By Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press - Monday, January 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
More disagreement over the presence of the Governor General
OTTAWA – Top First Nations chiefs from across the country have set aside their differences for now and signed on to a request for yet another meeting with the prime minister — all in an attempt to bring the protest by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to an end.
The Assembly of First Nations’ executive agreed to the request in writing and sent a letter to Stephen Harper on the weekend, calling for a meeting as soon as Thursday — a day by which Shawn Atleo could well be back on the job.
Atleo took a sudden sick leave after his controversial meeting with Harper 10 days ago amidst a leadership crisis within the AFN. He issued a statement Monday saying he would be back in the saddle “later this week.”
Unlike the divisive Jan. 11 meeting, this week’s proposed meeting with Harper would include a broad range of chiefs as well as Gov.-Gen. David Johnston, as requested by Spence.
“The intent behind it is to try to end Chief Spence’s hunger strike,” said Morley Googoo, regional chief for Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
And unlike the previous meeting, Spence’s spokesman says the Cree leader is onside.
“We all need to work together,” said Danny Metatawabin, adding that Spence was feeling “well, chirpy, happy” on Monday morning despite having spent the last six weeks subsisting only on fish broth and medicinal tea.
There’s nothing to suggest Harper is inclined to agree to the request, despite the newfound unity among chiefs. Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for the prime minister, said Harper would respond to the AFN’s letter “in due course.”
“For us, the next step is (meeting) National Chief Atleo, one-on-one, to hammer out some of the detail on the way forward,” MacDougall said.
The Governor General was not included in the previous meeting because it is the government that makes policy decisions in Canada, not the Queen’s representative, he added. “And that’s how we’re still looking at the matter.”
Still, MacDougall acknowledged that there is a great deal of pressure to show concrete results that will lead to material improvements for First Nations peoples.
“We have to keep up the momentum and keep showing that there is progress that can be made.”
Googoo said the best way for Harper to show goodwill and immediate progress would be to agree to the Jan. 24 meeting, which would be in addition to the meeting with Atleo to work on treaty implementation and comprehensive claims.
Thursday is the AFN’s “preferred date” for a broader meeting, he said, because it is the one-year anniversary of a major summit between chiefs, Harper and Johnston that was supposed to reinvigorate the Crown-First Nation relationship. But the AFN realizes there may be a need for some flexibility on the date since it is so soon, Googoo acknowledged.
He said he hopes that a solid commitment to such a meeting would be enough to entice Spence to end her protest.
Harper agreed to a meeting with the AFN, but his exclusion of Johnston and his setting of the meeting agenda prompted Spence and many other chiefs to orchestrate a boycott and question the leadership of Atleo, who went into the meeting despite loud protests in the streets.
In his statement on Monday, Atleo called for unity and rational discussion of internal disagreements. But he also opened the door to structural changes within the national organization, just as conflicts in the past have led to restructuring.
“Many changes were made; many more conversations remain,” Atleo writes.
“Let us ensure that those conversations are conducted with respect, respectful of our traditions, respectful of each other and respectful of our different approaches to winning progress for our peoples.”
But while angry chiefs have muted their criticism of Atleo for now, they still harbour concerns about his leadership.
“For Ontario, we’re just trying to maintain focus on what the objectives are…. There’s a concern regarding leadership but there’s a process and time for that,” said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, who boycotted the Jan. 11 meeting.
“The sense of urgency there is that Theresa Spence has indicated that she’ll continue on with her hunger strike until such time as a meeting takes place.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM - 0 Comments
Theresa Spence repeats her demand that the Governor General be involved in a meeting between the Prime Minister and First Nations leaders. And the Assembly of First Nations are apparently going to demand his presence at a meeting on Thursday.
For what it’s worth, David Johnston was part of the Crown-First Nations gathering a year ago, but he was not part of the working sessions that took place as part of that gathering. According to Rideau Hall, he participated in the opening ceremony, witnessed the smudging ceremony and honour songs, exchanged gifts with National Chief Shawn Atleo, delivered opening remarks and then departed.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
As he rode to a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Friday, Shawn Atleo’s Blackberry buzzed. “Since you have decided to betray me, all I ask of you now is to help carry my cold dead body off this island,’’ the text message said.
It was sent in the name of Chief Theresa Spence, but those who saw the text believe it came from someone else in her circle on Victoria Island. But they were certain about one thing — the timing, moments before he went into one of the most important meetings of his life, was meant to destabilize the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and undermine his efforts at a meeting which many in his organization fiercely opposed.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM - 0 Comments
The Assembly of First Nations has released its reaction to today’s meeting.
“We have achieved some movement today,” said National Chief Atleo. “The Prime Minister listened respectfully to Chiefs and responded to all they brought forward and for the first time, provided a clear mandate for high-level talks on Treaty Implementation. Prime Minister Harper also committed to high-level discussions on comprehensive claims.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 3:39 PM - 0 Comments
The Assembly of First Nations has released a statement and eight “items of consensus.”
The statement can be viewed here. The demands are as follows.
Emerging from First Nations dialogue and strategy sessions on January 9-10, 2013 in Ottawa the following are the elements of consensus as reflected at the conclusion of the discussion:
-Commitment to an immediate high level working process with Treaty Nation leadership for establishing frameworks with necessary mandates for the implementation and enforcement of Treaties on a Treaty by Treaty basis, between the Treaty parties Nation-to-Nation.
-Facilitating fair, expeditious resolution of land claims through reforming the comprehensive claims policy based on recognition and affirmation of inherent rights rather than extinguishment
-Resource Equity, Benefit and Revenue Sharing – building on treaty implementation and enforcement and comprehensive claims resolution there must be a framework that addresses shared governance of resource development and the fair sharing of all forms of revenues and benefits generated from resource development.
-All legislation must be unquestionably consistent with s.35 of the Canadian Constitution and the UNDRIP. Legislation and provisions of legislation as in C-38 and C-45 that contravene our Treaty and inherent rights must be reconsidered and implementation of these provisions be put to a halt. We must have an environmental regulatory regime in this country that respects our rights. Legislation that tinkers around the edges of the Indian Act must stop and be replaced with support for First Nation government and nation re-building including a mechanism for our Nations to push away from the Indian Act as they determine. To fulfill the original relationship, Canada must put in place an ongoing process that all new bills and policies of the federal government must be in full compliance with section 35 and consistent with international human rights standards.
-Fundamentally transformed fiscal relationship guaranteeing fairness and sustainability and removing all arbitrary caps and burdens on the current inefficient, ineffective and unfair funding relationship for First Nation programs and services.
-Immediate Commitment to the establishment of a National Public Commission of Inquiry on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, including special focus on murdered and missing Indigenous women, and the broader factors that lead to increased vulnerability among Indigenous peoples.
-Guarantee, as in Shannen’s dream, of First Nation schools in every First Nation that each and every First Nations parent and child can be proud of, that fully reflects our languages and cultures and provides a safe and supportive place to learn.
-In order to be effective, progress on these areas will require fundamental change in the machinery of government including direct political oversight, a dedicated Cabinet Committee with a secretariat within the Privy Council Office with specific responsibility for the First Nation-Crown relationship to oversee implementation.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 1:49 PM - 0 Comments
The AFN confirms that National Chief Shawn Atleo and approximately 20 First Nations leaders—including representatives from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon—are presently meeting with the Prime Minister.
Rideau Hall has confirmed that this evening’s ceremonial meeting with the Governor General is also set to occur.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 9:59 PM - 0 Comments
Reports vary as to who might or might not be participating in tomorrow’s planned meeting between the Harper government and First Nations leaders, if that meeting is to take place in some form or another.
APTN reports that Shawn Atleo is to take the matter to the Prime Minister’s Office tonight to request a larger venue and the presence of the Governor General.
Mr. Atleo addressed the Assembly of First Nations meeting in downtown Ottawa tonight. My recording of his remarks—beginning about 10 second after he started speaking—is below.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 6:08 PM - 0 Comments
“We have arrived at a moment unlike any other in the history of our peoples,” ventured Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
And yet, here we are again.
“Generations of our leaders have delivered the same message to successive federal governments for over a century,” he explained, a few moments later. “From the battle against the destructive federal government white paper back in 1969 to the struggles to win section 35 in the Constitution in ’80, to the Charlottetown debates in the 90s, to our efforts to make effective the recommendations of the royal commission 16 years ago, we have never wavered. Our voices have always been clear. Continuing attempts to undermine our resolve, to divide our people, have and always will fail. Today our work in preparation for the meeting with the prime minister on January 11, 2013, stands on the shoulders of decades indigenous leadership.”
Mr. Atleo, the public face of an assembly of some 600 communities, was flanked on both sides by a regional chief. Around him, in the metaphorical sense, loomed a protest movement of marches, flash mobs, blockades and hashtags—a thousand different expressions of dissatisfaction. Seated at the front of the National Press Theatre, the 45-year-old father of two—he turns 46 next week—wore a black vest over a black long-sleeve shirt, his glasses perched on the end of his noise, a small black moustache and goatee framing his mouth. He leaned forward slightly on his elbows, his arms crossed in front of him.
He offered to summarize the results of two days of discussion with other chiefs in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting with the government.
“The demands of our people of the First Nations is the need for fundamental transformation in our relationship with the government of Canada, now,” he declared, emphasizing that last word. “That we need real remedies and real change for our people, now. And we action, in particular for our most vulnerable citizens.”
That’s it. Only merely that so many wrongs be righted. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 11:14 AM - 0 Comments
The prepared text for remarks made today by Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
We are gathered here on an historic day – an historic day in the midst of urgent needs and demands on us all. On behalf of our First Nations leaders here and across Canada, we greet the Crown in the spirit our ancestors, with sincerity and with the pride of all of our Indigenous Nations, at this Gathering of our leaders and yours re-calling our earliest interactions. Nuu chah nulth. Let us begin, the way our people do, by acknowledging this territory, Algonquin territory. Meegwetch to Elder Bertha Commonda and the leaders of the Algonquin nation here. It was the Algonquins who greeted newcomers to their lands on the shores of the Ottawa River in front of us here. Bertha and today’s Algonquin Chiefs carry forward that tradition of leadership.
Their Excellencies, Governor General David Johnston and Mrs. Johnston’s presence are an essential feature of our gathering. It reflects the solemn commitments made to uphold the Honour of the Crown. Your participation recalls the sacred alliance between our ancestors, the leaders of the First Nations and the British Crown.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper let me express my personal thanks to you for the leadership you have shown in making this historic Gathering possible. Together all the leaders here gathered – the Ministers, Members of Parliament, Senators and the hundreds of First Nations Chiefs – are making a solemn and public commitment to our people and to all Canadians to this new beginning. We must not fail.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 22, 2011 at 9:03 AM - 11 Comments
A statement issued this morning by the family of NDP leader Jack Layton.
We deeply regret to inform you that The Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones. Details of Mr. Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
9:36am. NDP deputy leader Libby Davies talks to reporters in St. John’s.
“He was a great Canadian. He gave his life to this country. His commitment to social justice and equality and a better Canada in the world and at home and I think that’s how people saw him,” Davies told reporters. “They saw him as someone who deeply, deeply cared for people. And they saw that in the campaign and all his work. They saw the courage that he had. He faced cancer and he kept on working, doing his job, because he felt so strongly about what he believed in, so I think people think of him as a great Canadian and we think of him as a great leader, in a political sense but (also) in a personal sense.”
He was a believer. He made that clear in the first sentences of “Speaking Out Louder:” ”Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference.”
9:54am. Mr. Layton’s Facebook page has become a makeshift memorial.
9:59am. Greg Fingas marks the NDP leader’s passing.
After spending a decade laying the foundation, Jack Layton has tragically died before getting to complete the house that so many said couldn’t be built. For now, there’s little to do but to offer condolences and grieve the loss of a great Canadian and friend. But hopefully Layton’s inspiration will only encourage us to finish what he started.
10:01am. A statement from the Prime Minister. Continue…
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 8 Comments
On moving beyond residential schools, overcoming cynicism and trusting the Tories
AFTER TWO YEARS as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo is cautiously optimistic about the relationship he is forging with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. On Tuesday, at the assembly’s annual meeting in Moncton, N.B., he proposed replacing the federal Aboriginal Affairs Department with a system that allows bands more autonomy and lessens the heavy federal intervention required under the Indian Act. “The patterns of the past have to be essentially smashed,” he told Maclean’s. Atleo, a hereditary chief in the tiny B.C. island community of Ahousaht, reads vindication in the recent report by now-retired auditor general Sheila Fraser. It warns, as Atleo and successive national chiefs have said, that the quality of life on reserves is worsening and the existing system of financing and accountability must be overhauled.
Q: The last time we spoke, you called your home community of Ahousaht a microcosm of First Nations across the country. So, how is Ahousaht faring?
A: Oh, it has its struggles, to be frank. They’re working on them, and we’ve got a new generation of leadership coming on.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 6 Comments
Shawn Atleo, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says it’s time to move toward scrapping the Indian Act and dumping the recently renamed Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Here is his speech to AFN’s general assembly in Moncton yesterday.
Advancing the First Nation Crown relationship means progress through steps like the First Nation-Crown Gathering, First Ministers meetings with First Nations and a potential First Nation-Crown agreement that advances and affirms our rights. We need new fiscal relationships built on common, mutually acceptable principles that guarantee and deliver sustainable, equitable services based on mutually agreed-to standards. We must implement our governments through building our institutions, planning and accountability mechanisms and finally we must drive structural change.
This is change that must first affirm First Nation jurisdiction, must include careful legal review and analysis and then advance structural changes to the machinery of the federal government. Right now, the bureaucracy and its policies are failing miserably. We need new structures that affirm the relationship and uphold the responsibility.
The AFN report that sets out this vision is here.