The Healing Path Forward: 2021 Federal Priorities for Strengthening and Rebuilding First Nations

Healing Path Forward:

2021 Federal Priorities for Strengthening
and Rebuilding First Nations

A Commitment to Nation Building

Healing Path Forward:

2021 Federal Priorities for Strengthening and Rebuilding First Nations

The Healing Path Forward is a strategic direction toward evolutionary and positive change. First Nations are on the cusp of transformative change. There have been unprecedented investments since the last federal election and First Nations are poised for action on priorities. As the country and globe face the economic challenge of rebuilding following the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure First Nations are at the center of this effort and that every single person in this country is aware of how First Nations priorities impact Canada’s success.

The Healing Path Forward is about creating a unified effort on longstanding issues that have faced First Nations. The process of rebuilding the strength of our nations has been a long challenge, but our efforts have begun to be recognized— progress is being made, and there is hope for a brighter future. To continue the work of building stronger First Nations and, as a direct consequence, a stronger Canada, the federal parties will need to work in close partnership with First Nations by honouring and respecting our ongoing relationship and working together for the betterment and wellness of our common future.

The Healing Path Forward means any engagement about First Nations’ the Inherent and Treaty Rights must fully respect and keep First Nations and jurisdiction central to the dialogue. First Nations continue to uphold our sacred promises and commitments to peace, wellness, friendship, and mutual respect. It is the right thing to do for all levels of government, on behalf of Canadians, to do the same. Those commitments are for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grasses grow. They have been passed down through generations and are held in ceremonies. First Nations also have rights, title, and jurisdiction, as well as self-government agreements (or Modern Treaties), all of which are recognized under Canadian law. All of these rights are obligations on the Government of Canada. Canada has a great deal of work to do to fulfill its promises to help build safe, vibrant communities and a mor e prosperous society, for everyone.

The commitments First Nations seek from the next federal government are not new. They are, at the core, about respecting First Nations’ jurisdiction, and Treaty rights, and supporting First Nations governments’ fiscal capacity to exercise those rights and jurisdictions. They are also about how we can build, together, a better future for everyone in Canada, one that creates greater equity and prepares the country for challenges such as climate change and post-pandemic recovery.

The Healing Path Forward: 2021 Federal Priorities for Strengthening and Rebuilding First Nations plan reflects a shared vision and expression of First Nations’ collective priorities at the national level. First Nations seek all federal parties willing, ready, and able to commit to working with our leadership to build a stronger Canada.

The Healing Path Forward means any discussion between the Crown and First Nations must have its starting place with the recognition that we are equals as peoples and nations. The next federal government must welcome First Nations leadership, create space at decision-making tables with the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and work with First Nations to improve our relationships. The next government also must support First Nations governments to improve the lives of our citizens by guaranteeing equality and equity in socio-economic outcomes. For too long, successive Canadian governments have allowed injustices to build into intergenerational conditions that do not properly honour the true founders of Turtle Island, now known as Canada. When First Nations people are strengthened, then Canada’s economy and its social fabric is made stronger, from which we can all enjoy a more prosperous country. We are making progress working in partnership with those who share our vision and respect our rights. We must maintain this momentum.

The Healing Path Forward means that there must be Truth before Reconciliation. Guaranteeing equality and equity between First Nations and others in Canada will result in growth of the gross domestic product1 and it will reduce the social costs that arise from keeping people in poverty 2. It will protect the most vulnerable and empower women and youth who are so critical to economic growth. Building First Nations economies will translate into certainty for investment and increase self-sufficiency and the self-determination of First Nations. It will promote a fairer and stronger Canada for everyone.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) urges all voters in Canada, regardless of political affiliation, to understand First Nations priorities as Canadian’s priorities. We know that Canadians agree. Presented throughout this document, the views of Canadians regarding the priorities detailed here show strong support 3.

A Canada that respects the rightful place of First Nations will benefit everyone. There is a healing path forward and we can only get there working together.

As detailed in this document, First Nations are seeking commitments from the next federal government to act in five (5) priority areas:

  1. Truth, Reconciliation and Healing for First Nations and all Canadians
  1. Climate and Conservation Leadership with First Nations
  1. Economic Growth, Prosperity and Wealth Building for First Nations
  1. Promoting Peace by Respecting First Nations’ Jurisdiction
  1. Rebuilding and Strengthening First Nations
  1. Truth, Reconciliation and Healing for First Nations and all Canadians

The Healing Path Forward means acknowledging all ‘Indian Residential School’ survivors and the intergenerational survivors. Anishinabe-Kwe scholar Dr Pamela Toulouse wrote that “100% of First Nations people suffer from Intergenerational Trauma. 100%.” We are all survivors, and we are all doing our best to heal and walk forward with dignity.

It was in Te’Kemlups Te Secwepmc, Kamloops, B.C., that Canadians and the world first learned about how 215 innocent children died and were buried in unmarked graves. This is a crime against humanity and a crime against these little children. The United Nations have called this genocide. We call this genocide.

The ground-penetrating radar technology revealed evidence, indisputable proof that crimes were committed. Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme stated that “this is a crime scene.” And crimes must be investigated. The criminals must be held to account.

What is equally important is that these little ones were loved. They were cared for by their families and communities when they were forcibly removed, often by the RCMP and Indian Agents. Certainly, it started with government policy. For many Canadians and for people around the world, these recent recoveries of our children – buried nameless, unmarked, lost and without ceremony – are shocking, and unbelievable. NOT FOR US. For decades, we were not believed. Some may still not believe. But today I once again state an undeniable truth: Canada, alongside the Churches, committed genocide against First Nations through our children.

This recovery of our children is not over and there will be many reports to come. People and media have been referring to them as discoveries. These are NOT ‘discoveries’ – these are ‘recoveries.’ It’s time to find our children and bring them home. This agonizing exercise and grim reminder of this country’s history will continue until we recover all our family members and bring them home to rest in peace, in proper ceremony.

Even after the institutions of assimilation and genocide closed, survivors and thousands of families continued to suffer – no one talked about the horrors they witnessed – so children, grandchildren and descendants are now coming to terms with the fall out.

All levels of government must work with urgency on the issue of the burial sites across this country and in finding ways to heal the trauma that our peoples have experienced for generations.

Each party must outline how they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with First Nations to rebuild, recover, heal and move forward together.

We ask every Canadian to stand with First Nations as we continue this painful but important work. I ask that you listen, learn and reflect on the history we share as a country.

The AFN calls on all political parties and candidates to endorse the following commitments:

  • Invest in an updated process for healing, a National Indigenous Healing organization that must continue the important work of the former Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
  • Canada must fully implement all Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action that fall under the responsibility of the federal government and develop a joint action plan with First Nations to ensure that all calls to action are implemented.
  • If we examine the costs of establishing the 139 recognized institutions, with1300 in all, it would be in the billions by todays standard. These institutions had a genocidal purpose. We need to reverse that process and it is incumbent upon all political parties to commit to investing the equal amount of energy and resources to strengthening and rebuilding First Nations.
  • Provide sufficient funding and other resources to those First Nations affected by unmarked or mass burial sites of children at former residential schools.
  • Provide long-term, sustainable, and sufficient funding toward a better future through the ongoing healing of First Nations.

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