AFN at United Nations – Indigenous Languages Issues

International News update

United Nations - Year of Indigenous Language
United Nations - Year of Indigenous Language

NEW YORK – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) co-hosted an event at United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York called Achieving the Promise of the International Year of Indigenous Languages – Outcomes, Legacies and Future Work. This event is part of the annual sessions of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild spoke on behalf of AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, stating: “Recognition and support of Indigenous languages is a vital aspect of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Grand Chief Littlechild was honoured today by having the Ambassador’s board room named after him at the Canadian Mission.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said, “We lift up and honour Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild for his leadership and his long-term advocacy for Indigenous rights nationally and on the international stage. The AFN’s presence at these international forums helps advance our priorities and build bridges among all our peoples.”

The event was co-organized by the Assembly of First Nations and the Permanent Missions of Ecuador and Canada, with additional sponsorship by the Missions of Norway and Australia. It featured a keynote address by Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, signalling high-level support for the event and for action to strengthen Indigenous languages. Based on a recommendation by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). The IYIL seeks to promote and protect Indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them and contribute to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

In December 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau responded to years of advocacy by the AFN, First Nations and the National Chief to create an Indigenous Languages Act which has now been tabled as Bill C-91. The AFN co-developed the legislation to ensure that First Nation perspectives, priorities and rights were included, and is pushing for the legislation to be passed before the end of the current session of Parliament.

The text of the National Chief’s remarks to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will be available on the AFN website at The AFN will be participating in the Forum over the next two weeks.

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