Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

By Joey Krackle

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) met with Canada’s Premiers at their Annual Premier’s Conference to discuss of critical importance in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador on July 15, 2015.

In summary, the AFN leadership requested commitments of support on the following items in their submission entitled, “Closing the Gap, Seeking Reconciliation, Advancing First Nations Well Being and Human Rights”:

–       Action that will meet the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples and which include inherent rights, title and jurisdiction;

–       Support from all levels of government for implementation of the  UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2013;

–       Support for the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;

–       Support for closing the gap on outcomes on all social, economic, political and human rights measures;

–       Commitment to establishing a Nation-to-Nation bilateral processes with First Nations to ensure  the Crown’s Consultation, accommodation and consent obligations are met and support for the inclusion of First Nations in discussions with the federal government;

–       commitment to work with First Nations on a new financial arrangement between First Nations and Canada;

–       Commitments to collaborating with First Nations to protect lands, waters and the environment; and

–       Commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

After engaging with the AFN, the Premiers released communiqués in which they indicated their support for several of the AFN requests.  In summary, these included:

–       Affirmation of commitment to action in response to the  Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report; and

–       Commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal children in care by using best practices and intergovernmental cooperation.

In addition to specific communiqués, the Premiers wrote to each federal party leader to remind them that the federal government had a fiduciary responsibility to Aboriginal peoples and to obtain commitments to action on the following issues:

–       Taking action to respond to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;

–       Working with provinces, territories and Aboriginal organizations to end violence against Aboriginal women and girls, and supporting a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls; and

–       Working with provinces, territories and Aboriginal peoples to address other key concerns, including health care, social services, educational achievement, economic opportunity drinking water, and housing.