Your Nation, Our Future
Recognition & Affirmation of Our Inherent & Treaty Rights | Closing the Gaps | Building Economies for Self-Sufficient Nations
Your Nation, Our Future
I am seeking your support to become the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I have been a leader for my nation, the Haida Nation, and at the northwest regional and provincial levels in BC for over 30 years. My approach and determination have enabled me to achieve a high level of success in these leadership positions. I bring all of this to the national level to help transform the relationship between First Nations and Canada: from colonial oppression to a proper Nation-to-Nation relationship.
Guided by my nation’s Elders, as President of the Council of the Haida Nation, I led my people to uphold Haida law and protect our homelands, by:
- Drafting and ratifying a modern, written Constitution derived from our ancient, strict oral tradition.
- Through our own House of Assembly, developing and passing legislation authorizing comprehensive land and marine use plans to guide human activity in all of our territories under Haida authority.
- Standing up and peacefully enforcing our nation’s laws to stop unauthorized logging of our homelands.
- Wearing my regalia, representing and defending our people within the Crown legal system.
- Negotiating the first generation of Nation-to-Nation agreements in Haida Gwaii, including the Gwaii Haanas Agreement between the Haida Nation and Canada, which committed to protect this sacred part of our homelands in perpetuity.
Indigenous peoples are diverse. Each of our nations is on a different path and using different tools to achieve their goals for their people. As National Chief, I will stand with our nations as they choose the tools they want to achieve their goals and will work to build consensus and capacity amongst treaty and non-treaty peoples alike, right across the country.
We are at a crossroads. We can choose to try to fix the colonial Indian Act system or we can choose a new path: stand up as Indigenous Peoples, be who we know we are, and build a proper Nation-to-Nation relationship with Canada. Choosing to try to fix the colonial Indian Act system is a dead-end street for our people. I stand for being who we know we are as nations, rebuilding our Indigenous nationhood and sovereignty, and building a proper Nation-to-Nation relationship with Canada. Together, shoulder-to-shoulder as Indigenous Peoples, I know we can do this.
For too long, the AFN has focused on reacting to federal initiatives. This is short sighted and must change. We need effective leadership with a vision at the AFN, to bring our nations together, strengthen our collective power, and lead change in our relationship with Canada. Without effective leadership, Canada has been driving the agenda on reconciliation and a post-Indian Act relationship with our peoples, largely on its terms. As First Nations, we need a National Chief who will support each nation to give full effect to its inherent and treaty rights and to ensure the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Together, our nations must seize the initiative and proactively design this new Nation-to-Nation relationship so it works for us.
As National Chief, I will lead the AFN to work in partnership to achieve the following goals.
1. Recognition & Affirmation of Our Inherent & Treaty Rights
We are the original people of our respective homelands. We are the living generation of ancient nations. Our title and aboriginal and treaty rights are inherent, a continuing fact of history. A proper Nation-to-Nation relationship requires Canada to recognize these inherent rights through Section 35 of its Constitution and affirm them with appropriate supportive legislation and through sufficient fiscal investments to rebuild our nations.
Delivering on Canada’s commitment to a Nation-to-Nation relationship begins with recognizing our nationhood and creating space for First Nations to define our nationhood for ourselves. It also includes a fiscal relationship in which our peoples benefit with a fair share of the wealth and economic activity generated from our territories. It requires Canada to stop fighting our peoples in the courts and uphold the Honour of the Crown.
As National Chief, my task is to bring us together to define our respective nationhood and assert our jurisdictions; to hold the Government of Canada accountable for its responsibilities and obligations to Indigenous Peoples; and to ensure this affirmation legislation is good enough for our nations and flexible enough to meet each of our nations’ needs and aspirations. The next three years are critical to the future of our peoples, and the National Chief must be up to these tasks.
There is nothing to wait for. We must get this relationship right, now.
2. Closing the Gaps
The Indian Act has been a destructive force on our peoples. The glaring socio-economic gaps that have persisted between our peoples and non-Indigenous people for several generations now must be closed, urgently. For too long, First Nations have been living in third-world conditions, while the Canadian economy has been built and prospered upon the backs of our peoples.
The availability of clean drinking water, healthy food, and quality housing; good health and educational outcomes; and the safety of our women and girls must be secured. If our women and children are not strong and protected, then our families, communities, and nations cannot succeed. Our peoples’ overrepresentation in the child welfare and criminal justice systems must be reversed.
Closing these gaps is a critical but only a first step on the path to rebuilding our nations.
Working together, we must use the AFN to push Canada to fully invest in closing the gaps between First Nations and non-Indigenous people and to dedicate sufficient fiscal resources to rebuild our nations, which have been systematically undermined for over 150 years.
In a proper Nation-to-Nation relationship, Canada will provide the support for us to address our challenges on our own terms. Canada must stand beside us as a partner, while the solutions must come from us.
3. Building Economies for Self-Sufficient Nations
Self sufficiency of our nations requires strong, sustainable economies.
Each of our nations has access to different resources, has developed different skill sets and trading and business relationships, and can generate different opportunities to develop its economy. Some of us have long histories as people of the sea, while others have developed our historic economies in relation to the boreal forests, the prairies, or inland lakes.
Our title and aboriginal and treaty rights to our territories are key to the economic opportunities of our futures. Each of our nations will assess its resources, talent base, and opportunities and articulate our own visions for wealth creation.
Exercising our inherent jurisdictions through our own governance institutions will provide the stability, planning, and capacity to build our economies. We can do this on three levels:
- Nation level: Building capacity for governance, legal structures and wise management aligned with our ways of knowing and being.
- Community level: Building and growing our own community economic development corporations in our territories and on our own terms in ways that reflect who we are. These vehicles help separate business from politics, ensuring the best economic and investment climate, risk management, and decision-making processes for our communities.
- Individual level: Our people are the original entrepreneurs. We must inspire our youth to engage in our economies by empowering our entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed and lead as economic warriors.
As National Chief, my job will be to support our nations in defining their visions for economic self sufficiency and ensure we are receiving our fair share of value from economic activity within our territories. Whether it is through ensuring appropriate revenue sharing from resource extraction, taxation, taking advantage of legally-recognized commercial fishing rights, positioning ourselves at the leading edge of renewable power generation or carbon storage, showcasing our arts and culture, or any other method we envision, our peoples must be positioned to prosper. Where our nations are generating wealth, we need to ensure we will be able to reinvest that wealth in our peoples and not be held back in poverty and mere subsistence by Canada.
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The most important Nation-to-Nation relationships are the ones between our peoples. The stronger we are together, the better able we will be to manage our partnership with Canada. Our unity will be our biggest strength.
It would be my honour to serve as your National Chief.
It would be my honour to serve as your National Chief.