extensive dialogue to identify key interests and confirm a “go forward” plan of actions that is strategic and coordinated.
The SCA will include, of course, our usual plenary activities including reports on key issues and emerging priorities, and updates from our Elder’s, Youth and Women’s Councils. Our overall goal is to come out of this SCA with consensus on action plans that will take our peoples and our governments forward through the coming months.
I should also note that the day before the SCA (Monday, December 7) will be devoted to special dialogue sessions on selected key issues. These are not part of the regular Assembly agenda but are opportunities for Chiefs committees and other interested Assembly delegates to reviewrecent policy and legal developments; related draft SCA resolutions and linkages to the AFN Strategic Plan (available on the AFN website); and to contribute to the development of SCA presentations on these topics. An agenda will be sent shortly but topics are expected to includeEducation, Citizenship, fostering First Nations economies and climate change.
As well, on Monday evening a reception will be held with Members of Parliament and their officials. This is an opportunity to engage with MPs on national issues of common interest and pursue regional and community-specific issues. Details will be provided to you very soon.
This is our first national gathering since the election in Calgary in July so this will be animportant opportunity to meet together. I look forward to reporting directly to you on the exciting work we have been engaged on since July and most importantly working with you to set the path forward.
The Aboriginal Affairs Working Group
The inaugural meeting of the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group (AAWG) took place on October 29. The AAWG is the result of a proposal made by AFN at the most recent meeting of Premiers and Territorial Leaders – called the Council of the Federation – in August. The AAWG was attended by the leaders of five National Aboriginal Organizations (NAOs), along with the Provincial and Territorial Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and their representatives, and federal Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl.
The AAWG meeting was a success. The outcomes from the meeting were consistent with the work that had taken place jointly between the NAOs and Provinces and Territories, but it is notable that federal representatives were present at this meeting. This signals the importance of this emerging forum.
The Provinces and Territories effectively endorsed an ongoing process of collaboration with the NAOs, including another AAWG meeting in April 2010, as well as the call for a First Ministers Meeting on Aboriginal Issues in 2010.
It is expected that work at the officials level will commence almost immediately to prepare for the next meeting in April. Extensive collaboration is expected to take place amongst allparticipants on two key issues: Education and Economic Development. The need for parallelwork on Health and Well-being is expected to be raised following the meeting in April.
A resolution is expected to be brought forward at the upcoming SCA relating to this new process.
Update on Key Issues
For more background on any of these issues see the October Bulletin to All First Nations on the AFN website.
The McIvor Case Will Not Be Heard by the Supreme Court of Canada
As noted in my October 2009 communiqué, Sharon McIvor was seeking leave to appeal her case to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), having received a fairly narrow ruling from the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA). On November 6, 2009, the SCC dismissed the application, which means that the decision of the BCCA stands.
The case dealt with the membership and status provisions of the Indian Act. Now that the SCC has announced it will not hear the appeal, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) will proceed to amend the Indian Act to respond to this decision. INAC will likely move quickly to introduce these amendments in the House of Commons so that changes can be in place by the April 26, 2010 deadline set by the court.
I wrote Minister Strahl on November 13, 2009 to inform him that the substance, scope and timelines of INAC’s amendment process are not consistent with the Nation-to-Nation relationship and will not be acceptable to First Nations. I also urged Minister Strahl to take this opportunity to begin a broader and meaningful dialogue with First Nations to implement their jurisdiction on matters of citizenship.
I look forward to the important discussions that will take place on this matter at the upcoming Special Chiefs Assembly.
Delay of Child Welfare Complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission
The AFN and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) filed a case with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) two years ago based on the fact that the federal government is not funding First Nations child welfare agencies at the same level as provincial services, the result being unequal services.
The hearing was set to begin on November 16, but on November 6 the parties were informed that the new Tribunal Chair overseeing the hearing had cancelled the start of the evidentiary hearing. This delay is untimely as the parties had gone to great efforts to prepare for the beginning of the hearing, and our legal counsel was ready to begin. There is still no clear reason as to why the hearing has been delayed.
We understand the hardship that inequality has on First Nations children and families and will be working to ensure a full public tribunal hearing on this important matter resumes as soon as possible. The safety and well-being of our children must be our first priority.
The Canadian Human Rights Act and its Application to First Nations
In June 2008, legislation was passed that will see the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) to Band Councils, Tribal Councils and other authorities operating or administering programs under the Indian Act.
The AFN has been mandated by the Chiefs-in-Assembly to assist First Nations in preparing for the implementation of the CHRA. To do this work, the AFN will be holding dialogue sessions in all ten AFN regions to get your thoughts on this important topic. To facilitate the discussions,AFN has prepared background materials on the legal changes and their impact on First Nations Aboriginal and Treaty rights, First Nations governments, the Indian Act and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada programs and services. These will be available at the dialogue sessions and posted at a later date on the AFN website.
H1N1 Virtual Summit
The Virtual Summit on H1N1 Preparedness and Planning was held on November 10. It was broadcast on-line and featured a panel of experts who updated First Nations on the most recent information about H1N1 as well as an interactive component wherein First Nations were able to raise issues and concerns with officials and get the answers they needed. It was a real success, receiving more than 1,000 hits on the first day. The broadcast has been archived and is still available for viewing. The site itself will remain up until December 31 and will be updated with new resources during this time. To review the Virtual Summit and available information go to www.fnh1n1summit.ca
National Chief’s Schedule – Community Visits and Key Meetings
I continue to be honoured to travel to so many First Nations communities and organizational events across the country. Here is a very brief rundown of some of my travels for November:
November 4 – Attended the AFN Quebec-Labrador Assembly in Montreal, PQ and also met with the First Nations Education Council
November 5 – Attended the Public Health Day in Naotkamegwanning (Kenora, ON)
November 11 – Breakfast with First Nations Veterans and participation in the national Remembrance Day Ceremonies (Ottawa, ON)
November 16 – Meeting with Attikamek Chiefs (AFN QL) in Quebec City, PQ
November 17 – Visit to the community of Wendake, PQ and meeting with the Wendake Council
November 19 – Community visit to Listuguj, PQ
I look forward to meeting many of you over the coming weeks and months. Please contact the AFN office at any time to get in touch with me.
I look forward to seeing all of you in Ottawa for the Special Chiefs Assembly!
Assembly of First Nations, 473 Albert Street, Suite 810, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5B4 Toll-free: 1-866-869-6789 Fax: (613) 241-5808 or www.afn.ca