The National Assembly of First Nations convenes under a new national chief, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. He won a tight contest to replace National Chief Phil Fontaine in 2009. The top issues for the body representing Canada's 633 First Nations include the results of an historic tribunal examining alleged discrimination against First Nations children in Canada's welfare system and the need for unity among Canada's aboriginal people to address social problems in the reserve system.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. It is generally recognized as the most powerful of five aboriginal representative organizations recognized by the Canadian government. The rival Congress of Aboriginal Peoples represents off-reserve aboriginal people. Present issues include negotiations with the federal government in Ottawa over treaty rights, funding for the AFN, more money for reserve schools, housing and health services; and a larger share of resource wealth. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Ottawa heard the discrimination case on Jun 2-3. The complaint initiated by the organization and filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleges that First Nations children in federally-funded child welfare agencies cannot access the same services as other children in provincial agencies due to inequities in funding. The organization also complains that case workers are overburdened and many agencies operate without the basic necessities for tracking children's needs, such as computers. In a news statement, Chief Atleo points out that First Nations children are six to eight times more likely to be in care compared to the general population. He said the case was brought to reinforce the principle of equity for the children. There are 27,000 First Nations children in care, he added, more than at the height of the residential schools system. Approximately 9,000 of these children are in First Nations child and family service agencies. The long-term mission for First Nations is bringing about ratification of a Constitutional reform package namely, the Charlottetown Accord, which would recognize First Nations' right of self-government within Canada. (Written Jun 2010)
Date written/update: 2010-07-20