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National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin December 2018
National Chief Perry Bellegarde Bulletin December 2018
• The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) held its Special Chiefs Assembly from December 4 – 6, 2018, on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa, Ontario. Fifty-two resolutions were passed and will be posted on the AFN website very soon.
• The AFN participated in the First Ministers Meeting focused on trade and the economy on December 10, 2018, and brought a strong message on the need for First Nations involvement in this work and full respect for First Nations rights.
AFN Special Chiefs Assembly, December 4-6, 2018
Over 1,700 Chiefs, Elders, youth and other delegates attended the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) from December 4 – 6 on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa, Ontario. The theme was “Acknowledging our Challenges, Successes and Opportunities”, and it was a chance to assess progress, set priorities, and strategic direction for the coming year.
We began by acknowledging the absence of long-serving AFN Elder Elmer Courchene, of the Sagkeeng Anicinabe First Nation, who could not join us due to illness. On day one of the Assembly, a chair and blanket were placed with the Elders to honour him and remind us of his presence. We were all shocked and saddened to learn the next day of his passing, so we held a special ceremony. During the SCA, we also acknowledged the passing of Chief St Denis, who was Chief of the Wolf Lake First Nation for over 30 years, and the late Wendall Nicholas, who had worked with the AFN Elders. The Chiefs also honoured Veteran Louis Levi Oakes, the last surviving Mohawk code talker, with a blanket ceremony.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the Chiefs-in-Assembly on the first day. This is the fourth time he has been to our Assemblies since his election. Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to continue working with Indigenous peoples. He anticipates passing Indigenous child welfare legislation and an Indigenous Languages Act before the House of Commons rises in June 2019. Several Cabinet Ministers addressed the SCA, including Minister Hajdu, Minister Bennett and Minister Philpott. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May all addressed the delegates and took questions.
The Chiefs passed 52 resolutions at the SCA. These resolutions provide the mandate for the work of the AFN. All are important, but I can highlight some that deal with new issues. As you may know, 2019 is the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, and one resolution calls on the AFN and the federal government to propose, advocate and support the United Nations in declaring an international decade of Indigenous languages. There were three resolutions on First Nations child welfare, including support for co-development of legislation with the federal government – supporting First Nations rights and jurisdiction in this critical area. A resolution was passed calling for a national heritage strategy to commemorate all Residential School sites based on First Nations’ direction. There were resolutions approving the National Housing and Related Infrastructure Strategy and research in this area, and a resolution mandating an AFN modern treaty implementation group.
One resolution I want to highlight is the resolution on the “Rejection of the Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework and Associated Processes.” This builds on previous AFN resolutions affirming the position that only First Nations can determine their path out of decolonization and First Nations must direct their own approaches to Nation rebuilding. We heard some inspiring words by youth from the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, who held a rally on Day 1 and spoke to the Assembly about rights, title and jurisdiction.
There is much more detail available on all of the resolutions passed at the December SCA. The resolutions will be posted shortly on the AFN website along with the SCA 2018 report. A full webcast of the SCA is also available at www.afn.ca
First Ministers Meeting
On December 10, 2018, the day after the SCA, I attended the First Ministers Meeting focused on trade and the economy in Montreal with Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, BC Regional Chief Terry Teegee, Northwest Territories Regional Chief Norman Yakeleya and Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Morley Watson. The meeting, called by the Prime Minister, included all provincial and territorial leaders.
The AFN stated clearly that attempts to deny or ignore the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the lack of recognition of free, prior and informed consent are barriers to trade and development. We reminded the First Ministers that the enormous wealth of this country is primarily generated from First Nations lands. Any decision-making processes for natural resource development projects must involve First Nations from the very outset.
We told the Prime Minister and Premiers that permits and licenses should not be given out by governments until companies can prove that they have developed a positive relationship with the local First Nations, a strategy for First Nations engagement, and opportunities for procurement, employment and revenue sharing.
I outlined a number of ways the First Ministers can improve opportunities for First Nations, including recruiting and retaining First Nations as part of advisory councils, corporate boards, and any decision-making bodies; finding more ways to share in revenue and ownership; consideration of legislation that would require a percentage of procurement be set aside for First Nations businesses and service providers; and improving access to equity.
The AFN wants to thank all of you for your involvement, engagement and direction over the past year. I look forward to our ongoing work in 2019 – the International Year of Indigenous Languages! We offer our best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday season.
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