This week, members of JFK Law LLP (“JFK”) attended the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly on the DRAFT United Nations Declaration National Action Plan (the “SCA”) taking place April 3-6, 2023. JFK has been advising the Assembly of First Nations (“AFN”) Rights team throughout the federal government’s recent engagement process about an action plan. The federal government is obligated to develop an action plan (the “Action Plan”) under the federal United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (“UNDA”). The federal government released its draft Action Plan on March 20, 2023. (For more information on the action plan, please see our March 21, 2023 blog: Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (“UNDA”) Action Plan – JFK Law – Canada).
In addition to SCA plenary sessions, the week’s schedule included chiefs committee meetings and regional caucus sessions, all focused on the federal government’s engagement process regarding the Action Plan, and other priority issues. JFK partner Sara Mainville spoke on a technical briefing panel on the Action Plan and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “Declaration”) along with Drs. Wilton Littlechild and Sakej Henderson.
Ministers David Lametti (Department of Justice), Marc Miller (Crown-Indigenous Relations) and Patty Hajdu (Indigenous Services Canada) attended the SCA. Each of the Ministers attended regional caucus sessions. On April 5th, Minister Lametti provided a plenary presentation to update attendees on the draft Action Plan and hear feedback from First Nations leadership on key priorities and issues with the draft Action Plan. On April 6th, Ministers Miller and Hadju appeared before the SCA to discuss their ministries’ role in implementing the Declaration and priorities within the draft Action Plan. Minister Hadju also spoke about the draft drinking water legislation and Bill C-38, which proposes amendments to the registration and band membership provisions of the Indian Act.
In addition to discussions focused on the Declaration and UNDA, AFN delegates discussed and passed a series of resolutions. These resolutions included a unanimously endorsed emergency resolution supporting a $23.4 billion revised agreement to compensate victims of the on-reserve child welfare system, and of improper implementation of Jordan’s Principle. Delegates also passed an emergency resolution calling on the federal government to extend the deadline for tabling the Action Plan, to commit to amending the Action Plan within 18 months of tabling it, and to create an effective mechanism to ensure First Nation involvement and oversight regarding such Action Plan amendments.
The federal government continues to seek input from Indigenous rights-holders across Canada in phase 2 of their engagement process. A final Action Plan will be tabled by the Minister of Justice by June 21, 2023.
For further reading on the AFN SCA, here are some links to news articles about the event: