Meet Joanna Bernard, AFN Regional Chief, New Brunswick, and Interim National Chief.

Meet Joanna Bernard Building sustainable, prosperous, and self-governing Nations.

Assembly of First Nations New Brunswick Regional Chief and interim National Chief Joanna Bernard, a member of Madawaska Maliseet First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada, is a prominent leader dedicated to advancing prosperity and economic development for First Nations in Canada.

Interim National Chief Bernard is a proud mother of five sons, one stepdaughter, and grandmother to fifteen grandchildren. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and raised in Madawaska First Nation, New Brunswick, interim National Chief Bernard is of First Nations and Italian descent. 

Interim National Chief Bernard has more than two decades of experience in First Nations politics and leadership. She’s been an integral part of Madawaska Maliseet First Nation and played a pivotal role in its growth and success. Throughout her journey, interim National Chief Bernard held various positions of leadership and made significant contributions for First Nations across New Brunswick.

Interim National Chief Bernard’s journey began within her own community, where she served as a Councillor and later as Chief from 2003 to 2013.

Recognizing the importance of economic development, interim National Chief Bernard became the CEO of the Madawaska Maliseet Economic Development Corporation (MMEDC) in 2013. Her vision paved the way for notable achievements, including the establishment of the Grey Rock Power Centre.

Joanna Bernard


Beyond her community, interim National Chief Bernard has been active in various organizations and committees at the provincial and national levels.

Interim National Chief Bernard served as a member of the First Nations and Business Liaison Group of New Brunswick, the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs’ Committee on Economic Development, and the Union of New Brunswick Indians’ Aboriginal Natural Resources Committee. Additionally, she held the positions of President of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council and Co-Chair of the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs in New Brunswick. Through her involvement in these tables, interim National Chief Bernard advocates for First Nations inherent and Treaty rights, economic prosperity, and sustainable resource management.

In recognition of her efforts and leadership, Interim National Chief Bernard received the Order of New Brunswick in 2013 contributing to the well-being and economic prosperity of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation and other First Nations communities throughout New Brunswick. Her dedication was acknowledged by being appointed as an Honorary Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and receiving Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.

In 2021, Joanna Bernard assumed the role of Regional Chief for New Brunswick and the role of Interim National Chief in July 2023. With her experience, passion for economic development, and commitment to advocating for First Nations inherent and Treaty rights, Interim National Chief Bernard continues advocate for First Nations across Canada and future generations

Interim National Chief, Joanna Bernard Workplan - July 2023 – December 2023


To advocate for the rights, interests, and priorities of First Nations, as directed by First Nations-in-Assembly, and ensure their voices are heard and respected on matters affecting their Nations.


To restore confidence in the organization and build a strong future.


  1. Foster stability within the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and uphold transparency, accountability, and good governance, ensuring that the organization operates effectively.
  2. Advance the strategic direction and mandates of First Nations-in-Assembly.


Priority 1 – Champion Workplace Wellness

  1. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hiring
  2. Update AFN whistle-blower policy, code of conduct, harassment reporting process
  3. Panel 13 Report Response
  4. Address unresolved Executive Code of Conduct Complaints
  5. Ensure completion of mandates, including Financial Accountability mandates
    (Resolution 03/2022, Investigation and Audit of AFN’s Financial and Management Policies, and Resolution 43/2023, Review of the Past Ten Years of the Assembly of First Nations/National Indian Brotherhood Audits.)
  6. Continue strong AFN Executive Committee Engagement

Priority 2 – Advancing First Nation Mandates

  1. Advancing resolutions from First Nations-in-Assembly and addressing key gaps,
    with a focus on the 2021-2023 period
  2. Spokesperson for AFN events, key meetings, and media
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