- The Assembly of First Nations held its Special Chiefs Assembly from December 3 – 5, 2019, on unceded Algonquin territory. 48 resolutions were passed and will be posted on the AFN website soon.
- Key commitments were made by federal ministers in response to First Nations advocacy, including a National Suicide Prevention Plan to be developed with First Nations and the National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, both to be in place by June 2020.
AFN Special Chiefs Assembly, December 3-5, 2019
Over 1,600 Chiefs, Knowledge Keepers, youth, First Nations citizens and other delegates attended the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) from December 3 – 5, 2019 on unceded Algonquin territory in Ottawa, Ontario. The theme was “Honouring Promises”, and it was a chance to assess progress, set priorities and strategic direction for the coming year. This was our first Assembly since the federal election, so it was also an opportunity to engage with representatives from the new government.
Delegates heard from members of the new government and newly appointed Ministers. The AFN has moved to ensure that federal ministers not only address delegates but take questions from First Nations leadership as well to maximize engagement.
In my opening remarks, I set out some key priorities for the new government, consistent with the agenda in Honouring Promises: 2019 Federal Election Priorities for First Nations and Canada, released just before the federal election. In response to a national crisis afflicting too many of our nations, I called for a National Youth Suicide Prevention program, to be designed and developed with First Nations. Newly appointed Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller appeared later that day and responded positively to our call. He said in his remarks that Canada will work with us on compensation for children and families impacted by the child welfare system and those denied services under Jordan’s Principle, and committed to Day School compensation.
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett addressed the forum, promising to work with First Nations to advance the relationship and reconciliation. A key commitment was the pledge in the Liberal Party election platform to develop and implement federal legislation on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to be developed with Indigenous peoples. This is consistent with Honouring Promises and will be key to our work going forward. The UN Declaration is our roadmap to reconciliation and realizing our inherent rights, title and jurisdiction. We know legislation on the Declaration is achievable and essential. Minister Bennett committed as well to working with First Nations on a National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to be in place by June 2020.
The Assembly had the opportunity to honour B.C. Premier John Horgan for his work with the B.C. Regional Chief Terry Teegee and the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council on Bill 41, the provincial legislation implementing the UN Declaration.
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault spoke to one of his key responsibilities – implementation of Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act. Justice Minister David Lametti assured delegates that he will work in full partnership with First Nations on restorative justice initiatives.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed delegates and expressed ongoing support for our agenda. He vowed to press the government to, among other priorities, respect the ruling on compensation for children and families ordered by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
Chiefs-in-Assembly passed 48 resolutions at the SCA, providing direction and mandate for the work of the AFN. All resolutions passed at the SCA will be posted shortly on the AFN website, along with the SCA 2019 report. A full webcast of the SCA is also available at www.afn.ca.
I want to conclude by noting that the SCA gave us an opportunity to honour outgoing AFN CEO Dr. Paulette Tremblay. She has been an excellent CEO for our national organization. She has worked with dedication and diligence for First Nations. We wish her well in the next chapter of her journey.
On behalf of the AFN Executive and staff, we thank you for your ongoing involvement, engagement and direction over the past year. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season and all the best in the New Year!