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Joint Gathering 2014, held on October 22-24, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, was the third annual gathering of BC First Nation Chiefs and Administrators with senior Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) officials. The event was co-hosted by the First Nations Leadership Council (comprising representatives of the BC Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs) and AANDC.
The theme of this year's gathering was Sharing Successes: First Nations share their experiences to promote partnerships and foster leadership for a sustainable future. Content and structure was developed based on input received from Aboriginal leaders, government officials and Joint Gathering 2013 evaluations. Over 70% of the 198 First Nation communities in British Columbia had at least one First Nation representative attend Joint Gathering 2014.
The three-day event included four plenary sessions (an introductory Chiefs' dialogue, and other plenaries on preparing for emerging opportunities, recognition of Aboriginal rights and title, and mentorship in the context of community development) and 12 dialogue sessions. Between sessions, participants were able to access information on government services at the information fair. A networking session was also held to celebrate cultural differences on the first evening.
New this year was the formal inclusion of the youth perspective on the Preparing for Emerging Opportunities plenary discussion and a real-time-response system that allowed participants to evaluate the sessions as they took place.
This year's evaluation results indicate that the Joint Gathering continues to play a positive role in the ongoing dialogue between First Nations and government officials. Over 89% of respondents support annual gatherings as an important venue for critical discussions on emerging issues and opportunities, and 92% said that they gained valuable insights at this gathering.
The purpose of this Summary Report is to:
share participant evaluations;
provide a concise summary of what was heard from the speakers, presenters, community leaders and participants; and
outline next steps for the future.
This report will be shared with all First Nations in British Columbia and with AANDC senior government officials.
Evaluation Summary Highlights
Joint Gathering 2014 was attended by 318 First Nation delegates. Representation at Joint Gatherings from First Nation communities in British Columbia increased to 139 (70%) in 2014 from 104 (52%) in 2012. Joint Gathering 2014 participants included 285 representatives from First Nation communities, 27 Aboriginal organization representatives, and six Tribal Council representatives.
Written evaluations (228) and responses to the 20 questions posed in the real-time audience response system (an average of 138 responders for each question) generally reflected participant satisfaction with being invited to attend a third annual gathering to engage with their peers and senior government officials.
Topics that were of most interest to participants at this gathering were identified as comprehensive land claims policy reform, recognition and reconciliation of Aboriginal rights and title, and investments in economic development. Participant feedback on the overall approach to the event included interest in more:
opportunities to hear from First Nations' presenters, in particular the youth perspective;
dialogue topics that allow for more focused, solution based discussions;
time for sharing successes with each other and questions and answers during plenary;
engagement with senior government officials; and
First Nations' input in planning the event (see Next Steps below).
The Joint Gathering proceedings opened with an acknowledgement of Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, a cultural welcome to Elders, Chiefs and other dignitaries, and an opening prayer offered by Elder Audrey Rivers from the Squamish Nation.
Minister Valcourt, via video message, expressed his appreciation to the participants for gathering to share creative ideas, explore joint solutions, and collaborate to improve the well being of First Nations. He referenced the Government of Canada's current economic efforts and a more flexible approach to treaties. He closed by stating that he looks forward to hearing the results of the discussions at the Joint Gathering.
Speaker and author Thomas King was given a standing ovation following his interview by moderator Harold Tarbell for his perspective on the strength found in culture and action, and on his award-winning fiction The Back of the Turtle, 2014, and non-fiction, The Inconvenient Indian: An Account of Native People in North America, 2013.
To close the gathering, Dr. Evan Adams (then Deputy Provincial Health Officer, now Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority), spoke about his life journey, health from an indigenous perspective, and the need for reconciliation between First Nations and other Canadians.
Information Fair – Government Service Tables
The government service information tables that delegates were able to visit were hosted by:
Western Economic Diversification
Public Works and Government Services
Employment and Social Development Canada
Canada Revenue Agency
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Emergency Management
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Direct Deposit
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Communication Tools
Summary for Plenary Sessions
What Was Heard
First Nations are working together to determine their economic development priorities and make progress on them
Regulatory reform and the acceleration of processes are needed to assist First Nations with development approvals
Consultation is necessary to reconcile, recognize and advance Aboriginal title and rights
Preparing for Emerging Opportunities
First Nations await a federal response to the Tsilhqot'in decision and its implications
The Government of Canada and First Nations must build on partnership opportunities to advance economic and social development opportunities
First Nations want to be consulted regarding major project development and need to examine environmental and economic impacts of proposed large projects
The Government of Canada should advance partnerships with industry and institutions that connect Aboriginal youth with training opportunities in emerging areas of employment, using technology and social media that reaches youth
Include youth in First Nation–Government of Canada gatherings to contribute their perspective, build capacity and foster leadership development for succession planning
Recognition and Reconciliation of Aboriginal Rights and Title
Canada has not formally responded to the Tsilhqot'in decision, unlike the Province of British Columbia
First Nation panelists were concerned that a federal representative was not present on the panel to speak to this issue
Tsilhqot'in is viewed as a "game changing" decision on Aboriginal rights and title in British Columbia
The First Nations Leadership Council's four key points on recognition from its September 11, 2014 meeting with the British Columbia Premier were highlighted as the starting basis for a new relationship between Canada and all First Nations in British Columbia
Consent based decisions are required in traditional territories
The tweaking of the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy (as set out in Interim Policy) and the subsequent Eyford Engagement process on reform of the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy is not adequate to respond to the Tsilhqot'in decision
Participants called for high level government-to-government discussions with Canada
The Role of Mentorship in Achieving Success
To be successful, both mentorship and comprehensive community planning must remain community driven and focused
The Government of Canada expressed its interest in expanding its First Nation–to–First Nation mentorship approach beyond community planning
First Nation communities may request mentor support for their community planning activities, and beyond into other subject areas
Summary for Dialogue Sessions
What Was Heard
Investments in Economic Development
The Aboriginal Financial Institutions Network works with other lenders to improve First Nations' access to capital and continues to improve business support services to Aboriginal entrepreneurs
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada continues to work with First Nations to build awareness around available funding sources, innovative partnerships and ways to finance economic development
Employment Opportunities in Growing Sectors
Community involvement in training and employment opportunities identified and supported by industry will prepare First Nations for employment in the Liquified Natural Gas industry and other growth sectors
Trades and early essential skills training for youth can start in high school and be delivered in the community
First Nations expressed concerns about inadequate industry support for apprenticeship programs
Aboriginal employment targets should be included in resource development contracts, and First Nations hope the Industry Training Authority can provide industry with regulatory oversight on meeting targets
Wealth Management and Trusts
First Nations are considering trusts as a financial structure to control and protect their major financial assets and to leverage funds
Trusts for First Nations present unique complexities and to be successful should reflect the community's objectives, be properly structured and prudently managed
First Nations want more information about options for wealth management beyond trust funds
Major Projects Management Office – West
First Nations emphasized the importance of addressing rights and title and government-to-government relations, as well as the need for long term sustainable economic development
Issues and past experiences with resource development and capacity challenges to engage in the project approval process were shared
Cumulative impacts of major projects, including impacts from oil spills and impacts on the traditional way of life need to be addressed
Comprehensive Land Claims Policy Reform
Canada is reforming its comprehensive land claims policy and has appointed Douglas Eyford as the Minister's Special Representative to engage with First Nations, provinces and territories and other stakeholders to make recommendations to the Minister, and a public report will be released
The Tsilhqot'in decision has raised expectations with respect to recognition and implementation of pre-existing Aboriginal rights, improved treaty mandates, and Canada's obligations to consult and seek the consent of First Nations when impacting rights
Concerns were expressed that policy is not keeping up with evolving jurisprudence, and about inefficiencies in the comprehensive land claims process, including inflexible ‘cookie cutter' mandates and the length of time required for Canada to make decisions
Loans were identified as a disincentive to concluding a treaty, and loan forgiveness was proposed by participants
Overview of Consultation and Accommodation
Government should consider international policy and case law on consent, and recognize that rights and title are held at a collective level not at a band level
Government departments and other entities need to be more consistent in their consultation processes with greater transparency between internal guidelines and the resulting decision-making processes
Inadequate funding and resources do not allow First Nations to participate in meaningful consultations on major projects, and this has cumulative effects on land and climate change and results in a loss of culture
Participants expressed that the Joint Gathering should not be considered as the formal engagement process with First Nations for updating the federal consultation guidelines
Overlapping Claims and Shared Territory Matters
First Nations rely on collaboration with each other, innovation, resources and capacity building to bring about the resolution of overlapping claims and shared territory issues between communities
First Nations can prepare the foundation for the process of resolving overlapping claims and shared territories by developing guiding principles, rediscovering common interests and promoting innovation while resolving differences
Safe Drinking Water
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is inviting First Nations to participate and provide input into the development of regulations for safe drinking water
First Nation communities need additional funding to support capital upgrades and to engage in the regulatory development process
First Nation Housing
First Nations need safe, affordable housing now and for future generations
In order to develop and implement effective measures of success for housing, First Nations need to explore networking opportunities and prioritize community and Council engagement
Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests
New federal and provincial rules on Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act are now aligned to provide the same protections on and off reserve
Each First Nation can create their own law for family homes and matrimonial interests
The National Aboriginal Land Managers Association's Centre of Excellence for Matrimonial Real Property provides support to First Nations for the development of matrimonial real property laws
Sustainable Land Use Planning
There is a strong interest in learning more about the process of sustainable land use planning
Land use plans need to be funded
To facilitate the development of land use plans First Nations need to know how to access expertise
Healthy Communities and Families
Participants identified public safety, family violence and competing for limited resources as barriers to achieving healthy communities and families
Participants discussed shared solutions such as flexible funding, recreation programs and funding for violence prevention to support success in their communities
First Nations need flexible funding in order to design programs in ways they know will be most effective
Stable, long term funding is available to support healthy communities and families, including Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's Family Violence Prevention program, Public Service Canada's Crime Prevention program and Aboriginal Justice Services programs
A survey will be circulated to First Nations to inform the direction and discussion topics at the next Joint Gathering. Participants have clearly indicated their interest in greater First Nations' input to planning a future Joint Gathering and attending a gathering event every year.
Until the next Joint Gathering is held, the First Nations Leadership Council and AANDC BC Region will continue to monitor progress on key issues, and will collaborate on emerging opportunities and future actions to improve Aboriginal social well-being and economic prosperity and develop healthier and more self-sufficient communities.