John Beaucage: A vision of a new Assembly of First Nations

By John Beaucage

Over the past few weeks, an overwhelming number of chiefs and grassroots citizens from across Canada have extended their considerable support to my campaign for national chief. Early in the new year, I went into the sweat lodge, asking for guidance from both the Spirit and our elders in ceremony to guide me through this campaign. But nothing has touched me more, or has inspired me with vision, than the encouragement and support of our young people.

My candidacy is truly about a vision for a grassroots movement spurred on by the youth and their call for unity, pride, and inspiration.

The youth now account for more than 50 percent of our population. As such, the youth have spoken about the need for action—about their need for inclusion—to ascend from despair, disregard, and indifference to take their rightful place as holders of their own destiny. Above all, the youth expect fundamental change in how First Nations leaders take up their calling.

The election that will take place in Calgary in July will be a watershed moment and a choice between the status quo with a focus on reparations of the past, or the choice for fundamental change and leadership into the future.

My vision for “A New AFN” means transcending the current concept of what the Assembly of First Nations has been and making it relevant to all First Nations citizens, especially our youth.

The AFN has definitely had its place and was right for the times. The AFN has always been there to do the job that it has been asked to do.

Most recently, the work that has been done in the area of reconciliation, the residential school apology, and raising the issues and plight of our people has been commendable. Our national chief, Phil Fontaine, certainly deserves our sincere thanks and recognition for his visionary leadership in these areas.

Truly, the AFN has done a great deal in addressing the issues of the past. It has given us a strong foundation for the work that must be done in the future.

Now, we are moving into another era where visionary leadership will be a catalyst for change and First Nations can take our place as a legitimate order of government in the fabric of Canadian society.

I have a vision for a new AFN where the rights-based agenda is paramount and First Nations assert a renewed jurisdiction towards self-determination, self-government, and nationhood.

Together, through nation-building, we will work towards eliminating poverty, building economies, empowering our citizens and our youth through unity with pride.

A new AFN will truly support First Nations to determine who our citizens are, represent their interests wherever they live, and give us all a homeland of wealth and prosperity.

Over the years, the AFN has been unjustly criticized for being a creation of the chiefs. In reality, it’s a creation of the Indian Act. We must change the way we act, the way we see ourselves, and the way we practice our inherent rights and governance. We need to move towards a true nationhood model, built not upon the Indian Act, but built on sovereignty, self-identity, unity, and strength.

The AFN must be more than a special interest group. In reality, we are a historic confederacy of nations. First Nations must work towards the restoration of our own model of nationhood made up of our true nations. In essence, moving away from 633 First Nations—from Aamjiwnaang to Zhiibhaasing—to governance based on the nearly 60 indigenous nations, from the Abenaki Nation to the Wendat Nation and all those in between.

Part of this change is to allow each and every First Nation citizen to vote for their national chief. This is not about taking power away from the chiefs, but to empower a new AFN to work on behalf of all our citizens no matter where they choose to live.

But this change will not be done unilaterally nor without the vision and guidance of its founders. Together, we must work as leaders, chiefs, elders, our youth, the women, and indeed all grassroots citizens to move towards this nationhood model. This vision may take years to achieve, as this will and can only be done at the pleasure and direction of the communities.

John Beaucage is a citizen of Wasauksing First Nation in central Ontario. He has served as chief of his community, grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, and is a candidate for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.



norman tabobondung

Jun 25, 2009 at 8:04am

I wish john beacage all the best in furture, he has my support.