The Assembly of First Nations released key priorities for the next federal government on Tuesday, including calls for an emphasis on reconciliation, climate leadership and economic growth for First Nations.
The advocacy organization, which represents more than 900,000 First Nations people in 634 communities and attempts to influence federal government policy, included the priorities in a document titled Healing Path Forward: 2021 Federal Priorities for Strengthening and Rebuilding First Nations.
“The Assembly of First Nations ... urges all voters in Canada, regardless of political affiliation, to understand First Nations priorities as Canadians’ priorities,” the document said.
The AFN said, for example, that all levels of government must work with urgency on the issue of finding the burial sites of former residential school students, and each federal political party must outline how it will move forward with First Nations.
This is painful but important work, the organization added.
The document said the recovery in the spring by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in Kamloops, B.C., taught Canadians and the world about innocent children who died and were buried in unmarked graves.
“This is a crime against humanity and a crime against these little children,” the document states. “We call this genocide.”
The recovery of First Nations children’s remains is not over and there will be more reports to come, the document added.
“People and media have been referring to them as discoveries,” it said. “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.”
AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who was elected to her position in July, also stressed the importance of justice and healing for communities.
At a virtual news conference, she cited issues such as children living in overcrowded homes, not having access to clean drinking water, and attending schools that are not funded to the same standards as the rest of Canada, and young people being taken into the child welfare system.
On the issue of climate change, the AFN wants political parties to endorse a commitment that includes reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
The document also calls for the government to work with First Nations as partners on implementing Ottawa’s climate plan and to support the application of First Nations perspectives and knowledge to assess the impact of climate change.
The organization is also calling for measures such as resources for First Nations to develop postpandemic recovery plans.
In 2015, the AFN identified 51 influential ridings where First Nations voters could affect the outcome of the vote. When asked for her message to First Nations people for the Sept. 20 election, Ms. Archibald said she encourages them to vote.
She said she will not offer any endorsements, adding that her organization will need to work with whomever forms government.
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