Positive signs on First Nation issues?

Blog, Aboriginal Futures, Joseph Quesnel

There are two encouraging developments coming from the top on Aboriginal issues.

The first are public statements by National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) expressing a desire to ‘disband’ the Aboriginal Affairs department in favour of a new form of Native governance.

Because Ottawa has a unique fiduciary relationship with First Nations, this does not mean a complete dismantling of any responsibility to Native peoples, but rather the establishment of two smaller, more focused agencies. One will focus on the relationship between first nations and the Crown, the other to continue providing services to aboriginals.

This statement by the national chief at an AFN annual general meeting going on in New Brunswick comes on the heels of a statement Atleo made in the summer of 2010 where he said he would prefer to see the Indian Act phased out in 2-5 years.

While these are encouraging signs and the end goal should be replacing the Indian Act and the ANAC bureaucracy, Atleo needs to come up with more concrete plans to replace the Indian Act system with something better. In particular, he needs to outline: 1) Plans for economic self-sufficiency. Most bands are small and isolated from the mainstream; 2) Plans to replace the lines of accountability with Ottawa with accountability between Native leaders and members; 3) Plans to make individual rights and gender equality a reality.

The other large issue is First Nation elections. Positive remarks from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) about reforming the electoral process to avoid constant appeals. There are calls for an independent process, which is what Frontier promotes too.