OTTAWA, ONTARIO (Tuesday, February 3, 2009) – Change is coming to the Assembly of First Nations.

Today, alongside youth, Chiefs and grassroots supporters, Grand Council Chief John Beaucage of the Anishinabek Nation, launched his bid to become the next National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

“Today, we’re here to take the first step in the rebirth of the Assembly of First Nations – A New AFN,” said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. “I have a vision for A New AFN where the rights-based agenda is paramount and First Nations assert a renewed jurisdiction towards self-determination, self-government and Nationhood.”

Beaucage spoke of his vision “as a grass-roots movement spurred on by the youth and their call for unity, pride, and inspiration.”

“The youth have spoken about the need for action – about their need for inclusion – to ascend from despair, disregard and indifference – to take their rightful place as holders of their own destiny. Above all, the youth expect fundamental change in how First Nations leaders take up their calling. With all that my spirit will muster, I accept that call in being their agent for change,” said Beaucage.

Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, who is an economist by education, outlined his 10-point framework of key policy and priorities for A New AFN, which includes:

* A commitment to Fundamental Change at the Assembly of First Nations through transparency, commitment engagement and renewal;

* A renewed Commitment to Youth in all areas, especially education, skills-development and employment;

* Implementing Regional Priorities and working for all regions across Canada;

* A renewed commitment to the Rights-Based Agenda and Treaty Implementation;

* Eliminating First Nations Poverty through enabling self-sufficient First Nations economies, advocating for affordable housing and addressing overcrowding;

* Taking steps towards constitutional change Recognizing First Nations Governments and changing the way First Nations are funded through transfer payments and equalization;

* Overhauling First Nations Health Services, through integration of federal/provincial/local health programs, a renewed focus on prevention and chronic disease management, a renewed focus on nutrition and exercise, and implementing a systemic health indicators to measure success;

* Restoring our role as Stewards of the Mother Earth in protecting the environment;

* Supporting Nation Building by revitalizing First Nations language and culture, restoring identity and instilling pride in our people;

* Supporting First Nation Citizenship including our right to determine our own citizens and to advocate for our citizens and represent their interests wherever they choose to live;

“Together, through Nation Building, we will work towards eliminating poverty, building economies, empowering our citizens and our youth through unity with pride,” said Beaucage. “A New AFN will truly support First Nations to determine who our citizens are, represent their interests wherever they live and give us all a homeland of wealth and prosperity.”

Grand Council Chief Beaucage is the leader of the 42-member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation, representing one of the largest First Nations constituencies in Canada. Beaucage was first elected as Grand Council Chief in 2004 then re-elected in 2006 by acclamation, a rare occurrence in the history of one of Canada’s oldest political organizations.

As Grand Council Chief, Beaucage focused on his “solutions-based approach to the rights-based agenda” by implementing innovative grass-roots approaches in restoring First Nations law-making authority, listening to the voice of the people, matrimonial real property, housing, Anishinabek Nation Economic Blueprint, an official language policy, intergovernmental relations and citizenship.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage played an instrumental role in the First Ministers’ Meeting which took place in Kelowna, BC in November of 2005. Leading up to the First Ministers’ Meeting, John served as the Co-chair for First Ministers’ Working Groups for both Housing and Relationships.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage co-holds the National Portfolio for Housing with Co-Chairperson for the Assembly of First Nations Chief’s Committee on Housing. In May of 2008, Beaucage was appointed Chairperson of the $300 million First Nations Market Housing Fund.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is the National organization representing First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nation communities in Canada. The elected Chiefs from each First Nation will cast their vote to elect the National Chief in Calgary, Alberta on July 22, 2009.