(Niagara Falls, ON): First Nations Chiefs, Elders and citizens from across the country gathered on July 12, 2016 to open the Assembly of First Nations’ (AFN) 37th Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Assembly was marked by the signing of a historic memorandum of understanding which launches work to develop a new fiscal relationship between First Nations and Canada.
The MOU was signed by AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett to lay the groundwork for a new era of stable, sustainable and predictable funding for First Nations towards closing the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and Canadians.
“Today we turn the page on fiscal policies of underfunding and neglect as we begin the work required to support First Nations in establishing a new fiscal relationship with Canada,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
“First Nations have suffered for 20 years under a punishing 2% cap on annual funding increases, resulting in a growing gap in our quality of life compared to the rest of the country. This historic agreement will establish a new working relationship and contribute to stronger and more self-sufficient economies, better social infrastructure and healthier First Nations communities.”
During a ceremony, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and the Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to undertake a comprehensive review of the existing fiscal relationship and the steps required to design a new fiscal relationship between Canada and First Nations.
“The Government of Canada is committed to establishing a new fiscal relationship with First Nations based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership,” stated Minister Bennett.
“With the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, we are establishing a process with the Assembly of First Nations to achieve this goal and eliminate disparities and inequities in the socio-economic conditions between First Nations and other Canadians. The initiative announced today is another step towards the renewal of our relationship with our Indigenous partners.”
The MOU will immediately initiate a process by which Canada and First Nations will jointly design and establish sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for First Nations communities – eliminating the previous 2% cap in federal funding. The Parties commit to establishing a joint Canada-First Nations New Fiscal Relations Working Group, which will be charged with developing recommendations to realize this new fiscal relationship. The work of AFN representatives on the Working Group will be overseen by the AFN Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations.
Throughout this week’s Annual General Assembly, over 1,000 First Nations Chiefs, Elders and youth will be gathering under the theme “Gaining Momentum” to take part in regional meetings, strategy sessions and resolution developments on key priorities to set the course for the coming months. Sessions focus on key First Nations priorities, such as climate, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, health and education.
Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, addressed delegates on July 12. The federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and the Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, will also attend the AFN AGA.
The AFN’s 37th Annual General Assembly began on July 12 and ends July 14, 2016. Plenary sessions are broadcast live on the AFN website at www.afn.ca