A Communiqué From National Chief Shawn Atleo January 15, 2010

by NationTalk on January 21, 20101536 Views

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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

On behalf of the organization, the Executive members and myself, I wish all First Nation citizens and leaders a Happy New Year and look forward to our working together in 2010!The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 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. I am pleased to provide the following update on recent activities.

Parliament of Canada prorogued

Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted a request from Prime Minister Harper on December 30, 2009 to prorogue this session of parliament.

What does this mean to First Nations? The prorogation effectively dissolves parliament, and wipes the legislative slate clean of any government legislation and committee work that was under discussion. For example, Bill C-8 (Matrimonial Real Property), which was at the second reading stage, is no longer in the legislative cycle and if the government wishes to pursue the legislation again, it will have to start from the beginning.

It is important to note that private members bills still can be reactivated in a new session. Therefore, the bill to repeal the long gun registry may be reinstated if a majority of the members agree.

The new session of parliament will begin on March 3rd with a speech from the throne followed by the federal budget on March 4th. With a new legislative session commencing, there is opportunity for consideration of real solutions to the critical issues facing First Nations rather than narrowly prescribed legislative approaches that fail to respect First Nation rights, to recognize First Nation jurisdiction and to implement and support the capacity-building needed at the community level. Through our advocacy on Parliament Hill, we have called upon all parliamentarians to form a special legislative committee to examine the fundamental barriers inherent in the current Indian Act framework rather than focusing on issues in isolation. In particular, on matters of First Nations drinking water, on MRP and in education, First Nations solutions must be supported.

Over the next two months, the AFN will continue to advance our strategic plan and to advocate for real commitments and investments in First Nations children, families and communities. We will continue to keep you informed of all developments. If you have any questions on legislation that was before Parliament or any other issues, please contact Karen Campbell at (613) 241-6789 ext. 263 (kcampbell[at]afn.ca) or Bonnie Leask at (613) 241-6789 ext. 403 (bleask[at]afn.ca).

United Nations Climate Change Conference – Copenhagen

At the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) which took place in Copenhagen December 7 -18, 2009, I attended as part of the Canadian Delegation at the invitation of the Minister of the Environment. This provided a valuable opportunity to build on the strategies developed at the Special Chiefs Assembly.

We raised three key issues at the Conference, first that Indigenous peoples, in Canada and globally, are the first affected and the most severely impacted by climate change because of our close relationship to the land. We noted that special funding specific to First Nations and extensive support is required to research and monitor climate change impacts and its social implications so that we can design and implement adaptation initiatives in a manner that recognizes our relationship to the environment. Next, we spoke about governments’ duty to consult with Indigenous peoples on national or provincial approaches dealing with climate change, including emission reductions, offsets, mitigation, and adaptation. We noted consultations must be based on the recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and UNDRIP, including the right to Prior Informed Consent (PIC). Finally, we noted that Indigenous peoples have solutions to offer based on our traditional knowledge which include observations about how climate change is effecting our environment and changing the ecological balance we depend upon by altering habitats and biodiversity. By offering insight on sustainable practices, conservation in terms of natural resources management, we can play a vital role in mitigating climate change by protecting the environment for future generations. This includes balancing economic development with environmental protection and Indigenous rights.

In moving forward, we identified three areas of focus in developing a strategy. These include: 1) Working with First Nations in Canada to develop an energy policy; 2) Working with Indigenous peoples in the U.S. and the North to develop a North American perspective; and 3) Working with First Nations in Canada to develop a position on carbon cap-and-trade.

Prime Minister meeting

While in Copenhagen, I was able to meet with Prime Minister Harper. This was our first opportunity to have a full discussion that focused on our shared interest in building an open relationship aimed at constructive ways in which we can engage on the issues facing First Nations and all of Canada. I believe that the relationship itself provides guidance and an important framework to advance specific priorities.

Specific items of the discussion included the importance of building on the residential school apology through acting on the urgent needs in education, the tragic situation of murdered and missing women and implementing First Nation governance beyond the Indian Act.

In closing, I look forward to a productive year in 2010.

Assembly of First Nations, 473 Albert Street, Suite 810, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 5B4
Toll-free: 1-866-869-6789 Fax: (613) 241-5808 www.afn.ca

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