Posts By: First Nations Drum

Respecting First Nations rights helps achieve economic stability and investment certainty: AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

Courtesy of AFN

(Ottawa, ON) – On the announcement of a tentative trade agreement now named the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the general exception clause for Indigenous Peoples Rights will help ensure the protection of inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights and bring greater economic stability, certainty and integrity to international trade and prosperity to North America.

“I have consistently urged Minister Freeland to ensure the protection of inherent and Treaty rights in international trade and I am pleased this is included in the newly announced United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “The provisions addressing Indigenous Peoples in the USMCA make it the most inclusive international trade agreement for Indigenous peoples to date. The  protection for Indigenous peoples’ rights in the general exceptions to the agreement will protect inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights as well as increase stability, certainty and integrity to international trade.”

Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, late yesterday, released a joint statement with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, announcing the two countries reached an agreement alongside Mexico. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement comes 13 months after negotiations began.

Some highlights of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement include recognition of the important role First Nations and other Indigenous peoples play in the long-term conservation of the environment, and emphasis on cooperation activities to promote and enhance opportunities for First Nations businesses and trade. Specific provisions for Indigenous peoples are found in the Exceptions and General Provisions chapter, the Environment chapter, Investment chapter (corporate social responsibility), Textiles, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Chapter and Competitiveness Chapter.

“I strongly remind Canada, the United States and Mexico that with their endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples comes domestic obligations to Indigenous peoples, and that rights protected in the new agreement must include the rights and obligations in the Declaration,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “I will continue to urge Canada to work in partnership with First Nations to ensure recognition, protection, implementation and enforcement of First Nations rights in this agreement and other international trade and investment agreements.”

In January 2018, National Chief Bellegarde and a delegation of First Nations leaders, including members of the AFN Chiefs Committee on Economic Development, were in Montreal to discuss the importance of trade to First Nations economic growth, participation in the labour force and inter-tribal trade and to push for an Indigenous Peoples Chapter in the agreement.

National Chief Bellegarde was approached in July 2017 to participate on the NAFTA Council to offer advice to federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland during negotiations.

AFN resolution 36/2017, First Nations Trade Relations, affirms First Nations inherent right to trade and mandates efforts to advocate for First Nations economic growth and the development of options to secure greater economic independence.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

Renowned Indigenous leader receives honorary LLD from Law Society of Ontario

TORONTO, ON — The Law Society of Ontario presented a degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD), to the Honorable Senator Murray Sinclair at its Call to the Bar ceremony on September 28, 2018 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

As part of its Call ceremonies each year, the Law Society awards honorary doctorates to distinguished people in recognition of outstanding achievements in the legal profession, the rule of law, or the cause of justice. Recipients serve as inspirational keynote speakers for the new lawyers attending the ceremonies.

Senator Sinclair is a highly respected and dedicated leader in Canada. Following his call to the Manitoba Bar in 1980, he practised primarily in the fields of civil and criminal litigation and Aboriginal law. In 1988, he became the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba (and the second in Canada) when he was appointed Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba. In 2001, he was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba.

As Chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2009 – 2015), Senator Sinclair was instrumental in documenting the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada and the accounts of more than 6,750 residential school Survivors. His wisdom and leadership delivered the first comprehensive report on this dark chapter in our history, including 94 Calls to Action to guide Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to reconciliation.

His service to the country and Indigenous people has been widely recognized with numerous honorary degrees, Canada’s World Peace Award in 2016, the 2017 National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award and the Meritorious Service Cross for his work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He has been widely recognized with numerous honorary degrees, and was appointed to the Senate on April 2, 2016. (See full biography online.)

Law Society Treasurer, Malcolm M. Mercer awarded the honorary LLD to Senator Murray Sinclair, who then delivered the keynote address to the new lawyers at the ceremony.

Provided by The Law Society

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

Orange Shirt Day: A Time for Recollection and Reconciliation

By Louise Bradley

Orange Shirt Day, September 30, is an occasion to pause and remember Canada’s residential school survivors and to reflect on our collective responsibility to take steps towards reconciliation.

On her first day of residential school, Phyllis Webstad’s prized possession, an orange shirt gifted by her grandmother, was taken away. Today, we wear orange to remember those whose cultures and kinships were systematically stolen.

The journey towards reconciliation is a long one— we cannot undo overnight trauma inflicted over many generations. But recent efforts, like the National Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, developed by and for Indigenous peoples in partnership with the federal government and provinces, is an important step to repairing the damage where it began: with vulnerable children. When it comes to mental wellness, a good beginning can reverberate across a lifetime.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada honours the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We have partnered with Reconciliation Canada to ensure all staff join reconciliation dialogue workshops, an essential foundation for the compassion that breeds healing.

On September 30, wear an orange shirt in the spirit of reconciliation and pledge your commitment to build a better tomorrow for every child in Canada.

Louise Bradley
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Wood Production Strategy: First Nations must have their say

Wendake, September 26, 2018 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) has serious concerns about the Wood Production Strategy project presented by the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. When all indicators are already set to red regarding environment and respect for First Nations’ rights, the government is showing, once again, its limited vision of land development geared solely towards the pursuit of short-term profit.

“The Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council is totally right when it affirms that we need to rethink the Strategy while ensuring the intrinsic presence of the First Nations and by integrating environmental issues in the equation. First Nations have already suffered enough from timber exploitation. Intensive forestry advocated by the Strategy is exerting even more pressure on the communities and it poses serious threats to the exercise of their rights. We have had another example of this with the long-standing Huron-Wendat Nation’s fight to protect the last large expanse of wild forest south of Quebec, Lac à Moïse. First Nations have an integrated perspective of the territory. The government should take example of them,” stated the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

Quebec needs to be consistent and innovative and seize the opportunity of developing this Strategy to integrate the First Nations meaningfully and ensure respect for and protection of their rights which have been denied for far too long.

The Intensified Wood Production Areas, to which the government is proposing to devote 25% of the forest area in Quebec, are a major source of concern for the First Nations.

The Intensified Wood Production Areas are indeed a major change in land use vocation and, in this case, require further specifications and indicators that the Strategy does not provide on the designation and decision-making process, notably on First Nation consultation and accommodation.

Chief Picard concludes: “the next Government of Quebec must commit to putting into effect the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the principle of a free, prior and informed consent, as fundamental bases for reconciliation. Yet, genuine reconciliation can be reached only through attentive listening and by sharing revenues, land and expertise”.

About the AFNQL

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the political organization which groups together 43 Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. Follow the AFNQL on Twitter @APNQL.

Lakehead University’s Achievement Program will now help Nipigon students realize their full potential

September 25, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON

Nipigon students will have a greater chance of attending university thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed with Lakehead University on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Current and future Grade 4 students from George O’Neill Public School and St. Edward Catholic School who are eligible will now have the opportunity to enroll in the Achievement program. Students who are eligible to participate, attend special on campus programming at the University and meet certain criteria to earn financial support toward their first year of tuition at Lakehead University. 

Lakehead President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Moira McPherson signed the memorandum of understanding with Nicole Morden-Cormier, Interim Director of Education at Superior-Greenstone District School Board, and Maria Vasanelli, Interim Director for Superior North Catholic District School Board.

“The Achievement Program is Lakehead University’s commitment to supporting access to postsecondary education by providing opportunities for students who experience socioeconomic barriers,” Dr. McPherson said.

“This program is about hope and opportunity, and encouraging students to see themselves as Lakehead University graduates at an early age. It’s about changing attitudes and expectations,” she added.

Lakehead introduced the Program in 2011 to help students obtain a postsecondary education at the University. Eligible participants enrol in grade 4 and continue with the Program until grade 12, with annual opportunities to earn financial assistance by completing specific requirements at their school, community and at Lakehead University.

At the end of those nine years, the accrued value of each student’s financial support will help fund their first year at Lakehead University. Lakehead provides additional spots each year, based on available funding, for eligible students to enrol.

Morden-Cormier said the Superior-Greenstone District School Board is pleased to partner with Lakehead University to bring the Achievement Program to students at George O’Neill Public School. 

“We know that students who feel a strong sense of belonging are more likely to succeed. Lakehead University’s Achievement Program has been designed to do just that – to ensure that students become familiar with and feel welcome at the University beginning in grade 4,” she said.

“This program reflects our strong belief in providing equity of access to education as it offers children who might otherwise not have been able to attend University the opportunity to experience it. We believe that this program will have a significant impact on our students.”

Vasanelli said: “Superior North Catholic District School Board is pleased to partner with Lakehead University in providing a progressive opportunity to our students. It is partnerships such as these that strengthen the community in supporting students to reach their potential through relevant education.”

The First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s CEO Receives Order of British Columbia

Brentwood Bay, B.C. – We are proud to announce that FPCC’s Chief Executive Officer Tracey Herbert has been appointed to the Order of British Columbia, the province’s highest form of recognition. Tracey received this honour at Government House in Victoria on September 20, 2018.

Tracey Herbert is the CEO of First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), a First Nations-run provincial Crown Corporation that supports the revitalization of Indigenous languages, arts, culture and heritage in B.C. She is a member of the St’uxwtews First Nation (Bonaparte Band). Tracey is honoured, as an Indigenous woman, to receive this award and recognition at a time when the profile of Indigenous languages and the importance of revitalization is increasing.

“My passion for language and culture comes from being raised by my grandparents, who instilled the Indigenous values of deeply respecting knowledge keepers, and giving back to your community,” said Tracey. “I have been privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to our Indigenous communities and hold Indigenous people up throughout my career.”

Prior to joining FPCC in 2003, Tracey served as elected councilor for the Bonaparte Band, and worked in community development at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.

Tracey has been a tireless advocate of Indigenous language revitalization at the provincial and national level. For the past 15 years, she has led FPCC in providing funding and resources to First Nations communities, monitoring the status of Indigenous languages and developing policy recommendations for First Nations and government.

Tracey’s leadership in language preservation, program development, and technology tools has shaped policy and influenced government, contributing to the development of federal language legislation in Canada, which is expected to be introduced in 2019.

Under Tracey’s leadership FPCC has achieved the following successes:

  • Development of innovative programs to support the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages and arts in B.C.
  • Advocacy for Indigenous languages, resulting in a $50-million investment by the provincial government for Indigenous language revitalization in 2018.
  • Development of the award winning Our Living Languages exhibition at the Royal BC Museum in 2014 showcasing the work of B.C.’s Indigenous language champions and presenting the critical level of endangerment of B.C. First Nations Languages on an accessible, public platform.

Tracey is technician for B.C. on the national Chief’s Committee on Languages and Chair of the National Assembly of First Nations Costing Committee for the development of the national legislation on Indigenous languages.

Wanosts̓a7 Dr. Lorna Williams, Professor Emerita of Indigenous Education, University of Victoria –

“I was honoured to nominate Tracey for the Order of B.C. Her leadership in the field of arts, language and cultural revitalization has changed the approaches to language preservation and revitalization. Though her work to promote the value and beauty of B.C. languages, she has contributed to a significant shift to a better understanding by First Nations peoples and all British Columbians about why we need our languages for reconciliation, nation building and to strengthen us as individuals.

Tracey’s greatest legacy is that the Indigenous people’s voice is finally heard in telling their stories in song, art, music, exhibitions, performance and giving voice to how history is told and languages recovered, revitalized and maintained as they want it to be. The walls have been breached thanks to her persistence and respectful collaborations.”

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde 

“On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, I congratulate Tracey Hebert on her prestigious and highly deserved appointment to the Order of British Columbia. This is a clear and strong recognition of her life’s work for First Nations peoples in BC and across the country. Tracey has dedicated decades of service working on a range of issues in a variety of fields. In particular, her efforts to strengthen and revitalize First Nations languages will make 2019, the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages, a truly landmark year worthy of celebration. Tracey’s passion for our people, our cultures and our youth are inspiring, and we commend her on this appointment to the Order of British Columbia.”

Grand Chief Edward John, First Nations Summit Political Executive 

“An unfortunate part of our collective history includes not only the historical banning of Indigenous cultural practices, but also the use of Indigenous languages. This had tremendous negative impacts on Indigenous peoples and communities in BC. Tracey Herbert’s work provides but one example of our collective efforts to overcome the detrimental effects of this dark time in the history of BC. She is a very worthy recipient of this honour as she has been instrumental in not only promoting the preservation of Indigenous culture and arts, but also promoting the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages in BC.  We applaud her for these significant efforts and are pleased that she is being recognized for her significant body of work by being bestowed with the Order of BC”.  

Hon. Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –

 “I hold my hands up to Tracey Herbert for her exceptional contribution to Indigenous language revitalization in British Columbia. Her recognition by the Order of B.C. is well deserved and her commitment and hard work on behalf of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council has not gone unnoticed. As a government we are proud to support work in such a critical area.”

Quebec English Electoral Debate: The AFNQL Underlines the Recognition of First Nations as a Solution to Labor Shortage

Wendake, September 18, 2018 – “First Nation issues are finally getting a nod in the electoral campaign but we want to hear more than just a few references,” stated Chief of the AFNQL Ghislain Picard, reacting to the English debate held yesterday.

During the debate, when questioned about labor shortage, Liberal and Parti quebecois leaders said they would turn to First Nations. “We need to bring Seniors in the workforce, (and) First Nations”, said Philippe Couillard. “Labor shortage is a real issue and there are number of ways to address it: First Nations for example… Ghislain Picard said since there were labor shortage in the regions, could we not maximize the employment of the youth from the First Nations and Inuits? I think it’s a great idea,” added Jean-François Lisée.

“Up to now, we have heard a lot of talk about immigration as a solution to the labor shortage, but very few dared to venture into the realm of First Nations demographic reality, which is that 55 per cent of our population is 25 years old and under. Yesterday, I was glad to hear two of the political party leaders recognize that we have an active population ready to work”, commented Chief Ghislain Picard, who wants to remind the political party leaders that 100 days into the new administration, the AFNQL will invite the next government to a formal meeting with our Chiefs Assembly. “For First Nations, employment, training, jobs, and a host of other sectors related to economy, need measures and a plan. Also, we can’t talk about economy if we don’t talk about access to lands and resources. But first, we need to talk,” concluded Chief Picard.

About the AFNQL The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the political organization regrouping 43 Chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. Follow us on Twitter @APNQL.

First Nations-Driven Implementation Essential, Says AFN National Chief on Federal Investment in Early Learning and Child Care

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde, together with AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, support the National Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework as one opportunity for First Nations to develop and implement their own early learning and child care systems.

“Healthy children are raised in healthy environments,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “First Nations children will have enhanced opportunities for success when they have identities built from strong connections to their nations, languages, cultures and history. This framework is reflective of direction and input by First Nations experts in health, education and early childhood education. It can now be used as a guide for First Nations to create their own early learning and child care systems based on their vision for their children and families. The implementation is crucial and I look forward to continued participation by First Nations to determine how this will roll out in our nations.”

Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, released the National Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework in Ottawa today. The Framework was developed with input by First Nations, Métis and Inuit. As part of its release, Minister Duclos announced $1.02 billion over ten years for early learning and child care initiatives specific to First Nations as well as additional resources for innovation and governance development.

“The work toward achieving this framework is first and foremost about our children, our most precious resource and the focus of all we do,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart who is the portfolio lead for the AFN in this area. “We welcome the commitments made by the federal government today and look forward to using this framework as a guide to implement First Nations approaches and design. First Nations want to care for their children and must drive the design and delivery of all early childhood programming, and this includes ensuring a strong connection to language and culture. This new approach must support First Nations entities that do this work to ensure proper costing, design and delivery.” 

The AFN established a national expert working group on Early Learning and Child Care following direction by Chiefs-in-Assembly in 2016. The working group is comprised of First Nations experts from across the disciplines of health, education and early childhood. The working group led a First Nations regional engagement process to identify and confirm key principles, priorities and actions of a First Nations early learning and child care framework and action plan. This effort helped inform the co-development of the National Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

Lakehead University Student’s Art Featured on New Coin

Mary McPherson pictured with Scene of my Elders Emerging from an Inauthentic Past, a drawing she did last year.

Mary McPherson pictured with Scene of my Elders Emerging from an Inauthentic Past, a drawing she did last year.

Photo courtesy of The Royal Canadian Mint

Photo courtesy of The Royal Canadian Mint

A fourth-year visual arts student at Lakehead University says it feels incredible to have designed one side of a new coin for the Royal Canadian Mint.

The Royal Canadian Mint asked Mary McPherson to participate in the design process for the new coin.

She was thrilled when the Mint chose her image of Tecumseh, a legendary Shawnee war leader who allied himself with the British and heroically led hundreds of First Nations warriors into battle at such places as Fort Meigs and most famously, Detroit.

Released on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the new coin recognizes the 250th anniversary of Tecumseh’s birth.

“It feels incredibly different than the work that I usually produce,” said McPherson, who is Ojibway and a member of Couchiching First Nation.

“I’ve never had an artistic experience quite like this one. I feel extremely grateful to have had the honour of drawing Tecumseh and having the design immortalized on a coin.”

McPherson said she learned a lot during the process.

“What I particularly realized throughout the duration of this project was how Tecumseh had, according to Dickason and Newbigging, ‘sided with the British, not because he liked them particularly but because he saw them as the lesser of two evils,’” she said.

“Tecumseh fought for the wellbeing and independence of his people. He had also united Indigenous nations, in resistance to a divide-and-conquer mentality, while maintaining the essential notion that the land was to be shared among all peoples and was not something to be owned.”

The MM on the right side of the coin represents McPherson’s initials. McPherson said her Lakehead University education helped her immensely with this process.

“Through Visual Arts and Indigenous Learning, I was able to improve my drawing skills, research skills, and time management skills, which aided me in completing this project.”

For more information about the coin, visit the Royal Canadian Mint website.


Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Expands Office Adds Indigenous Policy Leader and Community Engagement Specialist

(HALIFAX, NS) – The Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for NS and NL, Morley Googoo has enlisted Indigenous leaders Rhonda Knockwood and Shannon Monk to support his office’s vision and mandate to 2020.

Knockwood is in the process of relocating from British Columbia on the completion of a term with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government (Ucluelet First Nation) as a Political Advisor and Chief Negotiator.  She joins the NS-NL Regional Office as Chief of Staff and brings with her a robust career that includes working with Indigenous organizations across the country.  Knockwood was Chief of Staff for Shawn Atleo’s term as AFN Regional Chief for BC from 2003-09.  Following this, she performed consulting work with the Atlantic Policy Congress of Atlantic Chiefs and the Union of Nova Scotia Indians while living in Sipekne’katik. Knockwood returned to British Columbia to complete her graduate degree and worked as the Director of Operations with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government and will conclude her term as a key organizational advisor at the end of this month.  Knockwood currently serves as the volunteer Board President of the First Nations Education Foundation and will complete her Executive MBA in Indigenous Business and Leadership from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business this October.  The program is the only accredited masters level program in North America that is centrally focussed on Indigenous business, economic development and governance.

Regional Chief Googoo announced at AFN meetings in Ottawa this week that Knockwood will be joining his office in Oct. “Rhonda’s commitment to creating a new narrative for Indigenous people is an invaluable asset to my office and to all First Nations.” He said adding, “Her experience in policy development and Indigenous governance will help to propel, guide and inform our dynamic discussions as we move toward a Nation-to-Nation government.” 

Furthering his office’s role of community engagement Regional Chief Googoo has also recruited Shannon Monk, an accomplished First Nations community liaison who recently acted as the Indigenous lead on the Canada C-3 project.  She has been engaged by the Federal and several Provincial governments, corporations and several non-profit organizations as an outreach facilitator with Indigenous communities.  As part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s mandate she coordinated and hosted a series of 30 national conferences with Residential School survivors, service providers, and First Nations leaders.  As a Policy Analyst with the Assembly of First Nations she has travelled to more than 150 First Nations communities across the country to assess and report on the impact of Residential schools.  As CEO of Sakatay Global, Monk developed the Indigenous Circle Approach to Cultural Confidence™ as a framework for reconciliation and has provided extensive training to government and business.  Monk holds a degree in Arts, Education and a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Queen’s University with a focus on Indigenous Policy and Governance from the School of Policy Studies.

Regional Chief Googoo praised Monk’s career and her addition to his office. “Shannon has an incomparable record for Indigenous community outreach across Canada. Her in-depth perspective will bring an innovative and strategic insight to working with communities in NS and NL as we work together to address their needs.”

About the Assembly of First Nations

First Nation leaders (Chiefs) from coast to coast to coast direct the work of AFN through resolutions passed at Chiefs Assemblies held at least twice a year.  The AFN National Executive is made up of the National Chief, 10 Regional Chiefs and the chairs of the Elders, Women’s and Youth councils.  Regional Chiefs are elected every three years by Chiefs in their regions.  Chiefs, who are elected by the citizens and members of their respective communities, elect the National Chief every three years.

The role of the National Chief and the AFN is to advocate on behalf of First Nations as directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly.  This includes facilitation and coordination of national and regional discussions and dialogue, advocacy efforts and campaigns, legal and policy analysis, communicating with governments, including facilitating relationship building between First Nations and the Crown as well as public and private sectors and general public.