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GCC Madahbee Ltr NCAtleo Re FNCFNEA

GCC Madahbee Ltr NCAtleo Re FNCFNEA

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Published by Sheila North Wilson
GCC Madahbee raising serious concerns about the FNCFNEA and AFN/NC Atleo's relationship to the Federal Government.
GCC Madahbee raising serious concerns about the FNCFNEA and AFN/NC Atleo's relationship to the Federal Government.

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Published by: Sheila North Wilson on Mar 07, 2014
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March 5, 2014 National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo  Assembly of First Nations 55 Metcalfe Street, Suite 1600 Ottawa, ON K1P 6L5 Dear National Chief Atleo,
 writing today because of concerns I have
with the Assembly of First Nation’s
(AFN) relationship with the federal conservative government. In addition, I must also
raise a number of issues surrounding AFN’s protocols and mandates.
 The recent joint announcement for First Nations Control Over First Nation Education  Act (FNCFNEA) is of particular interest to Anishinabek First Nations and citizens. I imagine you have heard much of the criticism from some First Nations by now and I do not want to repeat what may have already been said. However, in my role as the Grand Council Chief for the Anishinabek Nation, I am obligated to go on record and inform you of the concerns that are coming from Anishinabek First Nations as well as my own concerns. On February 7
 of this year you made a political call to stand beside Prime Minister Harper and the Minister of Indian Affairs, Bernard Valcourt for a public announcement of the FNCFNEA. At the Anishinabek Nation we were not privy to this announcement in advance (like everyone else outside of the attendees, we heard about it a day or two prior). We were not provided with any information, details or timelines, as would be proper protocol for a national announcement that may impact every First Nation community in Canada. This has not been the first time in the past couple of years that we have been excluded from important information by an AFN political decision.
I’m going to be very blunt with you, I’m not happy with how the AFN Executive has been operating under your leadership. In my many years in First Nation politics, I’ve
seen National Chiefs come and go. I am aware that the decisions leadership makes is not always black and white and that a National Chief cannot please everyone.
However, I’m not writing you today to assess our political perspectives, I’m writing
because the recent decisions by the AFN Executive and yourself is beyond your mandate and outside of standard protocols. Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy was not privy to the joint FNCFNEA announcement. Grand Chief Gord Peters of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, who sits on the AFN Chiefs Committee on Education along with Chief
 AFN National Chief Atleo FNCFNEA Page 2
 March 5, 2014 Gilbert Whiteduck, were not informed of the details of the February 7
 announcement. This type of politics of keeping information and details of information
from selected First Nation leadership is unacceptable from our National Chief’s
Office. The AFN has a responsibility to all First Nations in Canada, not just a few. In February 2012 the AFN coordinated a national meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada and we all witnessed the chaos that ensued. We can both appreciate the nightmare of logistics in trying to coordinate a meeting of this size, but the fact that the AFN staff attempted to stand in the way of the Anishinabek Nation following protocol by presenting a ceremonial Wampum Belt was not excusable. On January 11
of last year we had another meeting scheduled with the Prime Minister. This meeting was due to political pressure from average citizens joining together in unity to fight government policies and legislation. We all worked very hard and stood beside our citizens in opposing offensive legislation leading up to January 11
. Although you were not present during much of the Chiefs meetings in the days prior to January 11
, members of the AFN Executive were. There was a clear divide in political strategy, but the day before January 11
 you delivered a passionate speech to the Chiefs in attendance (including myself), and we felt we had
consensus to boycott the Prime Minister’s meeting unless he was willing to meet on
our terms. This was all due to the lessons learned from our first meeting with the Prime Minister the year before. First Nation Chiefs and citizens were all taken by surprise when you, and members of the AFN Executive made a political decision to go ahead and meet with Prime Minister Harper. Although most Chiefs stood shoulder to shoulder with First Nation
citizens in protest outside of Harper’s office, the AFN E
xecutive entered the meeting through the back door. I lost a lot of respect for some Chiefs I considered colleagues that day. Add to this the fact that you came out of that meeting with an announcement of an 8-point joint action plan with Canada, and it is understandable as to why there has been a political divide amongst First Nations, citizens and the  AFN ever since. Out of your negotiated deal with Canada to develop a joint action plan without the inclusion of First Nations, the AFN developed a National Treaty Implementation Table with the PMOs Office and a Joint National Comprehensive Claims Table. As a result, letters have been written and resolutions have been passed requesting the
 AFN National Chief Atleo FNCFNEA Page 3
 March 5, 2014  AFN not to continue with these processes because there has been no inclusion of First Nations in the development of the tables themselves. However, instead of responding directly to the letters sent to your office, the AFN chose to either respond with political messaging citing vague references to parts of an outdated resolution, or not to respond at all. The AFN is not mandated to negotiate on behalf of First Nations, it is mandated to advocate. Furthermore, the AFN is not accountable to
Canada and it’s policies and
procedures, the AFN is accountable to First Nations and First Nation citizens. If Canada has an agenda to pursue its version of education for First Nations so be it, that is our battle to fight, but if we are going to fight that battle we should not be looking over the shoulders of our own national office. The fact that you made a joint announcement, standing side by side with Prime Minister Harper and Minister Valcourt, on behalf of all First Nations in Canada is a statement in and of itself. When the federal government decided to change the name to First Nation Control over the First Nation Education Act, it should not have come with blind support from the National Chief 
’s Office. At the very least it’s bad optics when this government
 has done everything within (and beyond) its powers to marginalize First Nation rights through legislation and policies. Moreover, this government has also attempted to limit our ability to fight for
 rights by cutting funding to First Nations and First Nation political organizations that have limited capacity to begin with. In fact, your office has received its share of funding cuts, which makes it even more curious as to why the AFN continues to negotiate deals with the conservative government when there is no mandate to do so. Recently, members of the Ontario Political Confederacy requested a meeting with
the AFN Executive so we could bring some clarity to what’s going on around the
FNCFNEA, but we have yet to see cooperation from the AFN on this issue. When our request to be added to the AFN Executive meeting via conference call was granted we were put on hold for well over a half hour before we decided to hang up.  A couple hours later we were requested to call back in the afternoon because the  AFN Executive went in camera. We never did have that discussion with the AFN Executive and as I write this letter, there is still no clarity or details on the FNCFNEA that was highly touted by the Prime Minister and yourself as a good deal for First Nations.

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