Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation May 1 & 2, 2018

 

District Chief Joe Lazore and PM Trudeau. Photo courtesy of Joe Lazore.

Submitted by Entewatatha:wi

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Entewatatha:wi staff attended the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau, Quebec on May 1 & 2, 2018. The assembly provided a forum on the Federal Legislation that discussed political strategy and policy issues on fundamental topics such as the implementations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action, Inherent and Treaty Rights, equitable fiscal relations, health and wellness and many more.

The AFN Assembly featured speeches from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Honorable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, the Honorable Jane Philpot, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations Leaders and other federal cabinet ministers.

The atmosphere at the AFN Assembly was very dynamic as many First Nation Leaders and Delegates gathered together to discuss significant issues that affect First Nations People across Canada regarding Federal Legislation. The highlights of their speeches include:

• Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, "We are all impatient to move forward on concrete tangible real ways that turn the page decisively and comprehensively on the broken relationship of the past, on the empty promises of the past and on the failed policies of the past. What we have managed to accomplish in the two and half years has changed irreversibly and set us forward on a much better path. I am not as focused on making shiny promises as I am as building foundations of a lasting future in which we will freely be partners, nation-to-nation. It means recognizing the differences, the perspectives and approaches right across the country that you bring to this table and that I am working with you on where your priorities are. We can do this quickly or we can do this right and I know that those two are mutually exclusive." Trudeau emphasized again "What we have done together over these past two and half years, will never be able to be undone and that is a good thing because we are moving forward."

• The Honorable Carolyn Bennet, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs has been very busy engaging with different First Nations communities to create the recognitions on the implementation rights framework. Bennett stated that Chief Sky Deer reminded the Ministers of the Two Row Wampum Belt and said, "You need to get out of our affairs," and that is exactly what Canada is trying to do, to get out of the colonial practices of the Indian Act and also other paternalistic policies and practices. Canada is currently working on affirming and implementing section 35 of the Constitution Act. This is an opportunity for First Nations to fundamentally transform the relationship with Canada. A relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be the foundation of a renewed relationship.

• The Honorable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada addressed a serious topic that is of the utmost importance to all Canadians and to all First Nations in this country, and that is the matter of children. Minister Philpott said before "that this is a humanitarian crisis." She also stated "that there is potential for a co-created child welfare legislation, and the possibilities that such legislation could support the incredibly important reform work that needs to happen around child and family services that could lay down and affirm, protected by federal law, the jurisdiction that First Nations have over child and family services could ensure in law the obligations for funding." Minister Philpott believes this must stop and that they have a duty to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) calls to action. The TRC says to reduce the number of children in care. But the real end goal is that First Nations children need to be with their families. They need to be on their lands, surrounded by their language, with the grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles, learning about their culture. Minister Philpott's goal is to stop this humanitarian crisis and to work with First Nation communities.

The AFN Assembly also held dialogue sessions for attendees to gather in smaller groups to discuss legislation being proposed or underway that impact First Nations. These sessions were for decisions and direction. Guests heard directly from Federal Cabinet Ministers and Federal Party leaders. The topics in the sessions included:

• First Nation Language Legislation

• Rights Legislation-Moving Beyond the Indian Act

- Proposed Federal Recognition and Implementations of Indigenous Rights Framework

- Private Members Bill C-262

• Modern Treaties

• Bill S-3: Amend Indian Act, Descheneaux vs. Canada

• First Nations Financial Transparency Act-Fiscal

• Safe Drinking Water Act

• Bill C-68: Fisheries Act, Bill C-55:Oceans Act, Bill C-64:Wrecks

• Bill C-69:Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulatory Act, Bill C-74: Green House Gas Pollution Pricing Act

• Bill C-58: Act to Amend the Access to information Act, the Privacy Act and to make consequential Amendments to other Acts

• Cannabis Legislation

• Federal Accessibility Legislation-Disabilities

• Option Papers-First Nations Child Welfare

Attending the AFN Assembly and witnessing the discussions was very enlightening. There were many important messages and remarks from Prime Minister Trudeau and Federal Minsters, but there were also important remarks from many First Nations Leaders and their delegates. Among all the remarks, one statement that really stood out was a delegate who represented a First Nation in British Columbia, who stated "We're talking about recognition legislation. I don't need to be recognized as an Aboriginal person who holds title, I need it to be affirmed that I am an aboriginal person who holds title in British Columbia before Canada. We need you Chiefs at this Assembly to move away from 'Reconciliation Legislation' to 'Affirmation Law.' We need to be affirmed people in this Country...we don't need to be recognized, we were never not here, we were always here. That needs to be affirmed!"

 

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