MONCTON – The 32nd Annual General Assembly for the Assembly of First Nations is underway in Moncton, New Brunswick. AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo opened the AFN 32nd Annual General Assembly with a plan that builds on the call at the 2010 AGA supporting all First Nations as they set their own paths moving away from the Indian Act towards real self-determination.
“The plan presented today is a reflection and culmination of what First Nation citizens and Chiefs have been consistently expressing to the AFN for many years through many forums,” stated the National Chief. “First Nations are all on a journey to self-determination. There are different approaches, circumstances and realities but it is a journey with a clear destination, a destination that affirms our rightful place in our lands and territories based on our rights, a destination that cherishes our children and creates a better future for them.” A companion paper – “Pursuing First Nation Self-Determination: Realizing Our Rights and Responsibilities” – sets out plans and related options across four key elements:
The First Nation-Crown Relationship – Forging a new relationship with Canada that respects the spirit and intent of the Treaties with new mechanisms and processes to implement and maintain the relationship.
New Fiscal Relationships – Recognizing the inequity in funding levels and uncertainty in transfers that negatively impact First Nations, a new approach ensuring sustainability, fairness and accountability is required.
Implementation of First Nation Governments – Focusing on core capacities for First Nation governments and advancing strategic and comprehensive community planning in areas like citizenship, leadership selection and institutions for public administration and dispute resolution.
Structural Change – Advancing new structures of government that affirm First Nation control over their affairs as well as potential changes to the federal bureaucracy that support the First Nation-Crown relationship and ensure fair provision of services.
The National Chief states, “The Prime Minister has already expressed support for a Canada-First Nation Crown Gathering late this year, which could be an appropriate forum to move this discussion to the next level, honouring Treaty relationships and taking forward the work as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is important but what’s more important is that First Nations are going to move forward. The next immediate step is for First Nation leaders to engage directly with their citizens on this work, set their priorities and for us to support one another as we move forward affirming our rights and our responsibilities.”
The elements and options in the paper will be discussed, among many other issues and priorities, at the Annual General Assembly taking place July 12-14 at the Moncton Coliseum. The theme of the Assembly reflects the oldest relationships forged by the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Nations and newcomers hundreds of years ago: “The Spirit of Peace and Friendship”.