Posts tagged ‘AFN’

National Chief Bellegarde appoints new Chief-of-Staff

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Bob Goulais and National Chief Perry Bellegarde

(Ottawa, ON) ― Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Chief of Staff who will be responsible for implementation of his political agenda affecting First Nation across Canada. Bob Goulais, an Anishinaabe from Nipissing First Nation in Ontario, brings a great deal of experience with indigenous organizations, government and the private sector to the AFN. Goulais will assume his new duties on November 7, 2016.

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Bob Goulais as my Chief of Staff. I have great confidence in his abilities and appreciate the diverse skillset he brings to my office,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “He will play a key role in providing strategic advice, political advice and advancing our agenda.”

“There is an unprecedented opportunity for First Nations in Canada to influence the public policy landscape and implement positive change for our peoples,” said Bob Goulais. “I look forward to the challenge of this important position and supporting the National Chief in representing First Nations rights, interests and perspectives.”

“This is an exciting time for the Assembly of First Nations, where we are solidifying corporate and political leadership with the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer and my Chief of Staff,” said National Chief Bellegarde. Mr. Goulais joins Ms. Judy White, a Mi’kmaq from Flat Bay, who assumed the office of CEO on October 31.

Mr. Goulais is an experienced senior executive, public servant and professional communicator who has provided more than 20 years of service to industry, non-for-profit, First Nations and government. Throughout his career, Goulais has excelled in situations requiring significant change management, organizational development and community engagement. Goulais recently served as President of Nbisiing Consulting Inc., the founding Director of Aboriginal Relations for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Senior Communications Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Manager of Cultural Policy and Strategic Policy and Planning for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and Chief of Staff for the Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde has also expressed his gratitude to former Acting Chief of Staff Wendy Moss for filling the role for the past five months.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

AFN: A Dysfunctional Mess

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff during the grand entry as First Nations leaders, elders, youth and delegates gather for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Chief Rufus Copage of Shubenacadie (Indian Brook) First Nations, N.S., carries the Assembly of First Nations Eagle Staff during the grand entry as First Nations leaders, elders, youth and delegates gather for the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

From the outside looking in, First Nations are looking pretty dysfunctional these days.

The average Canadian does not get into the weeds and complexities of our issues.  They simply see that the government wants to establish legislation to improve education outcomes, set standards and invest $1.9 billion in additional funding to First Nation schools.  And they see that, for some reason, First Nations are absolutely opposed to this.

The average Canadian also sees that First Nation Chiefs are not only unhappy with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) over negotiating this, but they see the Chiefs outright challenging the AFN and it’s leadership in the media and in front of the news cameras.

Really, this situation looks like a banana republic coup d’état by rogue militant and outspoken revolutionary generals.

There are two issues at hand:

  • the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act (Bill C-33); and
  • the function of the Assembly of First Nations.

With regard to education, I agree that Bill C-33 is not the best vehicle to addressing substantive education reforms.  But I think the Chief’s frustration over their treatment by the Harper government has clouded just about everything.  Any initiative, no matter how positive or progressive it may be, would not be accepted by First Nation Chiefs.  Years of funding cuts, lacklustre dialogue, substandard consultation and erosion of environmental laws will do that to you.

With regard to education, I really think it’s important to define our objectives.  (1) Is it our objective to improve education outcomes and address funding inequality? or  (2) Is our objective re-assert our jurisdiction and take full control of First Nations education based on implementation of the Treaties?

It’s okay to want to work towards achieving both these objectives.  But one objective can be much more immediate and the other.  By demanding the latter, it seems like an unlikely, all or nothing proposition.  Meanwhile, the horrendous status quo continues as does the reality that the First Nation education system is woefully inadequate and ineffective, ripe with a lack of trained teachers, substandard education, schools and funding.

Regarding the function of the AFN, I get it that former-National Chief Atleo and the Executive may not have delivered an education solution according to the will of the Chiefs.  Their misinterpretation of their mandate, and inability to reconcile the consensus of the Treaty Chiefs may have been a serious error in judgment.

But for heavens sake, this is getting a little embarrassing.  There must be a way to resolve these serious issues and internal reforms amongst ourselves.  Why not treat the Assembly of First Nations as a large parliamentary caucus?  Go in united – debate and resolve the issue – and come our united.  Or at least appear to go in united and appear to come out united.

At the end of the day, if we take our frustrations about Bill C-33 and the Harper government out on our own people, we will continue to be victims of the government’s divide and conquer strategy.  As I’ve said again and again, we need to focus our efforts and our venom on our opponents, not ourselves.

First Nation organizations and leaders – whether they be community-based, regional or national level – are convenient targets of our frustration and political cannibalism.  Every two years, in almost every community across the country, that frustration is vented out by Band Council elections.  We see Chiefs and Councillors turfed and turned over almost every week.

But to take these frustrations with the AFN out in the press, microphones and bright lights of the TV cameras, to the unknowing public, this looks like a prelude to some Indian civil war.

Under Their Thumb

atleoharperToday, we seen some well-deserved backlash against the Conservative government over further cuts to provincial territorial organizations and national political organizations.

But the reality is, this is not news.  It’s been something that many of us have been expecting.

Last year, the Government of Canada arbitrarily reduced core funding – one of the two areas funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.  Today’s announcement was a reduction in project funding, the other area funded by the federal government.  A letter from the department states: “Project funding in 2013-14 and future years will be allocated only to projects that demonstrate clear and achievable outcomes and that are linked to departmental priorities…”

It’s really part and parcel of the ongoing fiscal assault on First Nations since the HarpCons were elected in 2006.  Now that Harper has his majority, it was just a matter of time that their budget bills whittle down the non-legislative contributions toward First Nations political organizations.

We can all raise our fists, rant and rave, even summon up a summer of sovereignty.  But the reality is, in this bizarro world of Indian politics, the government funds our political organizations.

This funding isn’t linked to a Treaty or Aboriginal rights.  This isn’t about cutting funding to an essential service.  Truth is, the government has all the right in the world to fund or not fund discretionary programs such as Aboriginal organizations.

The solution to this funding predicament is to get out from under the government’s thumb.  First Nations, PTOs and the national organizations need to become self-sufficient, and find new, alternative funding sources to fund our priorities and organizations.

First Nations need to build their economies, plain and simple.  This means developing a strong resource-based, business acumen.  First Nations governments need to develop partnerships and joint ventures and become a growing part of the resource-based economy.

We need to look at economics from a government perspective.  For example, developing new sources of revenue by beginning to tax resources and infrastructure running through our territories.  We need to look at leveraging our existing resources through various partnerships and investments.

First Nation governments need to look beyond the transfer payments agreements, and meager rations that are set before us.  He need to look towards high finance and play hard-core economics.

We need our own financiers and economists just as much as we need elected Chiefs and warriors.

Finally, I want to defend those that work at the Assembly of First Nations, PTOs and other similar organizations run by our Chiefs.

Having worked for Chiefs for most of my career, I can honestly say that they are not only out for themselves.  They aren’t not a corrupt, bunch of crooks trying to get rich off the government dime or at the expense of the poor.

Most Chiefs, and most officials that work for First Nations political organizations work hard and mean well.  They are always thinking of their communities first, and ways and means to better our communities.

If there is one thing that seen over the past few years of social media commentary, is our perpetual self-abuse directed at those officials we elect and organizations they work for.

Yes, it will be Idle No More and the grass roots that will rise up and pressure the Crown to make things right.  I’m more confident of this than ever.  But before the round dances subside and the barricades come down – First Nations will need someone to negotiate our appropriate place in Canadian society.  We will need our own forms of government to sit at the table with the next Prime Minister and make history.  Inevitably, we will need to put our trust in our elected leaders, financiers and economists.  We need to ensure the organizations they represent have adequate resources to do this work we ask of them.

It just can’t be done with government money, tied to government priorities.