Technical Bulletin – Resignation of National Chief and Next Steps

on May 12, 2014

May 2014

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on work underway at the national office.  More information can be found at

Resignation of AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo resigned on May 2, 2014, stating:  “This work [education] is too important and I am not prepared to be an obstacle to it or a lightning rod distracting form the kids and their potential.”  The full statement is available on the AFN website at or by clicking here online

The National AFN Executive Committee acknowledged former National Chief Atleo in a written statement May 7, thanking him for his dedicated and tireless efforts to achieve change for First Nations and all of Canada.  That statement is also available at or by clicking here online

The National AFN Executive met May 5-6 in Ottawa to discuss an appropriate course of action and next steps consistent with the AFN Charter. 

Next Steps and Key Meetings 

The work of AFN continues in priority areas as mandated by Chiefs with Regional Chiefs continuing to oversee work in their designated portfolios.  At their meeting May 5-6, the AFN Executive agreed to appoint AFN Regional Chief for Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard as spokesperson for the Executive until such time they determine otherwise.  

The AFN will convene a meeting of the Chiefs Committee on Education (CCOE) in Ottawa May 15.  This is an expanded meeting that will include Chiefs and technicians not currently on the CCOE. 

The AFN will also convene a Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa May 27 at the Westin Hotel.  The purpose of the Special Chiefs Assembly is to:

  • confirm an approach going forward on Bill C-33 and First Nations education; and
  • to make a decision on the timing and location of the election for National Chief. 


More information and details on both meetings are still being finalized and will be provided as soon as possible, including at

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Assembly of First NationsTechnical Bulletin – Resignation of National Chief and Next Steps

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – April 2014

on April 2, 2014

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on work underway at the national office. More information can be found at




The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is pleased to offer this update on some current issues for First Nations and the continued priorities of First Nations in achieving change for our peoples, communities and nations. 

First Nations Control of First Nations Education: A framework to achieve success in First Nation education 

Last week, I had the honour to participate in the final national public event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, during which I said that I believed the time had come to support one another fully and to put the next generation first.  We will never forget the residential schools.  It is a legacy we know too well as we live it every day.  But I hear many voices telling us that we must not pass the burden on to another generation.  They must learn of this history but they also must learn about themselves, their identity as proud First Nations citizens, their songs, stories and languages.  We are still here and we are strong.  Perhaps our ultimate response to the residential schools is to say loud and clear to all of Canada: we are still here, and we will again resume our rightful place and our responsibilities to nurture our children, to protect and to advance our languages, our cultures, our lands and territories. 

I have visited many communities and I hear a great deal of support for action on education, and I also hear concerns.  I fully understand these responses.  This work is critically important and we must get it right.  We cannot abandon another generation to a failing system and collapsing schools. The last thing we want to do, though, is to take no action or, worse, allow the government to do this work for us.  Neither alternative is acceptable.  We will not tell our children and students that they must wait longer for the quality of education they deserve.  We can never let the government move on unilateral approaches that could compromise our rights, Treaties, title or jurisdiction or contradict the spirit of our agreements.

This is why the direction received from Chiefs-in-Assembly last December was so critical. Resolution 21/2013 set five clear conditions for the path forward and mandated urgent attention and action at the national level to have the conditions fully met, including secure and fair funding guaranteed for our kids.  This work is important and it builds on decades of advocacy, research and experience. The conditions stem from our 2010 position paper First Nations Control of First Nations Education, which in turn builds on the 1972 policy paper Indian Control of Indian Education and numerous reports, studies and contributions from First Nations leaders and education experts.

Based on our collective advocacy, we successfully secured significant new funding for First Nations education and we have once and for all eliminated the 2% cap that’s been holding our students back (see attachment).  In addition, the Government announced it would meet the five conditions in new legislation affirming First Nation control of First Nation education.  The advocacy to get us to this point has been important and consistent with the clear mandate set by Chiefs-in-Assembly.  Still, it will be up to every region, every First Nation to determine their next steps and response in accordance with their rights, responsibilities and direction from their people to fully advance education success for all of their students. 

It is important to remember that this process will be a long journey with these being only the first few steps.  Affirming First Nation control, ensuring fair, stable funding including support for languages and culture is only an interim step to First Nations themselves advancing their own systems through nation-to-nation discussion and confirmation of their own agreements, Treaty implementation or First Nation laws and arrangements with others. 

To support the analysis and effort going forward, AFN compiled First Nations Control of First Nations Education: A framework to achieve success in First Nation education.  This document, available on the AFN website, expands on the five principles of First Nations control and sets out key elements for each principle.  A draft of this framework was shared with the Chiefs Committee on Education in January 2014 to obtain local and regional perspectives.  I encourage you to review the framework but want to briefly note some points from the framework as to what we will be looking for in any federal legislation: 


  • Respects and recognizes inherent rights and title, Treaty rights, and First Nation Control of First Nation Education jurisdiction. First Nations must retain all options to advance their education and all such agreements must be fully respected, enabled and supported.  On this point, we must be perfectly clear in our expectation that First Nations Treaty and inherent rights will be respected.  Agreements advancing First Nation education through Treaty implementation, nation-re-building or self-government will be respected, enabled and supported. 



  • Provides a statutory guarantee for funding of First Nations education as a precondition that is sustainable and reflects needs-based costs consistent with Canada’s obligation.  The elimination of gaps in funding is required, including the removal of restraints as well as the establishment of a fair rate to respond to growth in demographics and education needs. There must be support for transition and the development of systems, explicit support for language and culture programming and support that guarantees safe, secure, healthy learning environments and facilities. 


Language and Culture

  • Enables and support systems to provide full immersion and grounding of all education in Indigenous languages and cultures.  First Nations education requires the inclusion of First Nations knowledge and languages and it requires teaching and learning in those languages and cultures.  Language and culture must be funded as core curriculum.  Cultural experts, Elders and parents must be fully engaged in First Nations education systems. 


Reciprocal Accountability and Transparency

  • Develops mechanisms to oversee, evaluate, and provide for reciprocal accountability and ensure there is no unilateral federal oversight and authority.  First Nations education must be controlled and supported by First Nations. First Nations must have the autonomy to design systems, codes and laws.  Parental involvement and parental responsibility assured by transparent local control is the basis for First Nations education. 


Meaningful Dialogue

  • Ensures a meaningful support process to address these conditions through a commitment to working together through co-development, fully reflective of First Nations rights and jurisdiction.  Canada must commit to direct dialogue and discussion throughout development including regulation and establishing agreements with First Nations communities specific to their approach to advancing education, including Treaty implementation or other agreement. 


The work leading to this framework started months ago with regional dialogue and discussion that saw First Nations articulating their visions of First Nations control of First Nations education.  The AFN will continue to support and help facilitate this work and will prepare a final overview paper in early April. 

It is up to each First Nation and region to determine how they see these five conditions being achieved in a manner that respects their rights and interests.  The AFN is not a rights holder – First Nations themselves must drive the next steps as only First Nations can articulate, design and build their own education systems. 

Despite our inherent diversity across the country, there has been absolute agreement that the status quo in education is unacceptable and must end.  We must not only oppose the status quo and a failing system, we must articulate what is required to achieve success and drive our own approaches based on our requirements.  But we can work together, support and respecting one another as we pursue our own paths to a shared goal of success for our children. 

I have full faith and confidence in our people – our Elders, our experts, our leaders, our youth – that we have the answers, the commitment and the solutions to realize our vision of First Nations control of First Nations education. 

We will continue to engage widely with First Nations in the coming weeks and we will support First Nations in setting their strategies and their approach to First Nations control of First Nations education.  

Update: Action on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls 

On Monday March 10, 2014, I met with leaders of national Indigenous organizations, specifically the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Métis National Council, the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.  Our purpose was to discuss immediate action on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  This meeting came in the wake of a tremendously disappointing report released on March 7 by Parliament’s Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women. 

We met to discuss our strategies moving forward as we cannot accept the status quo or the limited approach taken by this government.  We all agreed that urgent action is required.  At the meeting, all those present reaffirmed our call for a national public commission of inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  We came to a common position that all our efforts need to be coordinated, including awareness and ongoing advocacy that advances considerations for a national inquiry as well as immediate actions to ensure safety and security for Indigenous women and girls. 

There was an agreement among the organizations to take matters into our own hands and begin drafting our own terms of reference for a national inquiry so that it is inclusive, focused and constructive.  We will seek options to move this forward with partners with or without support from the government. 

Another idea brought forward was the possibility of establishing a national research centre dedicated to the safety of Indigenous women.  We will continue working on this and other ideas in advance of many upcoming opportunities to raise the profile of this important issue and to continue mobilizing support among Parliamentarians, provinces and territories and international partners. 

All Indigenous organizations are committed to advancing their own action plans and sharing these efforts as a way to affirm solidarity, coordinate our work and strengthen our individual actions.  We are looking as well to important upcoming international reports from organizations such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Committee to End Discrimination against Women, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to further advance the discussion and pressure Canada to act. 

We are all in agreement that we will continue to push for action on this critical issue and work to ensure the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls. 

Kleco, kleco!

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Assembly of First NationsCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – April 2014

National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

on April 2, 2014

March 27, 2014

[Traditional greetings] 

Today I am reminded of the day almost six years ago now when I was sitting in the House of Commons hearing the words of the Prime minister apologize on behalf of Canada. 

But it is more than the words of the Prime Minister that I remember. 

What I remember most were the flood of words and emotions flowing from our people that day, words of our former National Chief and my late Grandmother that resonate still in crystal clear tones for me today.

As we gather for the final national gathering of this incredible journey and undertaking, this quest for truth telling, of giving expression to our hurt and our healing, I am compelled to share these reflections from that day and from today. 

National Chief Phil Fontaine, in his response to the apology, spoke of the dreadful chapter of shared history that was the residential schools and implored us all to have the courage to face the darkest moments.  He spoke of survival and affirmation of our place as Indigenous peoples.  And he reached out to all of Canada to join this work of reconciliation. 

My grandmother in her own way responded that day as well.  Holding my hand she leaned to me and said, “Grandson – they are just beginning to see us.”  She also shared a dream that I have since shared many times.  She shared a dream of trying to turn a page, a dark page, by herself but it was a heavy page, too heavy.  She knew it would take many people to turn this very heavy page – a page in the same dark chapter that National Chief Fontaine referred to. 

Today, I have the tremendous honour to reflect on this work of truth and reconciliation both personally as an individual who knows many – including members of my own family – that were sent to the schools, and in my role as National Chief.  I have witnessed the deep pain and anguish of those speaking truth, and the results of shining light into the darkest corners. 

My own family and my own history is deeply marked by what that light exposes – stories of experiments carried out on innocent children and of the deep intergenerational trauma that results. I personally experienced violence as a child.  This real hurt made me too a victim.  I believe we can and must support each other to no longer be confined or defined as victims who continue to hurt ourselves and those that we love, but rather as strong survivors having done the hard work.  We can, we must and we will choose to end this cycle. 

Today, I have the privilege to now reflect back both personally and as National Chief what I witness in our communities, in our homes across this nation.  Struggle is not difficult to find.  It is all around us.  We are a people constantly responding, reacting to and learning from trauma.  We experience, and we endure.  This makes sense because of our past and it is our reality. 

Through the beauty and pride of our culture, the strength of our ancestors, we can move out from that deeply embedded sense of trauma, we can move out of the darkness into the light and energy of our hope and confidence in our future. 

Through the truth we can free ourselves from the bonds of anger and hate.  We can unburden the next generations of the anger and pain.  We can convey to them the gifts of our spirit, our songs, our languages and cultures.  We will never forget.  We will remember those things they tried to take from us – we will gift them to the next generation. 

Let me share with you the constant motivation I have for this effort.  Quite simply, it is our children – all of our children – wherever they may live.  Our cultures have always been child-centred.  The nurturing and caring of children has always been the highest value of our Nations.  

As National Chief, I have travelled to over a hundred schools and I have had the chance to listen to our children, to listen intently to their wisdom, a wisdom I see sometimes without words.  Sometimes it’s the flicker of intensity, the light in the eyes, the thirst to learn and live their language and culture.   

Today we can again capture that deep care and concern for children at the very centre of our identity.  We can and must begin to prepare the way to bring back this light and energy into every one of our homes and families. 

It starts with forgiveness within our own families – forgiveness to not hold onto the pain and the suffering and most importantly to not pass this on any longer.  

Forgiveness is not forgetting.  Those experiences, and even the pain they caused, have a great deal to teach us, both about not being victimized again and about not victimizing others.  This is not about absolving responsibility.  It is rather something internal, and it is a sign of strength.  It can free us and empower us to move forward.  It starts with our commitment to not place this burden on the shoulders of the next generation.   

We now enter the opportunity to end the dark night for our people.  It requires the very best of us.  It requires us to honour our peoples and to honour our memories, not by holding onto the pain but to learn from it, to say “never again”, to rebuild our communities and nations knowing we have prevailed. 

Our legacy is not of anger and pain.  Our legacy is courage, resilience and strength.  Our future is to walk forward into the new day.  Harkening back and reclaiming the essence of our strength, a strength founded in love not hate; in compassion, not anger. 

This is our future now and we will write this new chapter grounded in our constant care and devotion to our children.  We are and will bring back our teachings and the deep meanings as more than symbolism.  We will conduct ourselves in accordance with our teachings, living our cultures through expression and interaction within our nations and with our neighbours. 

I do not suggest that the hard work is over – no, far from it.  We now prepare for the harder work of summoning our strength and acting on it.  Acting now to break the shackles of shame and the cycle of pain and determine our own path forward through love, ceremony and respect. 

The new dawn is here.  It is in the eager eyes of young children who want to learn, who want to know who they are, who want to know their story, their songs, their spirituality. 

They have an inherent understanding of the beauty of their people.  We now have the chance to nurture this beauty and each and every one of us must be ready to see this beauty.  

Just as my Grandmother said, “they are just beginning to see us.”  I believe she was also hinting at the reality that we too as a people are just beginning to “see” again.  

Seeing and seizing our roles and our responsibilities first and foremost within our homes and families will unlock the tremendous potential of our Nations, grounded in who we are and who we will become. 

We will continue our march towards full recognition and justice.  The State must be encouraged to march with us.  We will be steadfast and strong. 

We are and will continue to strive for control of our education, a goal of our people ever since the first group of children were taken away to residential school – never again!  I encourage all of you survivors and supporters alike to continue to share and support the learning of our ways in our schools.  Through truth, there is healing and learning that gives us great strength.  

By reaching out to all Canadians and to the Canadian State we have generated new opportunities for healing and reigniting the fires of our Nations.  We have made stunning progress and are reclaiming the story of this country.  We have forever banished the notion that this was an empty land.  And we are reaching out to Canadians – too long denied the rich and vibrant history of our Nations, our cultures and art – to help them understand the true origins of our sovereignty, of partnership and of Treaty.  We will continue on this path, offering this knowledge, and inviting them to walk with us to a new future. 

This is an exciting and important time.  Through the eyes of the children, I am fully confident that we can and will end a cycle of being hurt and hurting.  

This has been the work of this incredible journey through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and now we look with confidence to a future – confidence that we will support ourselves and our children through education.  I see this success taking root all around us.  This is our moment not to feel trapped or held back, but to nurture this new way, to blossom with renewed strength. 

And we must all understand – everyone, First Nations and non-Indigenous, newcomers, people of all faiths and all walks of life – that this is our history, that we have told the story of our past and it is now time to create our future. 

Kleco, kleco

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Assembly of First NationsNational Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

“Achieving Shared Success: The Path from Poverty to Prosperity”

on February 5, 2014

[Traditional greetings] 

Good afternoon and thank you for welcoming me to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. 

Let me first begin by acknowledging the Mississaugas of New Credit and thank them for allowing this important discussion to take place in their territory. 

As I began in my language – Nuu chah nulth – this is how we begin – expressing appreciation and respect and recalling that we are connected – we all have relationships.  ‘He shook ish tsawalk’ in my language – a fundamental philosophy of the importance of relationships within families, between communities, between people and the natural world. These relationships are critical to every one of us as they were in the past, so they are again today. 

I’m honoured to be part of the RBC Diversity Dialogue Series and to continue the discussion, to learn and share with you and to talk today about the opportunities and benefits of supporting First Nations success as a way to spark success for all Canadians. 

These issues and opportunities have always been important to First Nations and now, more than ever, there is growing awareness that these issues are important for all of us. 

I’ve spoken often about the enduring relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada, specifically the proud heritage of Indigenous Nations and the Treaties and other agreements my ancestors made with yours.  I have spoken about how these Treaties, these sacred promises from our shared past, point the  way forward to our shared future. 

Last year at the Canadian Club, I spoke about the economics of reconciliation and the related requirement to recognize our rights, for action on education, inclusion and capacity building as the key to unlocking the full potential of our people. 

Today I want to continue the story of hope and opportunity for First Nations and all of Canada by outlining the role of First Nations in shaping the Canadian economy, and the many opportunities and benefits of working towards sustainable, self-reliant and thriving First Nation economies. 

I’ll highlight the potential of First Nations in driving their own solutions in ways that reflect and respect our rights and our responsibilities to the land and the next generation.  I will point to the importance of First Nations as full participants in the economic life of this country, and how key investments in critical priorities creates a win-win for First Nations and all Canadians. 

First Nations have much to offer and Canada has much to gain. We know there is work to do, right now. 

The sad and stark realities of First Nation communities can be considered a national shame.  Canada rates 11th on the UN Human Development Index, but First Nations rank 63rd.  Many Canadians have no idea that thousands of First Nations children are living well below the poverty line. They don’t have a school to go  to; they don’t have running water in their homes. We have children living in houses that rely on wood stoves or a diesel generator for heat.  Homes are so over-crowded that families sleep in shifts so the children can get some rest for school. In some remote communities, the doctor only visits once a month.

Families struggle to provide a good meal because a litre of milk costs $15, and a single green pepper will run you almost $10. 

This reality is hidden from far too many people and too many Canadians, making it all the more easy to take the easy way out and blame the victim.  I’ve read opinion pieces by pundits who say the problem with First Nations education is that parents aren’t teaching their children that education is important. This conveniently leaves aside the reality that more than 60 First Nations communities don’t even have schools for the children to go to and in other communities our students sit shivering in unheated portables. 

But it’s equally important that Canadians see the hope and potential of First Nations, as I do in my many travels and visits to First Nation communities from coast to coast to coast. The spark in the eyes of our young people is what keeps me going, and that must be the impetus for change for all of us – like young Jaden in northern Manitoba. 

It is this spark – this resilience – this unrelenting desire for a better future that will drive the change we all need to see.  And it’s happening. 

Now is a time of unprecedented engagement by First Nations – whether it’s asserting their rights to their land on the ground or in the courts, advocating and pressing governments and industry at negotiation tables, pursuing legal challenges and human rights complaints to demand equity for our children, or driving solutions and direct initiatives at the community level. We are seeing more and more an “all hands on deck” approach by our peoples.  Just last week, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the commercial fishing rights of my people the Nuu chah nulth – a decade long legal battle that we kept winning only to have the crown appeal and delay.  Canada took this case all the way to the Supreme Court rather than sit with my nation to move forward on implementation of a new economic partnership. Well on Thursday the Supreme Court finally denied leave for Canada to carry on its fight any further. It’s the end of the road and finally my people have their rights upheld and the prospect of stable economic opportunity – rights that were always ours – respected. 

It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. 

Expensive legal battles cost everyone.  I would be very interested to know what the cost to the tax payer was of Canada fighting my people.  And unfortunately, our case is not the exception. There are literally hundreds of cases just like ours before the courts.  All Canadians must demand accountability for these costs and the costs to all for inaction in moving forward on implementation and opportunity. 

Our people are ready for the hard work and the hills we need to climb, but we can move faster and farther if we move together. We are calling on governments, industry and all Canadians to commit to change with us.  Now is our time. The landscape is changing and the people are moving. 

Now is the time for fundamental and transformative change – a true moment of reckoning, as I see it – where it is incumbent on each and every one of us to embrace this potential, support it and empower it, to educate and employ First Nations, to support them in asserting their rights and title, to build our economies and engage in opportunities and partnerships. This is the road to success. This is the road to productivity and prosperity for all of us. 

My work as National Chief is about advocating for change – supporting the rights of First Nations across this country and facilitating approaches that will smash the status quo. This is about rights, Treaties and title but that also means it’s about schools for our kids, homes and health care for our families, justice for residential school survivors and action on missing and murdered women. Our agenda, like our worldview, is holistic and inter-connected. 

Our approach is always to be strategic. The needs are great so we need to identify the critical areas – the foundational areas – where action and investments will support our over-arching agenda. 

Of course in a matter of days the federal government will table the 2014 budget. I am constantly asked about my expectations? Well like you, I cannot predict, but I can tell that expectations are high because the opportunity is so rich and the imperatives are so clear. 

First Nations have put forward a plan – as we do in every budget cycle – that is strategic, reasonable and will benefit all Canadians. 

Without getting too deep into numbers and the layers of jurisdiction and bureaucracy, it is important to recognize that there are clear inequities.  Funding for critical social services on reserve has been capped at a mere 2% increase since 1996 at the same time as rates in provinces have risen at double or triple this rate.  In successive Auditor General reports, it has been clearly pointed out that there are serious structural impediments to First Nation success by the very way in which funds are transferred in an ad hoc, scattered and heavily bureaucratized fashion creating uncertainly, delays and an utter lack of sustainability in many First Nations.  Removing the arbitrary two per cent cap and setting out to create a reasonable fair rate of growth could reduce the number of First Nations children living in poverty by half.  Rather than propping up a billion dollar bureaucracy – that is the annual cost to tax payers of Aboriginal Affairs – we must create stable, fair models that result in real supports directly for our kids and families. 

Of course, decades and decades of unilateral decisions by government and vast underfunding will not be solved in a single budget cycle.  So the investments we’re proposing are aimed at creating a strong foundation that we can build on. 

Now I want to be clear – reform and reconciliation do require resources but reform and reconciliation are not only about resources. There are other actions and initiatives required.  Key investments in priority areas is not about cutting a cheque to First Nations or about status quo, band-aid solutions unilaterally designed and implemented by the government. This is about First Nations participating fully, designing and implementing solutions to drive change across the board – First Nations control of First Nations education, educated and employable citizens, adequate housing, driving our economies and participating in the country’s economy, and justice for our peoples, all based on rights and title and responsibilities and the Treaties. 

Education is a key priority for First Nations across this country and has been for decades.  Action on education is absolutely essential to unleash the full potential of First Nations citizens and communities.  It allows us to build the skills and capacities necessary to control our destiny and contribute to the country’s economic, political and cultural life. We can all agree that education is essential to long-term economic stability and prosperity. Education is an investment that reaps massive dividends for all of us. 

We have the youngest, fastest-growing population in the country, this at a time when mainstream Canada is ageing and retiring. This is going to strain our resources for health care, pensions and social services. But as Canada ages, our youth are coming of age.  I’ve said it before: investing in First Nations education is a long-term economic stimulus plan for this country. We must start now. 

We are seeking stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations education.  Right now, our students are being shortchanged by the system, and we all lose.  First Nations schools are still funded using a 25 year old funding formula designed to provide education services in the 1980s. This is compounded by the 2% cap I mentioned earlier. 

Very basically, the ongoing cost of the status quo in terms of productivity and increased support requirements for First Nations is over $12 billion per year. 

Core funding through a stable funding schedule will allow First Nations to engage in multi-year planning within their communities and with educational partners.  Predictable funding through a new statutory First Nations Education Funding guarantee would enable First Nations schools to provide instruction and programs comparable to the provinces and territories, and build systems that embrace and embed our languages and cultures. 

In advance of the upcoming budget, we provided the Finance Minister with our best estimate of the investments required to achieve stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations education based on a 10-year outlook. We incorporated a range of reasonable, necessary investments – for schools, classroom-level funding, language and culture, curriculum and comparable escalators. Our plan is based on closing the education gap between First Nations and other Canadians. 

I spoke earlier about the sobering and staggering statistics surrounding First Nations poverty.  In addition to the legal and constitutional impetus for change in terms of engaging First Nations, there’s an economic imperative for investing in our peoples and our nations. 

There is a First Nations right to education, and we will fight for it. There is a moral responsibility for all of us to ensure every child has opportunity and a fair start. But beyond that, if we only look at the bottom line we can see that there’s a mutual interest in action on education. 

First Nations can help eliminate poverty.  By investing in our people through education, skills training and employment opportunities, we can take significant strides together in ensuring First Nation participation in the economy.  In fact, according to the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, if we can raise First Nations education and employment levels to the Canadian average, we’ll add $400 billion to the economy over the coming years and reduce social costs by $115 billion. 

By investing in a skilled, trained and educated First Nations workforce, we will address the growing shortage of skilled workers and ensure Canada remains competitive and productive for years to come. 

The private sector is way ahead of the public sector. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives has highlighted the opportunities and advantages of investing in First Nations skills development and capacity, and at the same time emphasized the need for respectful partnerships with First Nations. These actions are directly linked, and they echo what First Nations have been saying for decades. 

I realize many of you here today could be asking how your interests will factor into the political and economic policy decisions. While First Nations continue to press governments, we are taking our message to all Canadians, and the business sector is an influential one. 

At a time when resource development is driving the Canadian economy, we must engage Indigenous nations like never before.  Our unique rights and responsibilities require a more robust form of engagement. The recent report by the Prime Minister’s Special Representative, Douglas Eyford, looking into economic development and First Nations in western Canada makes some instructive, illuminating points, one being that First Nations cannot be viewed as simply another stakeholder in development.

There is a legal, constitutional duty to consult and accommodate our interests and rights, title and jurisdiction. First Nations look to the standard of free, prior and informed consent as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. To break it down to a simple phrase, our mantra should be “engage early and engage often.” 

Another important point made by Mr. Eyford is that First Nations do not view development as simply an economic opportunity, we see it in the context of the broader efforts aimed at reconciliation.  Reconciliation means respect for our rights. It means building and maintaining relationships. This generally does not happen through a one-shot consultation session or a tribunal hearing. It takes time and a real willingness to engage. 

It means building from the solid foundation of Treaties and other living agreements like Section 35 of the Constitution Act, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

In the next 10 years more than 500 major economic projects representing $650 billion in new investments are planned across Canada, almost all of which will take place in and around First Nations lands and traditional territories and which will impact – or be impacted by – First Nation interests, rights and lands. 

Right here in Ontario, for example, the chromite mining development project known as the Ring of Fire in Treaty 9 territory has the potential to be a major contributor to the provincial and national economies.

However, that potential will only be realized if local First Nations are fully engaged and their rights are respected and recognized so that the community can ensure it fulfills its own responsibilities to the land – for today’s citizens and future generations. 

I want to to be clear: engagement is not a guarantee that any and every project will proceed. We will protect our lands, our citizens, our sacred spaces and way of life. But if any project is going to have a hope of proceeding, it requires genuine, active engagement with First Nations. 

But our development and opportunities agenda requires more than resource development and business opportunities.  First Nations will continue to stand up for and protect our most precious resource – our citizens. We must invest in the health and safety of our peoples to truly build safe and thriving communities and to truly achieve success. 

We are taking action across the board for our children and leading efforts to end violence against Indigenous women and girls across the country. 

Investments must be connected to the success of our peoples and we cannot be successful until each and every one of us is safe and secure. 

First Nations are ready.  Our shared success depends on getting this right – it depends on ensuring effective relationships, respectful of First Nation rights, responsibilities and Treaties, and respect for all that First Nations have to offer. It requires relationships and meaningful partnerships that recognize the value and return on investing in First Nation capacity and skills, and the requirement and good sense in recognizing the long-term governance interests of First Nations throughout their territories.

The right approaches will support and empower First Nation governments to drive solutions that work for their citizens based on their circumstances. We will be able to take control and responsibility for the decisions that affect our lives and our lands. The right approaches will be based on respect, recognition and partnership. It will transform our relationship and our realities. 

The upcoming federal budget is an opportunity to accelerate our momentum towards reconciliation and transformation. We will be watching.  But our commitment will not waiver.  Our people are mobilizing like never before and want to move, they want progress and they are taking action. 

But it’s not just about government investment. The work of transforming the reality of First Nations in this country is a job for all of us, just as in days of Treaty when established ongoing relationships that set the foundation for our journey together in this land. 

There is a role for everyone. We are all in this together. We are all Treaty people – we are all part of relationships that make Canada today. The more Canadians stand up and commit to fixing a broken system the sooner we will see the light of a new day of justice and fairness. 

We cannot afford to lose another generation. We have the solutions, we have the resources and we must apply the will and the wisdom to build a stronger country for all of us, to give life to the future envisioned by our ancestors – yours and mine. 

The spark of hope, the growing surge for change, keeps us going, and it must compel action now. 

This is what changes the game: the recognition that we are all in this together; that we all have shared interests; that what’s good for First Nations is good for the country, because strong First Nations make a stronger Canada.

Kleco, kleco

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Assembly of First Nations“Achieving Shared Success: The Path from Poverty to Prosperity”

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – Special Bulletin on First Nations Education

on February 4, 2014

February 2014

Special Bulletin on First Nations Education

Action on First Nations Control of First Nations Education

As noted in last month’s Bulletin, the Government of Canada is tabling the federal budget on February 11, 2014.  In advance of every federal budget, the AFN presses forward specific priorities as set by First Nations in resolution and by the National Executive through the pre-budget process.  This year, additional efforts have been made to continue our advocacy for action on First Nation education through direct correspondence to the federal Finance Minister and the House of Commons Committee on Finance.

Fairness for First Nations children has been our shared priority since the early ‘70s through our push for ‘Indian control of Indian education’.  In 2009, at my first Assembly as National Chief, we reaffirmed our support for our youth and students and set education as a top priority.  In June 2010, we stood together to launch the “Call to Action on First Nation Education” at N’bsiing Secondary School in Nipissing First Nation.  The Call to Action built on our national strategic plan and resolution, calling for support and partnership to recreate learning environments within our communities, recognizing the critical need for full First Nation community participation, engagement and control.  It set clear principles on the need for Canada to respect our rights and responsibilities, establish a statutory guarantee for funding for our youth, support for systems development and curriculum on language and culture.

Our advocacy efforts included a major rally in September 2010 where we joined student walkers from Kitigan-Zibi Anishinabeg, marching together to Parliament Hill, honouring the tremendous leadership of our youth like the late Shannen Koostachin.   Dozens of organizations across the country supported our ‘call to action’ including universities and colleges, student and teachers federations, chambers of commerce, business, unions, civil society, and even provincial and territorial governments.

There have been a number of milestones including successive Auditor-General reports, Senate reports and important  consensus motions in Parliament, such as the one in 2013 supporting ‘Shannen’s Dream’ and fair, equitable funding for First Nation students.

I look as well to the interim report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that highlighted the words of survivors speaking to their own healing journeys, clearly expressing their hope for change so that all First Nations children will have the opportunities in education that were denied to them: to be nurtured in their language and culture and to be supported within their families and communities. 

While our Nations are diverse, we all agree that the status quo is not acceptable.  We agree that fundamental reform is required based on our vision and framework for First Nations control of First Nation education.  And we all agree that this generation of children must not wait. 

We’ve seen increased attention and increased mobilization of our peoples across the country.  First Nations clearly rejected the current federal proposal on First Nations education and called for a vigorous effort to advance reform through First Nations control supported by fair, sustainable funding.  In an Open Letter to the Federal Minister on November 25th, 2013, sent to all First Nations, I reiterated our firm opposition to any initiatives or efforts aimed at unilateral control.  Referencing the apology and commitment to reconciliation, we set clear conditions grounded in resolutions and mandate to achieve the change First Nations envision and demand.

At our 2013 December Special Chiefs Assembly, extensive dialogue and debate took place over several days resulting in national consensus that First Nations will put our children first, equipping them with the systems and supports they need, that we will demand fairness and that we have a clear plan of action, our policy framework of First Nations Control of First Nations Education.  .  Resolution 21/2013 affirmed our rejection of the October 2013 federal proposal and mandated a clear path forward based on respect for First Nations jurisdiction and Treaties and rights, a statutory guarantee of funding, resources for language and culture, reciprocal accountability and ongoing meaningful dialogue.

On December 13, 2013, Minister Valcourt sent an Open Letter to all First Nations acknowledging that change is long overdue and it must be done together. He wrote: “The government agrees that First Nations must have control over their education.”  The Chair of our Chiefs Committee on Education, Regional Chief Morley Googoo together with the mover and seconder of resolution 21/2013, Grand Chief Doug Kelly and Chief Joe Miskokomon, pressed for clarity from the Minister on moving forward on the resolution and setting a clear way forward in mutual respect and partnership.

A meeting occurred on January 27th with a follow-up report that same day to the National Executive of the AFN.  Today, February 4th, a meeting of the Chiefs Committee on Education took place as well to keep advancing the terms of our resolution and our advocacy to achieve reform consistent with First Nation control of First Nation education. 

Let me be clear: achieving this change requires investment, it requires recognition of rights and it must enable every First Nation, every Treaty area and region to advance and negotiate education systems  that reflect their languages and cultures while ensuring that every First Nation child has the benefit of systems and supports enabling their success.  There is no one size fits all model.  Respecting and reflecting diversity is essential.  

I want to thank all of you who have been reaching out, responding and engaging in this important work.  There have been conversations and contributions with so many citizens, leaders and experts.  So many have helped as well to reflect back on where we have come from, pointing to our successes and helping us see the way forward.  Reflections by people like Verna Kirkness, Leroy Littlebear, Lorna Williams, Elinor Bernard, and Diane Longboat are captured in the framework discussed at the Chiefs Committee on Education and will serve as the foundation for upcoming discussions on how you and your First Nation want to drive change in education.

In closing, let me reiterate the appreciation I feel for all of the voices and all of the efforts underway in our communities every day.  During my time as National Chief I have travelled to nearly one hundred schools across all regions and have had the chance to sit with our educators and our students.  This has confirmed a deep resolve to keep pressing no matter how difficult.  Our work as leaders is strengthened by the clarity of direction. 

The status quo has been rejected.  A unilateral approach of government has been rejected.  Now, First Nations are driving the way forward and we do so, in accordance with the UNDRIP standards that call for a process of mutual respect and partnership between states and indigenous peoples and as in articles 14 and 15 confirm the standard of First Nation control and full and equitable access to meaningful education opportunities for our children. 

We will take every opportunity to stand up for fairness for our children.  We will continue to find the ways to work together. There is a growing consensus and support throughout all sectors and regions of Canada that investment is needed for our kids right now.   First Nations have a clear plan and we will, together, achieve change for our children.  

Kleco, Kleco!

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Assembly of First NationsCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – Special Bulletin on First Nations Education

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – January 2014

on January 23, 2014

The Assembly of First Nations issues regular updates on work underway at the national office. 
More information can be found at

I am honoured to communicate with you following a time of reflection, restoration and family gatherings that the holidays represent. It is exciting to look towards a new year filled with the promise of opportunity for real change. 

2014 Budget

The 2014 federal budget is expected to be tabled in February. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) engages in advocacy in advance of the budget through a number of avenues, including submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance for inclusion in their recommendations to the Minister of Finance for priorities in the budget.  This year was no exception. Priorities were identified by the AFN Executive responding to direction from First Nations leadership.  These priorities included new fiscal arrangements and investments in education, skills and training, infrastructure, water, housing, preventing violence, policing, justice and healing programs. 

We have been instructed this year to place clear emphasis on securing resources for First Nations education. 

First Nations have repeatedly made the case that addressing the shortfalls in education transfers to First Nations schools is critical to the success of our children.  These shortfalls have been made worse by the 2% cap imposed on education funding in the mid-1990s and they must be addressed.  However, what we are seeking is more than simply bridging the gap. Instead, we are looking to ensure First Nations students have sustainable education systems that support culturally-grounded education.

In November, at the direction of the Chiefs Committee on Education, I wrote to the Minister of Finance outlining the case for stable, predictable, sustainable and equitable funding for First Nations education. This would require immediate investments in classroom-level funding to close the gap coupled with a commitment to annual escalators so that investments do not once again fall behind.  Funding is also required to support existing regional First Nation Education Organizations and where necessary create new ones, support language and cultural programming and to construct new schools and maintain existing schools to acceptable standards.

At the December 2013 Special Chiefs Assembly, Chiefs unanimously expressed their support for putting children at the centre of our efforts and approaches and directed that we take all necessary steps to press Canada to respond to the factors required for them to achieve success. Consistent with the resolution, we are working to secure a commitment to First Nations control of First Nations education that respects and recognizes inherent rights, title, Treaty rights and jurisdiction; enables and supports systems to provide full immersion and grounding of all education in Indigenous languages and cultures; develop mechanisms to oversee, evaluate and provide for reciprocal accountability and remove unilateral federal oversight and authority; and ensure a meaningful support process to address these conditions through a commitment to working together through co-development, fully reflective of First Nations rights and jurisdiction.  And, as set out in the resolution, a precondition for this success is a statutory guarantee for sustainable funding that reflects needs-based costs of delivering First Nations education.

The government has signaled publicly that this is to be an ‘austerity’ budget with few new investments. First Nations have been living under austerity conditions for too long – we know that investments in our children are investments in the future of our Nations and in the future of Canada. Budget 2012 previously committed to “explore new funding mechanisms to ensure stable, predictable and sustainable funding for First Nations elementary and secondary education.”  We know what is needed for First Nations children.  We cannot, must not and will not push this off for another generation – we must achieve this fundamental change now.

We continue to press our case with the Government of Canada and with the Canadian public. We are removing every excuse not to act.  We will be closely watching the upcoming federal budget and will be sure to provide you with information and analysis.  The time is now to invest in First Nations to build a stronger country for all our people.

Kleco, Kleco! 

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Assembly of First NationsCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – January 2014

Communiqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – December 2013

on January 13, 2014

The New Year holds the promise of opportunity for real change. I can assure you that your organization, the Assembly of First Nations, will be relentless in our pursuit of justice and fairness for our all our people. We will return to our original relations and come together as nations to set a path forward.  We will be focused and strategic to achieve results. This is about our rights and the future of our children.

AFN 2013 Special Chiefs Assembly

The Assembly of First Nations held its 2013 Special Chiefs Assembly from December 10-12, 2013 with preparatory sessions beginning December 9. Over 1,000 delegates and observers gathered in Gatineau, QC and reaffirmed a direction forward based on plans and priorities set by First Nations.

As most of you know, I was not at the Special Chiefs Assembly as I was invited to attend the memorial services for Madiba Nelson Mandela in South Africa as a representative of First Nations in Canada.  While this was a difficult decision given the timing, as many of you encouraged and then as the National Executive resolved and directed, it was important for us to directly participate in the honouring of Madiba on behalf of Indigenous peoples in Canada.  I want to thank all of the Regional Chiefs, the women’s, elders and youth councils for their direction and support to be in Johannesburg for the services.  I was able to perform a traditional Nuu-chah-nulth ceremony for Madiba as part of the services and did so, respectfully and humbly, on behalf of all Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

This year’s theme for our Assembly – “Drawing Strength from Within – Coming Together as Nations for Change” – resonated deeply as we reflected on the passing of Madiba and the need for reconciliation in Canada and recognition and respect for our rights, title and Treaties.

I want to thank the AFN Executive led the discussions and worked hard to make this meeting a success. Chiefs-in-Assembly unanimously reaffirmed the assertion of First Nation inherent rights, title, Treaties and jurisdiction as the way forward to take control of all activities that affect our lives, our lands and our citizens. This included our leaders unanimously standing in support of First Nations control of First Nations education and the 2010 policy framework of the same name as our direction forward.  First Nations do not support the current federal proposal for a bill and any approach on First Nations education must be consistent with our plan.  First Nations leaders also re-affirmed that Treaty implementation must be carried out by the citizens and by Treaty holders on a Treaty-by-Treaty basis as is our direction.

Overall, the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly was an opportunity for dialogue, reflection and strategizing on how to support First Nations as they fulfil their responsibilities to their citizens and reach for their aspirations as Nations.  First Nations engaged in ceremony.  We honoured leaders who have left us.  We heard from our youth and Elders.  Through dialogue and strategy we addressed priority areas like Comprehensive Claims Reform, Treaty Implementation, First Nations Control of First Nations Education, “Towards a First Nations Energy Strategy”, “Supporting Safety and Security for our People and Communities”, Indian Residential Schools, Youth Engagement, Health and International Priorities.  Resolutions discussed at the 2013 Special Chiefs Assembly are now being signed and will be made publicly available on the AFN website in the very near future.  All resolutions that were not discussed by Chiefs will be reviewed by the AFN Executive at their next meeting and then posted on the AFN website. I thank all of you who attended for dedicating your time and energy to be with us for these important deliberations. 

Update on Education 

On Friday, December 13, 2013, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Minister Bernard Valcourt wrote an Open Letter on First Nations education to me and all First Nations in response to the AFN’s Open Letter setting out our concerns on the federal proposal and our requirements and conditions for any approach on First Nations education. 

In his letter, the Minister states his objective to engage with First Nations in an open dialogue that would reflect the requirements set out in our national resolution.  Education remains a top priority and we will not rest before achieving success on our terms.  We encourage all to reflect on the national resolution and this letter and to bring forward your views. 

Our position is clear and reaffirmed by unanimous resolution at our Special Chiefs Assembly.  First Nations oppose the current federal proposal and are calling for negotiation founded on the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education that values our languages and cultures and is supported by stable, sustainable and fair funding.  

The Minister’s letter can be found on his website at:



Taking Action to Address Crisis in Non-Insured Health Benefits Program

The Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program requires an immediate and fundamental transformation. The gap between First Nations and non-First Nations health outcomes continues to widen as First Nations do not have access to quality and equitable health products and services. NIHB is guided by the principle of “cost containment” rather than improving health outcomes.  This is about nothing less than the well-being of our children and families. 

At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly, leadership spoke strongly about taking action to advocate and mobilize First Nations for change. 

AFN Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, the Portfolio Holder for Health and Chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health, will oversee a campaign over the next several months to raise the profile of the NIHB file with policy-makers, politicians, mainstream Canadians, the media and other allied health organizations. The objective is to not only identify the problems but to create solutions. 

The AFN aims to increase political pressure to achieve real change in the NIHB program through engagement and action at both the national and regional levels. Regional Roundtables will be hosted by regional First Nations organizations (with support from the AFN) between January and the end of February, 2014. The goal is to hear regional input about the challenges and to obtain regionally inclusive solutions and options on the solutions. Following the Regional Roundtables, the AFN will host a two day National Policy Forum on NIHB in March 2014 in Ottawa.  Input and solutions derived from the 10 regional roundtables will feed into a policy position document and  concrete action plan that can be used by communities, regions, leadership and others to take action on addressing the disparities associated with NIHB. 

This action plan is to include a legislative/legal strategy and a communications strategy and will explore partnerships with national associations and organizations to generate increased political pressure to move the plan forward. Steps to develop these key partnerships have already begun. 

The AFN encourages Chiefs and First Nations citizens to become politically engaged on improving health outcomes and Non-Insured Health Benefits. Together, we will ensure that Canada fulfills its moral, legal and Treaty obligations to First Nations health. Watch for more details on the upcoming Regional Roundtables and National Forum on NIHB.  


Being in South Africa for memorial services for Madiba was truly an incredible moment of history for Indigenous leadership and for all peoples around the globe.  He showed us that both courage and compassion define true leadership. Madiba showed the world that reconciliation is not only possible but essential. His words inspire and guide us now as we tackle the complex challenges before us “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”  Thanks to Madiba’s incredible legacy, our resolve is strengthened and our vision of a better day for our children is made more clear.

Please accept my sincere wishes for a wonderful holiday season with your families filled with love, joy and hope.  I look forward to seeing you all early in 2014 !!

Kleco, Kleco!

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Assembly of First NationsCommuniqué from National Chief Shawn Atleo – December 2013
Assembly of First Nations