WINNIPEG, Dec. 9, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) today opened its 2014 Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a gathering that will include the election of a new National Chief starting tomorrow. The morning of the first day was highlighted by an emotional event as delegates took time to reflect on the tragic passing of Tina Fontaine and all missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and held a special ceremony to honor and recognize Rinelle Harper and her family.
"As we gather this week, we are reminded, tragically, of the urgent need for action to ensure safety and security for Indigenous women and girls," said AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis. "The tragedy of Tina Fontaine and the horror of the attack on Rinelle Harper are still fresh wounds for our people, especially here in the city where these events took place. Rinelle Harper is with us today only because of her own strength and courage and the kindness of the individuals that helped her, and we are tremendously honoured to have her here. We are shocked and outraged by this incident, but humbled by her strength, grace and fortitude. We must all learn from her story and say loudly and clearly: not one more. It is time to act to end this senseless cycle of violence."
The ceremony honoring and recognizing Rinelle Harper started with the AFN National Executive presenting her with an eagle feather. Rinelle Harper addressed the Assembly, supporting the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and saying to all in attendance, "Please remember four words: love, kindness, respect and forgiveness."
AFN Regional Chief for Nova Scotia-Newfoundland Morley Googoo stated: "We repeat our calls for urgent action aimed not simply at investigation but prevention, and we must acknowledge once and for all that this is a systemic issue with deep roots that can be uncovered by a national public commission of inquiry. We will not back down and we continue this call, as do the many Canadians and provincial and territorial leaders that are standing with us for action."
The issue of action for missing and murdered Indigenous women will be an important part of the discussions at the Special Chiefs Assembly. Delegates will discuss activities in the lead up to the National Aboriginal Women's Summit to be held early in the new year involving national Aboriginal organizations and provincial and territorial leaders, with invites going to the Prime Minister and federal Cabinet ministers.
AFN also announced the creation of a new Heroes of Our Time RBC Scholarship titled the Elijah Harper Memorial Award that will be given annually to an applicant who has completed at least one year of post-secondary education in the field of commerce/business.
Voting in the election for a new AFN National Chief will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, December 10. Results of the first ballot are expected to be reported to delegates in the Main Plenary at 1 p.m. A second ballot commences if required. The new National Chief will serve a three-and-a-half year term, reflecting the early resignation of the previous National Chief.
Discussions on a number of priorities for First Nations will continue Wednesday and Thursday, including dialogue on First Nations Control of First Nations Education, Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls, and Land Rights and Claims.
You can watch the webcast and also get the full agenda of the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly at www.afn.ca.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations