On June 28, 2023, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) held a virtual Special Chiefs Assembly to address the findings of a Human Resources investigation into allegations of workplace harassment against the National Chief, RoseAnne Archibald. It is unclear whether or not Chiefs had an agenda in advance indicating that the National Chief would be subject to a vote on her removal from office. Of the 634 Chiefs or Proxies who comprise the voting members of the AFN, 268 attended this virtual Assembly. This is less than half of eligible voters. Of those participating, 131 voted in favour of removing the National Chief from her position, 62 voted against her removal, and 6 abstained. The decision to depose the National Chief is not a decision of a majority of AFN member Chiefs. And while human resource matters are typically handled internally, in this case, the alleged violations were handled at a special assembly resulting in the first female chief to lead the AFN being unseated by a minority of eligible voters. An interim National Chief was recently appointed and in response, RoseAnne Archibald issued a statement via her Facebook page on July 10.
The AFN, an advocacy organization comprised of and representing First Nation chiefs, who are the only voting members, must be relied upon to operate under good Indigenous governance principles. The AFN must also employ practices that draw on Indigenous governance traditions, honours our ancestors, and respects all members of our communities. There is really no mechanism; however, for status Indians to speak to AFN politics and practices apart from through chiefs and proxies. This is unsatisfying from the perspectives of both Western democratic and traditional Indigenous political traditions, the latter of which rely heavily on thorough community consultations and on finding consensus positions.
The numbers in attendance at the Special Chiefs Assembly gave the appearance of a stacked meeting. Moreover, the AFN’s context included the pending financial audit that Archibald campaigned on. Will the deposing of Archibald disrupt the audit, we wonder? Might that be perceived as part of the motivation to remove her?
The AFN and its predecessor, the National Indian Brotherhood, have been led exclusively by men until Archibald’s election. The fact that Archibald was the first woman to hold the role of National Chief cannot be ignored. While some AFN leaders have stated the decision to unseat Archibald was not about gender, we are unconvinced. We know that gender, like race, class, white privilege, and colonialism, is part of the structural forms of oppression that shape social relationships. Indigenous people are not immune to these. Regarding Indigenous women, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report (2019) demonstrates clearly how sexism and misogyny have infected public institutions as well as private life. They cannot be ruled out in this matter.
Without presuming to know all of the politics or the facts of alleged harassment made against Archibald (whom we do not know), we note that the organizing tactics of the Special Assembly where Archibald was ousted appears to be problematic. Political accountability requires transparency in all facets of political life, including in the scheduling of meetings, agenda-making, and of significant motions such as deposing a National Chief.
We seek transparency in the AFN’s decision-making processes and accountability for the decisions to date. There is no mechanism for First Nation status members to raise these issues with AFN leaders or with the Chiefs. In light of this, a petition that, in part, called on the AFN to reinstate the National Chief, and to support her to fulfill her term was started on July 7. This is our most effective means of demonstrating a measure of dissatisfaction and articulation of what we want. It is not a very powerful tool, but it is at least something, a means of speaking to this issue. It also demonstrates that there is no avenue for individuals to seek accountability from AFN politicians: that is exclusively in the hands of Chiefs. The Regional Chiefs were made advised via e-mail of the petition on June 7, 2023 and provided the link. They were provided copies of it with signatures again on July 10, and at the start of the business day on July 11. The petition garnered 427 signatures. The move to appoint an interim Chief in the context of a public petition being circulated to have the former duly-elected National Chief re-seated is obtuse. The move to elect an interim Chief adds another layer of electoral bureaucracy. It is hard to know how the AFN expects First Nation members to trust it’s leadership and governance when it behaves how it does.
We want the AFN to practice and model good Indigenous governance. We urge all parties to set aside personal grievances. We recommend a focus on future generations and on Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, and gender diverse people who have historically been rendered silent or invisible by the Indian Act, colonial presumptions, and within our advocacy organizations. We encourage the AFN to be curious about why, until Archibald’s election, it has only been led by men. We hope the AFN will reflect on why it struggled so within the organization and on the public stage with its first female National Chief. We want a politics informed by our Indigenous histories and traditions, but above all, we want a politics for future generations – which is what Indigenous politics have traditionally focused on.
waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Gender Studies, University of Victoria
Joyce Green, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Regina
Dokis member offers thoughts of economic reconciliation at Toronto conference
By Sam Laskaris
TORONTO – Karen Restoule believes it is time for change.
Restoule, a member of Dokis First Nation in Northern Ontario, shared her thoughts of what that change could look like at the Indigenomics Bay Street conference, which concluded on Nov. 23 in Toronto.
Restoule, a strategist and communications specialist who is a vice-president with Toronto’s Crestview Strategy, was one of the presenters at the conference held at the Westin Harbour Castle.
Her presentation was titled ‘The intersection between policy and Indigenous business’.
“Indigenous Nations are ready to drive off the Indian Act superhighway,” Restoule said during her presentation.
Restoule said policy alternatives have been developed in recent years and First Nations are able to opt into these laws, making the Indian Act no longer relevant.
These policies include the First Nations Land Management Act, the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, and the First Nations Good and Services Tax Act.
Restoule, however, believes it would be better to modernize all treaties, including ones that are considered “historic.”
“Currently in Canada, there are 25 modern self-governments or modern treaty agreements that include some 40 or so First Nations,” Restoule said. “And they are largely located in British Columbia, across the territories, and into northern part of Quebec. There are more than 630 First Nations across the country. That means that approximately 590 Nations remain under the Indian Act.”
Restoule believes it is time to consider renegotiating “historic treaties” like the other ones that have been modernized.
“Not only does this lead to equitable federal transfers, it gives way to agency and the right of ownership of land,” she said. “And most of all, it gives way to equitable opportunity.”
Restoule thinks the current system is broken, but she also believes what an improved system would look like needs to be sorted out before changes are made.
“In a society where so many are tearing down, we ought to consider what we can do, as citizens of this country, to build that off-ramp (on the Indian Act superhighway),” she said. “And while yes, the Indian Act does in fact need to go, it cannot be abolished in the absence of another solution.”
In large part because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Restoule said members of the Canadian public are familiar with some aspects of the Indian Act, established in 1876.
Restoule believes Canadians are better informed now on topics including the history of Indian Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop.
“But there are many points about the Indian Act that Canadians are less familiar with,” she said.
For example, she mentioned movement restriction, where First Nations people were not allowed to leave the boundaries of their reserve without the permission of an Indian agent stationed there. Business and trade restrictions were also implemented whereby both internal and external business dealings required approval from the Indian agent.
“There is a commonly held stereotype that Indigenous peoples have always lived in small secluded communities, never leaving their patch of land for anything,” Restoule said. “This couldn’t be further from fact. Prior to Indigenous-European contact, Indigenous peoples throughout these lands had expansive and established trade networks that gave way to the movement of goods and the people who moved them.”
Restoule concluded her presentation by issuing a challenge to attendees.
“What are each of you prepared to do to build that off-ramp towards a better Canada for everyone?”
Noojmawing Sookatagaing Ontario Health Team a voice for citizens
By Rick Garrick
THUNDER BAY — An Indigenous Service Providers Showcase and Leadership Session was hosted by the Noojmawing Sookatagaing (Healing Working Together) Ontario Health Team (OHT) on Nov. 21 at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay. Noojmawing Sookatagaing OHT, which supports a continuum of care with providers in the City and District of Thunder Bay, was officially launched in October 2022 as part of the fourth cohort of Ontario Health Teams.
“The Leadership [Session] was to bring service providers within the health and social services systems together to network and collaborate and to build trusting relationships and partnerships,” says Natalie Paavola, co-chair at Noojmawing Sookatagaing OHT, director of health and wellness at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care and Namaygoosisagagun citizen. “The reaction, I’m happy to say, has been quite positive. Everybody has been just pleased with the turnout and pleased with the feedback that we’ve been given and also sharing that they are quite happy and satisfied with the opportunity to network and collaborate with each other.”
Sandi Boucher, an Indigenous keynote speaker, author of Honorary Indian and other books and Seine River citizen, delivered a presentation on I Have a Dream during the Leadership Session.
“I’m a 10-year domestic abuse survivor — there’s a time I couldn’t have sat at a table and have a conversation with one of you, and look at what I do now,” Boucher says. “I am living proof our past does not have to be our present or our future, and it has nothing to do with how someone else looks at us, it’s how we look at us, that’s what we’re focusing on today.”
Boucher says her mother used to demonstrate to her and her brother how no individual can see the whole picture by having them look around the living room while standing back-to-back.
“She pointed out to us that there was so much of the room that we could see but there was one part we were totally blind to, my brother couldn’t see the part that was directly in front of me, I couldn’t see the part that was directly in front of him,” Boucher says. “This is why we need Indigenous voices on the OHT, because only if we come together and share what we see and actually believe each other can we start to see more of the room. And you’ve heard this in meetings, someone will say, ‘It doesn’t look like that to me.’ That’s not a challenge, that’s an opportunity to see something that’s in your blind spot.”
Paavola says the Showcase was an opportunity for Indigenous service providers and Indigenous-led services within the City and District of Thunder Bay to showcase their services.
“We know that removing barriers through awareness works,” Paavola says. “When you are aware of the services that are available, you are better able to help and support community.”
Amanda Esquega, traditional care manager at Rocky Bay Child and Family Services, says the Showcase was “really informative.”
“We did a lot of networking with other [Indigenous] agencies to kind of see what is out there for our families,” Esquega says, noting that they provide an array of prevention programs. “We’ve been here (in Thunder Bay) since 2019, our satellite office is here and our main office is in Rocky Bay. We always mirror our programming, our services there and here, whatever we do.”
Tricia Mishquart, child and family services manager at Rocky Bay Child and Family Services, says they are also a voice for their citizens in both the community and Thunder Bay.
“We all know as Indigenous peoples how hard it is to reach out for additional services and supports,” Mishquart says. “That is why we are very unique in what we do for our [citizens].”
ABPA responds to the Liberal Government’s Announcement of a National Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program
ROBINSON-SUPERIOR TREATY AND FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION TERRITORY, THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO (November 22, 2023) – This week, the Liberal government announced the next steps for a long-awaited National Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program in the next year’s federal budget. However, Indigenous leaders are still waiting for details on how the program will work and whether the program would help communities invest in the natural resource sector and facilitate equity ownership in energy, mining, forestry, and other infrastructure projects.
Following is a statement from Jason Rasevych, President of the Anishnawbe Business Professionals Association, regarding the Government of Canada’s Economic Statement and commitment to National Loan Guarantee Program for Indigenous peoples:
“Indigenous leaders have been calling on this type of program for decades. We have seen some examples in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, but there are some limitations on what type of project can be supported including the amount and timeline. The lessons learned from the successes and challenges of the current state and forecasting the market demand should be part the new program design and seek compliance with Indigenous-led values and the principles of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. The announcement of a national Indigenous loan guarantee is a positive commitment that protects lenders from potential defaults and derisks the weighted average cost of capital; however, much more needs to be considered on how it prioritizes applications by geography, industry, and deals with jurisdictional dissonance across the provinces permitting regimes. We need to make sure that the human rights risks inflated by financial programs that create a larger gap between the classes of have and have not Nations are minimized and not motivated by a government – political agendas. We need the loan guarantee program to enhance and support Indigenous communities looking to participate in various sectors at different financial thresholds of resource development and ownership of enabling infrastructure like corridors and facility ownership. These projects should be assessed to consider respect for the rights-holders throughout the financing and project lifecycle, and that the proponent has achieved the free, prior, informed consent of Indigenous peoples impacted as a condition for approval. If the mandate and decision to provide the loan guarantees is supporting government or partisan plans it will create more friction for Crown-Indigenous relations, especially on how those loan guarantee decisions are being made. Indigenous communities will also need grant funding to develop the business case and economic model for the loan guarantee applications and there should be a mechanism to consider backing Indigenous-owned or operated lenders and financial institutions for a multiplier effect.”
In the past, there has been budget allocations to realize Canada’s role as a key global supplier of critical minerals for manufacturing electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, and other low-carbon technologies, which suggests dependence on intensive mineral extraction. Given Northern Ontario’s forest and mineral abundance, the region has an integral role to play in achieving these aspirations. Resource developers and governments will need to demonstrate understanding of the necessary and pivotal role that First Nations play within this paradigm given their unique rights and land title.
While the announcement could be promising as a path to reconciliation and economic growth through its support of developing strong partnerships with First Nations, success will only be realized through effective roll out and accountability. The federal government will need to demonstrate a well-executed and collaborative approach with First Nations. ABPA stands ready as an advocate for the First Nations business community and will be watching and eager to play a role in ensuring the above outlined programs meet the demands of the North.
The current ABPA Board of Directors include:
• Jason Rasevych, President, Ginoogaming First Nation
• Rachael Paquette, Vice-President, Mishkeegogamang First Nation
• Ron Marano, Vice-President, North Caribou Lake First Nation
• Jason Thompson, Secretary/Treasurer, Red Rock Indian Band
• Brian Davey, Director, Moose Cree First Nation
• Steven McCoy, Director, Garden River First Nation
• Tony Marinaro, Director, Naicatchewenin First Nation
About the ABPA:
The Anishnawbe Business Professional Association (www.anishnawbebusiness.com) is a nonprofit, member-based organization based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. ABPA serves the First Nation business community within the Treaty #3, Treaty#5, Treaty #9 and Robinson Huron and Superior Treaty Areas. The ABPA develops and expresses positions on business issues and other public issues relevant to First Nation business, on behalf of its members. They provide a forum for the First Nation business community to develop policies and programming which contribute to the socio-economic well-being and quality of life of First Nations peoples in Northern Ontario. They also serve non-First Nation businesses by providing information, guidance, and access to a wide-ranging network through events and sponsorship.
Anishnawbe Business Professional Association
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