Assembly of First Nations stepping up communication

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AFN National Chief addressing press conference in Ottawa
AFN National Chief addressing press conference in Ottawa
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Atleo

OTTAWA – The Assembly of First Nations is stepping up communications efforts. The move comes as a result of requests from First Nations leaders and peoples.

National Chief Shawn Atleo states, “We are all warriors in this effort”. The focus is shifting according to the National Chief. The re-focusing on traditional values, and on the Elders vision is taking a greater focus from the National Chief.

“Today’s AFN is committed to caring for this reflection”, stated the National Chief. The National Chief is demanding a National Inquiry into the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women.

The National Chief has released a new video to communicate directly with the First Nations people across Canada.

The AFN National Executive have issued a statement:

The Assembly of First Nations National Executive Committee is pleased to offer this update regarding recent discussions, strategy sessions and meetings regarding the continued priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations.

Throughout the beginning weeks of 2013, we have witnessed near unprecedented attention on the issues facing First Nations, and more importantly, the mobilization and engagement of our peoples.  The opportunity created by this tremendous energy demands that each and every one of us be respectful and fully responsive to all voices.  We must also fully commit to finding ways to move forward together, mindful of our diversities, while at the same time united in our assertion of our rights and responsibilities and our common care and concern for the people and communities, our languages cultures, families and our children. 

The Assembly of First Nations National Executive met most recently in Ahousaht, British Columbia on February 20 and 21, 2013.  This was an important opportunity to come together, as our peoples do, first in ceremony and then to have open and frank discussion about how we work together and to advance our respective roles and responsibilities.  This is our work as the national executive, and we renew our commitment to sustaining the momentum and the drive to achieving the justice, fairness and fundamental and transformative change that our peoples demand and deserve. 

Our greatest strength as First Nations is the solid foundation of our principles and is built on the achievements of many.  We exist based on fundamental beliefs and the understanding of who we are as Indigenous peoples, in the assertion of our rights and our responsibilities and the practice of our strong culture, traditions and languages across our Nations. 

We have always recognized that our peoples and their leaders are the decision-makers.  As leaders at the regional and national levels, we come together to support, advocate and to fight for and achieve the priorities as directed by the people. 

This work of the Assembly of First Nations has always involved change.  When we transformed the National Indian Brotherhood into the Assembly of First Nations, we did it during the politically charged atmosphere of the Constitution talks.  In December 1980, our Declaration of Nations was adopted creating the foundation for the transformation to the AFN.  We come together as the Assembly of First Nations, as it says in our Charter, “to respect our diversity, to practice tolerance and work together as good neighbours, to unite our strength to maintain our security, and to employ national and international machinery for the promotion of the political, economic and social advancement of our peoples.” 

In 2005, the Assembly of First Nations Renewal Commission encouraged us to look to the future and to establish the conditions that will ensure our organization is respected by all levels of government, is rooted in our languages and cultures, is representative of the diverse Nations we serve and, most importantly, is responsive to the demands of our Nations and our peoples.  Many changes were made, many more conversations remain. 

Today we carry forward this work and the National Executive Committee has tasked a time-limited Standing Committee to be led by Regional Chiefs Morley Googoo and Stan Beardy, together with the councils represented by Youth co-chair Sasha Maracle, to reflect on and provide recommendations for clarification and strengthening of the purpose of the Assembly of First Nations, its structures, reporting and communications protocols.  Implicit in every aspect of our work will be finding new ways and means to engage our peoples, to strengthen our advocacy efforts and the support for all First Nations in the achievement of the objectives as determined by them. 

This respectful reflection and consideration is vital and will happen quickly.  At the same time this will not hamper or delay progress on the issues before us.  This work is urgent and demands our energy and attention as we are reminded daily by our peoples. 

Accordingly, the National Executive Committee has discussed and provided an update on the work before us available in a document titled “January 11 meeting between First Nation Leaders and the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet: Outcomes and follow-up steps” at www.afn.ca.  This update is for full discussion and we encourage and intend further and ongoing reflection through committees and working groups, and most importantly by communities and our peoples from coast to coast to coast. 

It is important to note that these elements are not new and they are not inclusive of all that is being undertaken.  We understand the priority of work on many fronts, including matters of urgency beyond this list.  Specific efforts on the environment, health and social issues, housing and infrastructure continue.  The elements are further informed by the “Declaration of Commitment: First Nations Working Towards Fundamental Change”, adopted on January 23, 2013 and directly relate to and are fully consistent with resolutions passed through Assembly of First Nations Assemblies for many, many years. 

Today, with new challenges and opportunity, the priorities remain anchored in First Nation rights as directed through the decades of effort of those who have gone before us.  We are advancing the work through the development of parallel political, legal and advocacy strategies as well as local, regional, national and international activities and actions.  On each item, we look to strengthen and improve communications and engagement of all to enable and support the energy to drive change where it is needed on the ground – in our homes, in our communities and on our lands and waters. 

Together, the National Executive welcomes this dialogue, particularly at a critical time in our shared history, and further invite and extend our hands and our voices to all First Nation citizens to find ways in which we support and strengthen our work together.  We do not underestimate the challenges and have much work ahead.  At the same time we have great strength that we see every day in our Nations, in the wisdom of our Elders, the resilience of our families, the incredible support of the grandmothers and all those that nurture and care for us and for our Nations every day.  With the determination of our peoples, we can and will seize this moment of real opportunity and fundamental and transformative change for our peoples and our Nations. 

We must remain inspired and strengthened by the vision of a better day for every one of our children.  We must bring every effort to every challenge.  And we must do this together.

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