AFN National Chief Archibald Shares Herstory
AFN National Chief Archibald

OTTAWA – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) announced that First Nations-in-Assembly have passed two crucial resolutions this week directing the AFN on a path forward on compensation and long-term reform. One resolution advances the AFN’s priorities on securing compensation for First Nations children and families who experienced egregious harms caused by the Government of Canada’s discriminatory funding of the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle, and the other outlines the path forward for the AFN’s ongoing participation in negotiations on long-term reforms.

During the Special Chiefs Assembly, Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, First Nation Chiefs, lawyers, technicians, and other representatives, including Dr. Cindy Blackstock of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, with the guidance of the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, collaborated on Draft Resolution 16&17/2022 and Draft Resolution 19&20/2022. The resolutions, both carried unanimously by Chiefs and Proxies, uniting First Nations on the direction for continued negotiations to finalize the approach to compensation and long-term reform to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle.

Draft Resolution 16&17/2022 supports the payment of compensation for all survivors and victims of the Government of Canada’s discriminatory funding of the First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) Program and narrow application of Jordan’s Principle. It mandates continued support for AFN Representative Plaintiffs and to ensure swift payment of compensation.

“The most important thing about what’s happening here is unity,” said Chair Khelsilem of Squamish Nation, mover of the resolution. “We are coming together as First Nations leaders. Because united, we can do anything we want and take on this government and get the full compensation for all the children, the full dignity for all our families. That’s what happens when we come together and work together.”

On December 8, the First Nations-in-Assembly passed a second resolution mandating the parameters needed for a final settlement agreement on long-term reforms to the FNCFS Program and Jordan’s Principle. The resolution directs the AFN to press Canada to increase funding commitments above the currently allocated $19.087 billion, over five years and beyond, in keeping with the principles of sovereignty, inherent jurisdiction, and nation building. It also mandates AFN to direct parties to develop evidence and policy-based options for the long-term reform of Jordan’s Principle that will include mechanisms to support self-determination.

“This resolution demands change to the child welfare system to support First Nations children and families to thrive through a holistic approach to reform grounded in our culture, and funding that meets the actual needs of our children and communities,” said Kevin Hart, Proxy for Chief Oliver Owens, Little Grand Rapids First Nation. “We must focus on prevention and supporting families to stay together.”

AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse, lead negotiator and Social Development portfolio holder, spoke to the First Nations-in-Assembly during the passing of the resolutions. “First Nations have come together in unity to stand up for our children who were impacted by the biased child and family welfare system and Jordan’s Principle,” she said. “Now we look to Canada to do what’s necessary to fulfill these requirements for providing adequate and rapid compensation and work with First Nations communities to reform the system so that families are no longer torn apart. We as First Nations are clearly focused on the best interests of our children and families that give them the full dignity they deserve, and we’re ready to resolve these issues. It’s time for Canada to come back to the table with us.”

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