By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Chief Shawn Atleo returned to the helm of the Assembly of First…
VANCOUVER – Chief Shawn Atleo returned to the helm of the Assembly of First Nations on Thursday adamant that aboriginal groups across the country are united against a common enemy: the status quo.
Acknowledging differing opinions within the assembly membership, Atleo, who was sidelined 10 days ago by doctor-ordered sick leave, said he never expected unanimity as the Idle No More protest movement gained momentum.
“We are a diverse people — 52 languages, 633 First Nations — and with this rich diversity comes a wide variety of ideas about how we move forward,” Atleo told reporters after being honoured at a meeting of the assembly’s B.C. chiefs.
“But make no mistake, on principles of substance, we are unified. We want to see the Crown come meaningfully to the table and address the outstanding treaty relationship.”
Atleo, who turned 46 during his brief leave, urged the federal government to take advantage of the opportunity created by the Idle No More movement, which has seen thousands of First Nations take to the streets.
“We also must ensure that we never give any government an excuse to ignore our demands because we’re not clear, because our message is confused. We must ensure that we never let governments use division or disunity as an excuse for delay or inaction,” said Atleo, who looked tired but said he is feeling well after being laid low with norovirus.
Atleo thanked Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who just ended a six-week hunger strike, for her “powerful message” and contribution to the movement.
There was speculation about the national chief’s role after he announced Jan. 14 he was taking sick leave — days after agreeing to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Atleo came under fire from some for meeting with Harper in Ottawa.
Chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan boycotted the meeting, from which Atleo emerged with a commitment from Harper to further treaty talks in the coming weeks.
Manitoba chiefs, along with some of their counterparts from Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, met behind closed doors earlier this week in Winnipeg.
Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said Thursday the chiefs don’t want political infighting within the AFN, but have some questions for Atleo.
“Where the challenges present themselves is in the fact that we’re working with a Canadian government that wants to speak just with Shawn Atleo … in a process toward treaty implementation at high levels,” Nepinak told reporters.
“Treaties weren’t discussed and negotiated at high levels. Treaties were negotiated amongst our people.”
Chiefs from the region are planning a special meeting in March in Saskatoon and want Atleo to attend.
“He deserves the opportunity to be heard, to provide clarification for why he went into the Prime Minister’s meeting contrary to the wishes of so many chiefs across Canada.”
While no decisions were made at the Winnipeg meeting, there was talk of setting up a new national body to deal with treaty rights.
“There had been discussion yesterday that perhaps a new treaty nations alliance may warrant some consideration … to work towards clearly identifying fundamentals that are based in treaty, as opposed to policy-based fundamentals that really haven’t done anything for us for the past 30 years or so,” Nepinak said.
The body would not be a rival to the AFN, the chief said, because the AFN has never been tasked with treaty implementation.
In B.C., flanked by leaders of the First Nations Summit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Assembly’s NB/PEI Regional Chief Roger Augustine, Atleo agreed it is not his place to negotiate treaty rights but to help open the door.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs known for his outspoken approach to dealing with governments, threw his support behind Atleo.
“We have many different voices saying the same thing: that the status quo is absolutely unacceptable and it’s literally killing our people,” Phillip said.
“We have an opportunity in front of us and we need to focus on the high-level discussions with the Prime Minister’s Office to ensure that this government and all governments are held to account.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 9:16 AM - 0 Comments
Amid mixed polling, questions about her health and a report that she was facing an ultimatum, Theresa Spence will be honoured this morning in downtown Ottawa by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and then proceed to a news conference at 11am.
The Liberals have announced that Bob Rae will be at that news conference.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo will have a news conference in Vancouver at 3:30pm EST.
Update 10:44am. A statement from Chief Spence.
January 24, 2013, Victoria Island, traditional territory of the Algonquian Peoples…Chief Theresa Spence and Raymond Robinson have officially ended their hunger strikes today. This announcement comes after a signed declaration of commitment on behalf of Treaty Chiefs, the Assembly First Nations (AFN), the Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC), the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party of Canada in implementing the thirteen point action plan.
Chief Spence and Mr. Robinson began their hunger strike over six weeks ago to invoke change by petitioning Canada and the Crown to meet with First Nations leaders on a Nation to Nation basis on Treaty Rights and Implementation.
“We end our hunger strikes with signed commitments from elected First Nations leaders and opposition parties to urgently carry forward our action plan which ensure that our Treaty Rights are recognized, honoured and fully implemented. Furthermore, we are still calling for an immediate meeting with the Crown, Federal and Provincial governments in order to renew and reset this volatile relationship. Indigenous Peoples have lived well below the poverty line in a country that considered one of the wealthiest in the world. We are no longer idle and precedence has been established over this past six weeks. There’s no going back, our voices have be heard and now I ask for your involvement to move our agenda forward,” stated Chief Theresa Spence.
“I personally want to thank and acknowledge all our supporters this past six weeks for their prayers, encouragement and genuine support during our hunger strikes. Both Raymond and I have taken with us a deep spiritual experience which has lite a fire that will assist us in implementing our vision where First Nation Peoples have equality and can forge their own destiny,” stated Chief Spence.
The thirteen point declaration includes eight points that the AFN presented during their meeting with Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. The plan highlights a new framework to ensure that Treaty and non-Treaty Rights are recognized and implemented. A commitment towards resource revenue sharing and a comprehensive review and meaningful consultation on Bill C-38 and C-45 to ensure it is consistent with section 35 of the Constitution Act. The plan also states that ALL current or future federal legislation has Free, Prior and Informed Consent of First Nation Peoples.
“Canada has legal obligations as Treaty partners to protect our constitutionally recognized rights. Our Indigenous ancestors promised peaceful co-existence and that spirit and intent remains today. Canada cannot afford to fail and needs to abide by conditions of Treaty. As we seen this past month there is consequences to inaction and our Peoples will never be silenced or go back to status quo…it’s a new day and our Peoples spirits have been awakened,” concluded Chief Spence.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6:08 PM - 0 Comments
The Assembly of First Nations confirms its support for the joint declaration.
“We have expressed to Chief Spence our deep appreciation for her strength and resolve, and hailed the impact that has had in raising awareness of the need for fundamental and transformative change in the relationship between First Nations and the Crown,” said AFN Regional Chief Roger Augustine, speaking on behalf of the AFN National Executive.
National Chief Shawn Atleo expressed his personal appreciation for Chief Spence’s contribution, adding: “Our shared goal is simple and clear: to guarantee that our children can achieve the brighter future that they deserve. This is what every Chief across this country, every member of the Assembly of First Nations, will continue to fight to achieve,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “Our mandate is to advance the priorities of First Nations in those areas, and to achieve that justice for our children. We have made real progress in recent weeks. Our journey – the Chiefs, the AFN and mine – will not be over until we have won those guarantees.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 9:31 AM - 0 Comments
Three separate reports this morning that Chief Theresa Spence’s protest could be nearing an end.
The Canadian Press reports that negotiations involving interim Liberal leader Bob Rae are taking place to find a resolution.
Members of the delegation, along with Spence and a couple of her closest confidantes, are working the phone lines to craft a declaration of the chief’s concerns that would be signed by supporters. They also hope to design a ceremony to mark what her protest has accomplished. And they want to define a process that will allow Spence a recovery.
The Globe reports that Ms. Spence wants a pledge from Shawn Atleo, Thomas Mulcair and Mr. Rae.
Ms. Spence has indicated she will resume eating solid foods after the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, and opposition leaders Thomas Mulcair of the New Democrats and Bob Rae of the Liberals agree to press the Harper government to move on an eight-point action plan crafted by the AFN, the sources said. She also wants a commitment from the opposition leaders to continue fighting omnibus budget legislation that has prompted country-wide protests under the Idle No More movement and which many native people say will negatively affect their communities because it reduces federal environmental oversight.
And APTN reports that a letter from Attawapiskat band councillors will end the protest.
By Heather Scoffield, The Canadian Press - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 4:21 PM - 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 - 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 - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 4:28 PM - 0 Comments
The second part of my conversation with Romeo Saganash. In this segment we talk about #IdleNoMore, Theresa Spence, Shawn Atleo, the blockades and the chance for progress. The first part of our conversation is here.
Obviously you’ve been preoccupied with other things, but have you had a chance to watch Idle No More? Have you talked to people? What’s your sense of what’s happened these last few weeks?
Well, anyone who thought that this would never happen must have been somewhere else, in a sense, because this was bound to happen. I know a lot of people tend to say that Idle No More is just an aboriginal thing, which is really not the case because a lot of things that we talk about should be of direct concern to all Canadians. Whether it’s the environment, navigable waters, you name it. The dismantling, and it’s not just me as an NDPer that is speaking, but the dismantling of the environment, the dismantling of the economy and natural resources in this country, the dismantling of human rights in this country, the government of the day is presently dismantling the very foundation of what Canada is. And obviously I have a problem with that.
So that is what I’m seeing. I haven’t been completely isolated, I’ve been following this and the people that talk to me, whether in my riding or Montreal or elsewhere here, all point to the same things. The hunting association in Val D’Or has the same preoccupations as the aboriginal peoples that are protesting in the streets. And in many regions, a lot of non-aboriginal people have joined those marches. We need to continue to fight something that is wrong here. And it’s not just about aboriginal rights or treaty rights, it’s about a lot of other things as well. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 12:55 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from National Chief Shawn Atleo on his decision to take a leave.
First Nations citizens have just witnessed one of the most important chapters in our recent history. Through the pressure of the grassroots, the sacrifices made by Chief Spence and her fellow strikers, and the work of many regional Chiefs and the National Executive of the AFN, we have seized the attention of Canadians and of this government.
We forced open the door to the PMO and to the Governor-General. We achieved a commitment to the personal leadership of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office and other senior ministers. Now they know that the whole world is watching what progress we make. Now they understand the consequences of failure.
We have a responsibility to work together to push forward our work that relates to each of the eight elements that emerged from our discussions this week – on Treaty, on comprehensive claims, resource revenue sharing, action to assess and halt provisions of legislation that contravene our rights, on the urgent needs of our communities and justice for our missing women. We have leaders in place to ensure that detailed work gets done. And now we have the public commitment of this government and this Prime Minister that they will treat these issues as their priorities.
I am proud of the support we received from First Nations citizens and Chiefs across Canada, even during the most difficult days. There were many long conference calls, late night meetings, and frustrations in the past two weeks. I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me. This weekend, my doctor ordered that I take some time now to rest and recover and I have agreed with my family that I do this now.
I ask that Regional Chief Augustine continue to chair and facilitate our National Executive meetings in my brief absence and that Regional Chief Bellegarde and Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould continue the work that they led this week on Treaty implementation and on comprehensive claims. As we did in the meeting on January 11 – we must seize the agenda and drive the next steps on each and every element. I encourage everyone to contribute fully to these next steps. I have also directed the senior staff of the Assembly of First Nations to mobilize staff working teams on these elements to provide the analysis and support required.
Finally as we have done from the very beginning, we continue to offer our support and prayers for Chief Spence, the hunger strikers and for all of our peoples standing up through peaceful demonstrations and protest. As we told the Prime Ministers – our voices, the voices of all of our citizens will not be silenced. We will drive change now.
Friends and colleagues, this has been a fateful moment in the decades of struggle by our peoples. We have secured important new ground. Now the harder, but less visible, work of turning promises into action begins. I look forward to working with all of you on those tasks in the weeks and months ahead. Together I am confident we ensure that this week marks the end of a long bitter chapter of paralysis and provocation in our relationship with the GoC, and that it truly is the beginning of a new chapter.
I will see you all very soon and will return re-invigorated and strengthened to work with you to drive this change together with all of you.
I’m told Chief Atleo came down with the norovirus over the holidays in December.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The head of Canada’s largest aboriginal organization, Shawn Atleo, is taking a…
OTTAWA – The head of Canada’s largest aboriginal organization, Shawn Atleo, is taking a “brief” sick leave in the midst of a political crisis.
Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says the meetings and frustrations over the past two weeks have caught up with him, and his doctor has ordered him to rest.
“I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me. This weekend, my doctor ordered that I take some time now to rest and recover and I have agreed with my family that I do this now,” Atleo said in a statement.
“I will see you all very soon and will return re-invigorated and strengthened to work with you to drive this change together with all of you.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 8:41 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after noon, with a group of women standing as human obstacles in front of the Langevin Block’s main doors, a crowd spilling out into the street, a man in a fur hat—Raymond Robinson, I believe, the Manitoba elder who has been on a hunger strike for the past month—stepped forward to shout his demands at the building, an imposing, Gothic Revival bunker across the street from Parliament Hill.
“Come on out, Harper!
“Come on Harper! Come on out!”
“Come on Harper, come outside! Be a man!
“Nation to nation! No more, no less!”
Around him, protesters drummed and sang in the cold and the rain. Two carved eagle heads were held aloft along with a dozen flags. A chant of “Idle! No More!” rose up from the crowd.
“I don’t want to fight, I just want to talk to you!”
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 7:05 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on today’s meeting.
The Prime Minister met this afternoon with National Chief Shawn Atleo and leaders from Canada’s First Nations communities. The Prime Minister participated in the full meeting and had a good, frank dialogue with all participants. While both sides did not come to agreement on all matters, the First Nations leaders brought serious and important proposals to the table.
The government remains committed to ongoing dialogue on Aboriginal issues and to taking achievable steps that will provide better outcomes in First Nations communities.
To that end, the Prime Minister agreed to high-level dialogues on the treaty relationship and comprehensive claims. The Prime Minister agreed with the need to provide enhanced oversight from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office on Aboriginal matters.
The Prime Minister agreed to debrief the members of his Cabinet and government on today’s discussions and agreed to meet with AFN National Chief Atleo in the coming weeks to review next steps.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 5:18 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from NDP aboriginal affairs critic Jean Crowder.
In recent days we have seen the frustrations from years of failed promises. Prime Minister Stephen Harper heard about these frustrations first-hand from the delegation of Chiefs who met with him this afternoon.
After the Crown-First Nations Gathering last year, many First Nations were hopeful that the Prime Minister would change how he dealt with First Nations issues. And last November, National Chief Shawn Atleo sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking when those commitments would be honoured, because there had been no action. The Prime Minister could have prevented all this if he had followed up on his commitments from last year’s meetings. Instead of respectful dialogue, Conservatives pushed through an omnibus budget bill without ever consulting the First Nations being affected.
In a letter to the Prime Minister before Christmas, our leader, Tom Mulcair, warned Stephen Harper that it was past time to follow through on the commitments, and urged him to act immediately.
In recent days we have witnessed an incredible diversity of First Nations youth, women, leaders and politicians letting all Canadians know that issues like treaty implementation, missing and murdered Aboriginal women, resource sharing, protecting the environment, and poverty eradication need to be given a higher priority by this Conservative government.
The grassroots movement we are witnessing has the potential to unite all Canadians who share these concerns.
Now it’s time for the government to start listening.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office has released the above photo of today’s meeting. Seated to the Prime Minister’s right is Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and to Mr. Duncan’s right is National Chief Shawn Atleo. Beside Mr. Atleo are Treasury Board President Tony Clement and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. To Mr. Harper’s left are Greg Rickford, parliamentary secretary to Mr. Duncan, and Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright.
According to the PMO, the Prime Minister will be attending for the duration of today’s meetings. A news conference with someone from the government side is expected after the meeting concludes. Mr. Atleo is not scheduled to meet with the media.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 4:30 PM - 0 Comments
Mere hours after a thousands-strong Idle No More rally filled Parliament Hill, the NDP put out a press release. But it had nothing to do with Aboriginal affairs, and instead reminded the political world of the Conservative government’s record on trade.
The Conservative government’s failure to take action to improve our trade competitiveness has resulted in Canada’s merchandise trade deficit quadrupling – from $552 million to $2 billion in November alone.
The party quoted a new report released this morning that charted Canada’s running trade deficit.
According to a Statistics Canada report released today, in November 2012 Canada’s merchandise imports rose by 2.7 per cent and exports fell by 0.9 per cent. The result is Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise trade deficit on record.
Last night, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was set to host a number of Aboriginal chiefs at his residence, Stornoway, but that meeting was cancelled when the chiefs spent the evening at an Assembly of First Nations meeting at Ottawa’s Delta Hotel. Earlier today, Mulcair’s spokesman, George Smith, defended the NDP’s visibility on the Aboriginal file over the last month.
UPDATE: The NDP’s Aboriginal affairs critic, MP Jean Crowder, released a statement saying “it’s time for the government to start listening” to Aboriginal concerns.
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 Emmett Macfarlane - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 2:15 PM - 0 Comments
A debate about the role of the David Johnston may seem arcane, but it’s also revealing
The politics surrounding the Idle No More movement were never going to be neat and tidy.
First, non-aboriginal Canadians have an embarrassing lack of understanding of the history of the relationship between First Nations and “the Crown.” When native leaders speak of a “nation-to-nation” relationship they are speaking to a history of settler-indigenous relations that were expressly predicated on the notion that two sovereigns were reaching agreements via treaty.
There is a strong, legitimate argument to be made that the foundation of Canadian federalism rests on a federal relationship between the Crown (first the British Crown, then the distinct Canadian Crown) and aboriginals, and that self government for First Nations constitutes another “order of government,” much like the federal and provincial orders of government already familiar to most grade schoolers.
Understood through federalism, the “nation-to-nation” conception shouldn’t be so scary to non-aboriginal Canadians because–despite how some appear to interpret it–it doesn’t mean indigenous nations are their own independent countries. Instead, it means we recognize aboriginal sovereignty in the sense that they are owed the rights that flow from historical treaties as recognized by section 35 of the 1982 Constitution Act. This fact was recognized by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, and is something which many of the aboriginal activists behind Idle No More support. Continue…
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 - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
Nick Taylor-Vaisey has a rough guide to the Idle No More protests and the meeting that now seems unlikely.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 11:03 PM - 0 Comments
The PM, the GG and the AFN: A Maclean’s briefing on today’s meeting on Aboriginal rights
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston prepare to sit down with Aboriginal leaders to discuss treaty rights and economic development, here’s a rough guide to how it all came to this. We emphasize rough, because the proposed meetings themselves may or may not occur, as of Friday morning.
Who called this meeting?
There are two proposed meetings, actually, and Harper is behind both of them. On Jan. 4, he accepted an Assembly of First Nations request to meet with Aboriginal leaders to build on last year’s Crown-First Nations gathering. The AFN proposed Jan. 24, and Harper countered with Jan. 11, which the AFN accepted. Separately, Harper asked Johnston if he’d host a ceremonial meeting at Rideau Hall that would follow the working meeting. Johnston accepted. Continue…
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 - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
The itinerary for Friday’s meeting between the Harper government and aboriginal leaders at the Langevin Block (the building across from Parliament Hill that houses the Prime Minister’s Office).
1pm: Opening session with remarks from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo
1:30pm-4:00pm: Plenary session to discuss the treaty relationship and aboriginal rights, and economic development. Chairs: John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; Perry Bellegarde, Regional Chief; Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board; and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Regional Chief
4:00pm-5:00pm: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo will engage in a dialogue with the Chairs about the outcomes of the plenary session
The proceedings apparently won’t be televised and the Prime Minister won’t be taking questions from reporters afterwards. As noted, a ceremonial meeting with the Governor General is expected to occur at Rideau Hall after the meetings at Langevin.
Tonight, at Stornoway, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is meeting with 20 First Nations chiefs, including Shawn Atleo.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
It was the audit that led to the media ban, said Ms. Kataquapit. “We are just going to wait for the results of Chief Spence’s meeting with the Prime Minister and government officials on Friday,” before deciding if media will be allowed back into Attawapiskat, she said.
It could be a long wait. Mr. Johnston’s office said Tuesday that he will not be at the meeting and Ms. Spence’s spokesman said that means she may also decide not to show up.
Spence’s spokesman Danny Metatawabin said the chief, who has been on a hunger strike since Dec. 11 consuming only fish broth, medicine tea and water, wouldn’t attend the meeting if Johnston didn’t show. “If he is not going to be there Theresa is not going to the meeting,” said Metatawabin. “We are going to take it day by day.”
Metatawabin said they’ve relayed their position to Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo. “We are going to have to take it day by day at this point to see if somehow he could be there,” he said.
Rideau Hall’s explanation is that Mr. Johnston won’t attend Friday’s meeting “because it consists of a working meeting with government on public policy issues.” Ultimately, his attendance depends on what the role of the governor general is supposed to be and what he is supposed to be involved. Here is how Philippe Lagasse explained matters last night.
As is often the case, the debate over the GG attending the meeting is coming down to how we define/understand the Crown.
If your looking at the Crown as the concept of the state and you want to emphasize equal sovereignties, you’ll go for GG attending.
If your defining the Crown as the executive here and want to stress that we’re all part of a united Canada, then you want GG away from it.
Anyway, for what it’s worth, I don’t see how the Crown could be there as the state, so it must be there as the executive power, so no GG.
A statement from AFN Chief Shawn Atleo on Monday described Friday’s meeting as follows.
The January 11 meeting between First Nation leaders and the Prime Minister is not a gathering or summit, rather a focused working meeting that must lead to a tangible plan for change. We all know that the hard work of First Nations does not start or end with one meeting, and that one meeting will not produce immediate results; however First Nation leaders will seek clear and concrete commitments to advancing existing priorities and ongoing work. This includes the implementation of Treaties on a Treaty by Treaty basis, respect for the nation-to-nation relationship, First Nations inherent rights, title and the responsibilities of First Nations to the lands and resources. Grounded firmly in our rights, we must achieve fair, sustainable financial relations and First Nation driven solutions on key priorities including ensuring safety, security and opportunity for all First Nation citizens.
Update 10:03am. The CBC talks to Chief Spence’s spokesman this morning and reports that she will attend. But CTV’s Robert Fife now tweets that Chief Spence wants the AFN to cancel the meeting if the Governor General and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty don’t attend.
Update 10:48am. Global is told Chief Spence won’t attend if the Governor General isn’t there.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 21, 2012 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
Charlie Angus writes about Attawapiskat and Theresa Spence.
The question is what role will the Prime Minister play this time around? People often describe him as a “brilliant tactician,” but tactics aren’t enough to run a country. From a tactical point of view, he will no doubt assume that Christmas is the worst time to mount a protest because the public’s attention is being diverted to home and family. He might also think that a winter hunger strike will sap the energy of the Chief quickly and bad weather will dampen public support rallies.
Yes, this is all true. But what Mr. Harper needs to understand is that he isn’t the one holding the cards.
Hunger strikes are very volatile and potentially divisive actions. They stem from desperation and a belief that all other attempts to negotiate in good faith have been exhausted.
Jim Denis champions the cause.
The fundamental issue is the nation-to-nation treaty relationship with Indigenous peoples that Canadian governments repeatedly flout by passing legislation without free, prior and informed consent.
Harper and the Governor-General (as Crown representative) must meet with Chief Spence and other First Nations leaders, to not only discuss this relationship but take concrete action to repair it.
And the CBC talks to Shawn Atleo.