Topic: Today’s News

UBCIC Recognizes Opioid Crisis as “A State of Emergency”

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – March 11, 2019) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is demanding action by BC Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby, and Minister of Finance Carole James, as well as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy, on the escalating opioid crisis that is devastating First Nations communities in BC.

The UBCIC calls on BC to recognize that the opioid overdose crisis constitutes a state of emergency, a status already declared by the BC Health Authority. Further, the UBCIC, following the findings of a number of investigative reports, calls on the provincial government to launch a public inquiry into the influence of international organized crime syndicates in fueling the crisis.

“While the opioid crisis has affected every region of Canada, British Columbia tops the four regions hardest hit, with First Nations people facing the brunt of the impacts”, stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC. “First Nations people are five times more likely than non–First Nations citizens to experience an opioid-related overdose event, and three times more likely to die from an opioid-related overdose; First Nations people are twice as likely to be dispensed an opioid than non–First Nations citizens; and on some reserves, an opioid overdose is reported every two-hours. These statistics are completely unacceptable, and BC must immediately act or be held accountable and liable for their inaction.”

The UBCIC Chiefs Council resolution supports the upcoming First Nations Opioid Conference, “Opioids: Wiping the Tears. Healing the Pain,” that is organized by the Global Indigenous Council. The Conference will be held at the Grey Eagle Resort in Tsuut’ina Territory, Calgary, Alberta, May 6-7, 2019, and seeks “to outline a clear pathway of actions and recommendations for First Nations coping with and remedying the crisis.”

“This devastating crisis is stealing the lives of our most vulnerable. In fact I lost my 42 year old son, Kenny, to a carfentanyl overdose last August”, stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the UBCIC. “The UBCIC is fully committed to exhausting all appropriate avenues to find an immediate solution to this crisis. It is imperative for the government of BC to commit to the same. Collectively First Nations and the BC government can heal these wounds and protect our communities.” “The Government of Canada estimates that in the last two-years more than 9,000 Canadians have died because of the opioid crisis,” said Tom Rodgers, the Opioid Conference Director. “In our cities and towns, on our reserves and in our homes, in the last two-years we have lost 57 times more loved ones than Canada lost in the entire Afghanistan War,” continued Rodgers. “But we were not at war. Now we are at war with Big Pharma, and we intend to hold it accountable for the opioid crisis and secure reparations for First Nations to invest in the healing and recovery of our communities.”

For more information: or email:
Media inquiries:
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 320-7738

The AFNQL Marks International Women’s Day

Wendake, March 8, 2019 – On this International Women’s Day, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) pays tribute to women who are involved day in and day out in the many spheres of our society and in the defense of our rights and of our Nations.

“I express, on behalf of all our Chiefs,” said AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard, “our respect for First Nations women, for their roles and responsibilities as the leaders and role models who support our communities.”

He continues by reminding us all that “discrimination and violence against women and girls— and, more specifically, First Nations women and girls—is unacceptable and must be denounced.”

“Protecting these women’s rights, health and well-being is crucial to the survival not only of our communities, but of humanity as a whole,” Mr. Picard stated. “For our communities to thrive and prosper, our mothers, sisters and daughters must be able to look to the future with confidence. Yet obstacles and challenges remain for women in achieving equality in all aspects of their lives. The AFNQL will continue to demand respect for women and work toward an egalitarian world. It is commited to pursuing its collaboration with elected First Nations women and with Quebec Native Women to support initiatives to this end.”

About the AFNQL

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec-Labrador is the political organization uniting 43 First Nations chiefs in Quebec and Labrador. Follow the AFNQL on Twitter @APNQL.

Grand Council Treaty #3 Acknowledges International Women’s Day 2019

Kenora, ON — Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and the Grand Council Treaty #3 Women’s Council acknowledge International Women’s Day today.

“Indigenous women are the foundation and roots of our Nations. They are life givers and we honour their gifts, their diversity and uniqueness and most importantly, their strength. We must also take time to honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls today, ” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh. “At Grand Council Treaty #3 we continue to champion women’s rights, challenge all forms of gender discrimination and encourage all First Nations leadership to re-assert inherent jurisdiction over citizenship in ways that respect and honour women.”

The Treaty#3 Women’s Council recognizes the academic and professional achievements of all women in Treaty #3 territory who work in various positions from lawyers, social workers, healers and doctors to educators, entrepreneurs, scientists and those in pursuit of a trade or post-secondary education.  

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we are proud to honour and acknowledge First Nations Women Chiefs who lead across the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty#3:

Chief Janice Henderson, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation

Chief Marilyn Sinclair, Obashkaandagaang First Nation

Chief Kathy Kishiqueb, Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation

Chief Darlene Comegan, Northwest Angle #33 First Nation

Chief Esther Pitchenese, Wabigoon Lake First Nation

Chief Lorraine Cobiness, Niisaachewin First Nation

Chief Judy Whitecloud, Lac Des Milles Lac First Nation

Chief Andrea Camp, Buffalo Point First Nation

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911.

#IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter #GCT3

For more information please contact:

Janine Seymour, B.A., J.D., LL.M, Political Advisor to Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh 807.464.1261 (cell)

Premier Savikataaq remembers Charlie Panigoniak

Premier Joe Savikataaq today released the following statement: “It is with great sadness that I extend my condolences to the family and friends of Charlie Panigoniak on his passing earlier today.

Charlie’s legacy across Nunavut is one of great joy, good humour and inspiring others. His music is more than well-known in Nunavut, it is beloved and treasured in our communities. From his time at the CBC to receiving the Order of Canada, his was always a strong voice for Inuit language and the North.

I am thankful to have known Charlie for many years, and especially to have seen him just last week. I have and will always remain a fan of his songs, his spirit and his many talents. Though we mourn his passing, we hold onto his music to inspire and move us for years to come.”

New marine refuges in the Howe Sound to protect glass sponge reefs

News release

Vancouver, B.C. — Keeping our oceans clean, safe and healthy is essential for our environment and our economy. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the ocean and the abundance of marine biodiversity that calls it home.  

Today, Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, announced the establishment of eight marine refuges in Howe Sound to protect nine newly discovered glass sponge reefs. Located in the Salish Sea, immediately northwest of Vancouver, the Howe Sound glass sponge reefs are some of the most biologically productive reefs, providing habitat for more than 84 species of invertebrates and fish, such as prawns and rockfish. Together, the 9 reefs clean over 17 billion litres of water – the equivalent of nearly 6,800 Olympic swimming pools – in Howe Sound every day, filtering bacteria and processing carbon and nitrogen.

Fishery closures to preserve the glass sponge reefs will take effect in advance of the spring fishing season and apply to all commercial, recreational and Indigenous bottom contact fishing activities. Prawn and crab traps, shrimp and groundfish trawls, groundfish hook and line, and the use of downrigger gear in recreational salmon trolling are now prohibited within the protected areas. Glass sponge reefs are highly fragile, grow slowly and take a long time to recover once damaged, making them particularly vulnerable to impacts from these types of fishing gear.

These marine refuges have been established following consultations with local First Nations, federal and provincial government agencies, industry and conservation organizations as part of an ecosystem-based management approach that strives to create a healthy balance between vibrant aquatic systems and communities.


“These ancient and vibrant reefs remind us of just how important it is to protect unique and ecologically significant ecosystems that exist, sometimes right at the doorstep of a major metropolitan city. These new marine refuges are a great example of how we can achieve effective ocean management and marine conservation when all interested parties work together towards a common goal”.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“The prehistoric glass sponge reefs found along the Pacific coast are an international treasure that plays an important role in our marine ecosystems. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the biological diversity and health of the marine environment in Canada for present and future generations.”

Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country

Quick facts

  • The establishment of these new marine refuges marks yet another important step towards Canada’s commitment to reach its conservation targets of protecting 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020.
  • The Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef marine refuges will contribute an additional 3.5 km2 to Canada’s protected marine and coastal areas.
  • Glass sponge reefs are only found in the Pacific Northwest of North America. They were thought to have gone extinct until they were found by Natural Resources Canada in 1987—a discovery that scientists have compared to finding a herd of dinosaurs.
  • Closures will preserve the glass sponge reefs from all bottom-contact fishing activities and will take effect in advance of the 2019 spring fish season.


Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1P 5K9

Attention: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

March 4, 2019

Dear Prime Minister,

It is an enormous privilege to be the Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville and to have served as Minister of Health, then Minister of Indigenous Services, then President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. It has been an honour to play a leading role in progress that has shaped our country: bringing Syrian refugees to Canada; legislating a balanced approach to Medical Assistance in Dying; negotiating a health accord with new resources for mental health and home care; improving infrastructure for First Nations to provide clean water on reserve; and reforming child welfare to reduce the over-apprehension of Indigenous children.

However, I have been considering the events that have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of Cabinet.

In Canada, the constitutional convention of Cabinet solidarity means, among other things, that ministers are expected to defend all Cabinet decisions. A minister must always be prepared to defend other ministers publicly, and must speak in support of the government and its policies. Given this convention and the current circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to serve as a Cabinet minister.

Unfortunately, the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me. Those concerns have been augmented by the views expressed by my constituents and other Canadians.

The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system. It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.

It grieves me to leave a portfolio where I was at work to deliver on an important mandate. But I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations. There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.

Although I must regretfully resign from Cabinet, I will continue to serve Canadians in every other way that I can. I was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville and I intend to continue in that role. I am firmly committed to our crucial platform priorities, especially: justice for Indigenous peoples; and implementing a plan to tackle the existential threat of climate change. Canadians need the assurance that, in all matters, Members of Parliament will act in the best interests of the public. My decision has been made with that spirit and intent.


The Honourable Jane Philpott MD PC MP

Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville

Innu Nation Responds to Federal Child Welfare Bill: Without Funding Provisions, It’s an Empty Promise

NATUASHISH, NL – Innu leaders say that the proposed Bill C-92 on First Nations child and family services, introduced yesterday in federal Parliament, is missing a core element: it has no terms on federal funding. “It’s almost beyond belief that the federal government would finally bring in legislation on First Nations child welfare, but not include any provisions to address funding. It’s irresponsible. Funding issues have led to decades of crisis for our families, years of litigation, and countless meetings. Our children need predictable, non-discriminatory funding they can rely on year after year,” said Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that federal funding must ensure all First Nations child and family services reach the standard of substantive equality, and it held that the funding to date has been woefully inadequate and discriminatory. Bill C92 ignores this ruling and does not set out any terms on federal funding. Instead, federal funding for First Nations child and family services would remain discretionary and ungoverned by any statutory terms. Bill C-92 also provides a route to the exercise of First Nations jurisdiction. However, federal fiscal policies on own source revenues and other issues present a major obstacle to actually exercising self-government. Innu leaders say that exercising jurisdiction will not be feasible absent clear terms on funding. “The jurisdiction piece is not realistic without a legislated funding piece to go with it,” said Deputy Grand Chief Etienne Rich, “It may sound nice, but it’s an empty promise.” Innu leadership encouraged the Trudeau government to amend the bill. “I’m calling on this government to fix this major issue in the bill right away. The legal standard set out by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal needs to be in there, in the legislation,” said Grand Chief Rich. “Haggling over services for our children has to stop.”


Vancouver Island University’s next president and vice-chancellor will be Deborah Saucier.

Saucier, who starts a five-year term on July 4, 2019, is an accomplished neuroscientist, dedicated educator and university administrator with a deep commitment to Indigenous education and reconciliation. Originally from Saskatoon with Métis heritage and connections to Vancouver Island through both her education and her family, Saucier comes to VIU from MacEwan University in Edmonton, where she has served as president since 2017.

“Her passion for student success and employee engagement, her extensive experience as a distinguished researcher and educator in psychology and neuroscience as well as an academic and community leader are impressive,” says VIU Board Chair Makenzie Leine. “For these reasons, along with her own personal connection to Indigenous peoples and commitment to reconciliation, we are excited to welcome Dr. Saucier as our next president.”

Saucier was drawn to VIU by its commitment to student success, teaching quality, supporting a healthy workplace, as well as its proven commitment and track record of serving coastal and Indigenous communities.

“I am so excited to be part of the unique ways that VIU is transforming the communities of coastal British Columbia – allowing people to realize their dreams without having to leave their homes,” says Saucier.

Saucier spent many of her formative years on Vancouver Island, completing first an International Baccalaureate diploma at Metchosin-based Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, then bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Victoria. She completed her PhD at Western University. 

Before her current role as MacEwan University’s president, Saucier’s extensive academic career also includes time as a psychology professor, department chair, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair, dean, and provost and vice-president at various institutions.

VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell notes Saucier’s experience combined with her knowledge of Indigenous peoples, culture and ways of knowing are the right fit for the VIU presidency.

“Her leadership combines optimism and kindness – qualities important to VIU’s continued success as a regional university making social and cultural changes through transforming the communities we serve,” she says.

Saucier is married to Chai Duncan, a curator and contemporary artist, and they have an 11-year-old daughter. They will relocate to Vancouver Island this summer.

“Returning to the Island feels like the closure of a long journey,” she says. “For my daughter, she is delighted to be able to spend time with her extended family, who are located throughout the Island, exploring the places that I did when I was 10 years old.”

Saucier will succeed Dr. Ralph Nilson, who has served as president of both VIU and its predecessor institution, Malaspina University-College, since 2007 and will complete his final term on June 30, 2019.

Tabling of Bill C-92: Recognition of the rights and jurisdiction of Aboriginal peoples regarding child and family services

Wendake, February 28, 2019 – The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) are pleased to welcome the tabling of Bill C-92: An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families. This bill marks a late, but clear, change of attitude on behalf of the federal government. Much remains to be done to support First Nations. The federal government has taken a big step forward and will have to continue in that direction. The provincial government, in turn, will have to recognize the jurisdiction of the First Nations and engage with us in an active and sincere fashion.

“The federal bill on the unity of indigenous families marks the beginning of a broad project focused on improving the services intended for First Nations children. The first essential condition for the success of this project will be the political will to support First Nations in managing the care provided to their children. The second condition will be the engagement of the provinces, primarily by not undermining the desire of First Nations to regain control over the future of their children, but also by providing them with tangible support. In the wake of the bill announced by Minister O’Regan, I appeal to the Legault government to formally commit to considering the interests of First Nations children”, said the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

“Today marks a significant turning point in Canada’s relationship with our First Nations; they have started to listen to the cries of our children and have partnered with us to create an opportunity for us to work together to create a system that we can start to believe in, a system that respects the rights of individual Nations and people to determine for ourselves how our children should be cared for and a system that is a good step toward reversing some of the damage done to our generations. We look forward to seeing the Canadian government support this crucial piece of work for our children and families,” stated Derek Montour, president of the FNQLHSSC Board of Directors.

About the AFNQL

The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the political organization that brings together 43 Chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador.

About the FNQLHSSC

The First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission is a nonprofit organization that supports the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador in achieving their goals in terms of health, wellness, culture and self-determination.

AFN National Chief Bellegarde Says First Nations Responsibility for Child Welfare Key to New Legislation, Urges Investments to Support New Approach

(Ottawa, ON) – Following the introduction of federal legislation on Indigenous child welfare today in Parliament, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde said that First Nations children are the first priority and any legislation must ensure they grow up valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations.

“This legislation is first and foremost about First Nations children and their safety, their security and their future,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “The tragedy of thousands of First Nations children in care tells us we need a new approach. This legislation will recognize First Nations jurisdiction so they can build their own systems based on their own governance, laws and policies. Our focus has to be on prevention over apprehension, and keeping children close to their cultures and families.  We need investments to support this work, and we need everyone to support this approach. The time is long overdue for First Nations to finally regain responsibility over our children.”

Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan introduced the proposed federal legislation this morning in the House of Commons.  The legislation was developed with input by the AFN legislative working group comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

“First Nations value our children and want to keep them in the centre of the circle of our families and nations,” said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who leads AFN’s work in this area.  “We have our traditional laws, approaches and protocols that will guide our work in setting up systems to care for our children, keep them safe and ensure they learn and live their cultures and languages. It is time for all governments to work with First Nations to ensure a seamless transition so that no child is left behind.  We must all commit to this work on the understanding that our children are at the heart of our efforts.”

On November 30, 2018, National Chief Bellegarde stood with former Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and the leaders of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council to announce work aimed at introducing the federal legislation on Indigenous child and family services.

January 26 marked three years since the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government discriminates against First Nations children and families on reserve. Last January former Indigenous Services Minister Philpott convened an emergency meeting of First Nation, Métis and Inuit leaders, provincial and territorial representatives and child welfare experts and committed the federal government to six points of action which included co-developed legislation on Indigenous child welfare.

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