Message from Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak
Federal funding cuts threaten the viability of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
Over the past few days there has been a lot of talk about the future of the AMC. Recent cutbacks by the federal government have essentially made it next to impossible for the AMC to function in the ways that it has functioned over the past several years.
With an 80% cut to our core funding arrangements our operational budgets, including our cash-flow forecasts and our long-term advocacy plans have to be completely rewritten.
The projected cutbacks to proposal driven projects are too difficult at this time to quantify but it is safe to say that we will also experience considerable cutbacks in project funding because our regional efforts do not always fall squarely into the key priority areas agreed to by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). As a result, the governance of the AMC, including our executive council of chiefs and our issue specific committee work will need to be reconsidered.
At no time in the history of the AMC has there ever been such a threat to the viability of the organization. Massive cutbacks are not only happening to the AMC, our partner organizations of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), as well as the Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), are also facing considerable cuts. In addition, all political organizations across the country, as well as tribal councils will also be cut significantly.
Interestingly however, the Assembly of First Nations, as party to the Harper government’s joint action plan on First Nations people will only receive minimal funding cuts. In addition, project funding will flow to the AFN based on its key joint priorities under the joint action plan, making the AFN the big winner in all the losses to regional political efforts.
The operations of the AMC have always been designed to encourage collaborative political action and to coordinate with the AANDC on effective ways to improve the lives of our people in our communities as well as the urban environment.
Throughout my career as a Chief and now as Grand Chief, I have always considered the role of a Chief to be a spokesperson for the benefit of our grassroots people, no matter who is funding the community or the assembly. I have always spoken for the interests of our people and have always spoken from a rights based approach to governance, as well as a rights based approach to the good life we all deserve as Canada’s Indigenous people.
In light of the significant challenges ahead, many have asked me what is it exactly that the AMC does? Shortly after asking a question like this, critics of political organizations are quick to criticize the organizations saying that they are not relevant to the grassroots experience or that our organizations do nothing for our grassroots people. I can honestly say that if we did nothing for our grassroots people, I would certainly not be here doing the work I do.
I have observed over my time as a Chief the sometimes subtle ways in which governments maintain a steady attack against our ways of life as Indigenous people. As a result, organizations like AMC are in a constant battle to combat and defend against strategic tactics, words and policies that are intended to sway public opinion in a way to discredit us in our leadership.
History has shown us that federal Crown policy has been extremely detrimental to the experiences of our ancestors in our own homelands. No matter how convincing governments might try to be constructing strategies to tell us that assimilation based policy is a historical problem and that they are now ‘sorry’, the truth of the matter is that assimilation and detrimental federal crown policies are as strong today as they ever were in generations past.
Federal policy makers have been in a steady push to offload responsibility for First Nations people for at least the past 50 years. As part of this offload, funding formulas have been designed to squeeze our people out of the communities and into the urban environments, falling on the social & health programs of the provinces.
Health funding and services have become so limited that our people are losing their lives under federal health policies limiting transportation access to provincial service providers. In other instances laws have been passed to criminalize our legitimate attempts to build our economies (i.e. tobacco & gaming). Resource management regulations have been designed to aggressively limit our abilities to access our traditional foods from the lands. Housing programs have been so severely limited that housing backlogs in our communities in Manitoba alone reaches into the thousands. The ‘conspiracy of silence’ that many of our families have observed when it comes to our murdered or missing sisters, mothers, etc. is also a concern for all of us. Our young people are facing such desperation and lack of access to opportunity that they are refusing to live. Water systems are so woefully underfunded that after new water plants are built there is no money to hire water plant operators to keep the water safe for human consumption. This has led to boil water advisories to dozens of communities over the years. The list goes on and on.
The efforts of the AMC (and other organizations) is to constantly work on limiting the effects of one-sided prescriptive policy and law making that is happening in our contemporary experience. It is warrior’s work, and no one at the AMC is standing by watching these issues unfold. The efforts of our leaders and our professional staff are designed to face the uphill battle everyday, making contributions to the wellness of our people and combatting the global issues that I’ve identified above. In addition, the AMC is also expected to provide direct service to grassroots people while also engaging directly with government officials, making submissions to federal parliamentary and senate committees and building or maintaining relationships with provincial governments. The work of the assembly is so extensive that just about every First Nations person at some point in their lives, benefits from the work of the AMC.
Several highlights of the work of the AMC over the past 24 years. This list is by no means exhaustive;there are a tremendous amount of dayto- day contributions the organization makes to the quality of life of our people. Some of the highlights are as follows:
1989 – By way of resolution at the AMC, the Tribal council Investment Group (TCIG) is created with investment from the Tribal Councils to create economic opportunity for First Nations people. Today, TCIG represents a great business success story for our community.
1990 – AMC played a significant role in blocking the passing of the Meech Lake Accord due to its assertion that Canada was created by two founding nations, the English and French, totally ignoring the First Nations Peoples of this country.
1990 – During the Oka Crisis, AMC established a Peace Village at the Legislature
1990 – Framework Agreement on Indian Education in Manitoba (Education Framework Agreement).
1991 – AMC Establishes the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters (MANFF). In 2011, MANFF provided administrative & coordination efforts for hundreds of displaced flood evacuees and continues to do so today.
1992 – AMC Rallied against the Charlottetown Accord which led to the rejection of the accord by all of Canada’s First Nations and affirmed the Inherent Right to Self Government.
1992 – AMC Grand Chief Phil Fontaine Reveals the Physical, Mental and Sexual Abuse that many First Nation Children’s Suffered in Residential Schools. This later led to a national campaign leading to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, compensating thousands of residential schools survivors.
1992 – AMC proclaims November 12-22 as National Addictions Awareness Week. 1993 – Six member task force is set up to investigate First Nations Child Welfare Agencies in Manitoba. 1993 – The Chiefs-In-Assembly pass a resolution to support the concept of a First Nations Post Secondary Institute to provide coordinated comprehensive culturally relevant learning opportunities for First Nations.
1994 – AMC forms the AMC Aboriginal/Workforce Orientation Initiative (AWOI), first of its kind to assist both employers and employees.
1994 – The Manitoba Framework Agreement is signed between AMC, Minister of Indian Affairs Canada and Government of Canada.
1995 – Chiefs-in-Assembly mandate the establishment of the First Nations Women's Committee. The committee has since been annually funded through AMC to provide vital advice and guidance on matters impacting the quality of life for First Nations women.
1995 – AMC Establishes a Chiefs Committee on Dismantling (CCOD) to oversee framework development and a Technical Working Group (TAG) to advise on Framework Developments.
1996 – AMC Launches 52 Complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
1997 – Framework Agreement for Treaty Land Entitlement is passed, starting the process to address hundred year old outstanding treaty land designations.
1997 – Mass Movement was held declaring a First Nations Health Care Crisis in Manitoba.
1997 – AMC Urban youth Initiative brings gangs to national attention.
1998 – AMC Establishes Manitoba First Nation Education Resource Centre (MFNERC), providing ongoing curriculum development supports to First Nations communities.
1999 – AMC organizes 1st Annual Youth Gathering.
1999 – AMC signs 5 year Agreement with Human Resource Development Canada to coordinate youth, urban, childcare, disabilities and labour market training programs for First Nations people in Manitoba. First Peoples Development Inc. (FPDI) continues to provide access to employment & training dollars and has funded thousands of Manitoba’s First Nations people.
2000 – AMC signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Province of Manitoba on the Child and Family Services system to lead to a framework and plan to restructure the CFS System.
2000 – AMC Chiefs Gaming Committee and the Province of Manitoba announce the awarding of 5 casinos to First Nations people. Aseneskak & Southbeach Casinos now employ hundreds of First Nations people and spin-off economies employ hundreds more. Future casino developments under AMC will contribute hundreds of millions in economic opportunity for First Nations people in Manitoba.
2001 – AMC in partnership with the University of Manitoba and the Foundations for Health establishes the First Nations Centre for Aboriginal Health and Research.
2001 – AMC Chiefs-in-Assembly endorse the establishment of a Treaty Relationship Commission in Manitoba.
2001 – AMC Chiefs-in- Assembly support a resolution mandating the establishment of a First Nation Institute of Trades and Technology.
2002 – AMC co-hosts with Manitoba Métis Federation the 2002 North American Indigenous Games.
2002 – AMC youth Secretariat provides recommendations to the RCMP on how to improve the negative relationship between First Nations and the RCMP.
2003 – AMC signs MOU with federal government on the creation of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM), providing learning opportunities to thousands of Manitobans and First Nations people. TRCM also initiates a process to develop a treaty based curriculum for teaching in public schools.
2003 – AMC Leadership takes a National role in opposing the First Nation Governance Act.
2004 – AMC establishes the Manitoba First Nation Disability Multi-Sectoral Working Group.
2004 – AMC Signs a join resolution against the Devils Lake Outlet.
2005 – AMC signs Partnerships with the City of Winnipeg, MTS, Manitoba Hydro, and the RCMP to meet with the Employment Equity Standards for First Nation People.
2005 – AMC in partnership with SCO and MKO sign a protocol Agreement to strengthen the relationship with the RCMP which will enhance Public Safety and avert conflict.
2005 – AMC develops a plan to start a new Urban First Nation Transition Centre. The Eagle Urban Transition Centre has now helped hundreds of First Nations people from our communities transition into the urban centre.
2005 – The Chiefs-in-Assembly approve a model of Integrated Diabetes Health Care Service Delivery.
2006 – AMC establishes an AMC Elders Council which also serves as an advisory council to the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM).
2006 – AMC and Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba sign a partnership agreement to increase First Nation representation in the workforce.
2007 – AMC is successful in having the “Jordan’s Principle” tabled as a motion in the House of Commons. Unanimous support by all parties.Ongoing work to implement Jordan’s Principle has revealed serious challenges overcoming provincial and federal health policy.
2007 – AMC Signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Manitoba Real Estate Association to initiate a subsidized mortgage pilot project. Urban First Nations able to access down payment assistance towards owning their own homes off-reserve.
2007 – AMC worked with the Winnipeg Social Planning Council to support the “Raise the Rates” of Employment income Assistance Campaign.
2007 – AMC Hosts the Indigenous Climate Change tour to dialogue global warming and climate change issues.
2007 – AMC’s 1st Annual Christmas Pancake Breakfast to send gifts to children in need. Annual breakfast draws hundreds of community members from Winnipeg’s North end to spend time with Santa Claus and enjoy free breakfast and entertainment.
2009 – AMC creates First Peoples Economic Growth fund (FPEGF), signed with the province to provide access to a $25 million capital pool for financing community owned Aboriginal businesses.
2011 – AMC launches lawsuit against the federal government to have the Teulon residence acknowledged under the IRSSA.
2011 – AMC signs unity accord with ManitobaKeewatinowi Okimaakanak (MKO) and Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO), agreeing to collaborate on key initiatives and to combat the negative outcomes to First Nations people under Bill C-10.
2012 – AMC, MKO & SCO bring national political attention to the issue of Murdered & Missing Indigenous women. National Chief Atleo then brings issue to the Confederation table with the Premiers calling for a National Inquiry into the issue. The AMC also Establishes the Coalition for Missing and Murdered Women comprised of service providers and community based organizations.
2012 – AMC launches lawsuit against federal government & Province after province signs 20 year provincial police service agreement with federal government without consulting with First Nations communities on policing services to Manitoba First Nations communities.
These are just some of the accomplishments of the work of the AMC over the years. In light of our efforts to combat so many issues, we have been able to achieve very significant victories for our people and will continue to do so.