Indigenous engagement and representatives
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has a long history of working with Indigenous peoples. ECCC consults with Indigenous peoples to uphold constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights, such as access to traditional territory and the harvesting of plants and animals as well as to respect the obligations outlined in the various statutes for which the department is responsible. ECCC also works with Indigenous peoples as a matter of good governance, such as engagement on regulatory development and the management of lands, and on the delivery of programs and services.
Indigenous peoples also participate in ECCC’s international work by informing policy positions, as part of delegations or as a separate/self-represented partners in international discussions. Some of these have included the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation.
In 2017, the Government of Canada established permanent bilateral mechanisms (PBMs) with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders as a means of advancing the Crown-Indigenous relationship. The PBMs provide a forum to collaborate on joint priorities, co-develop policy and monitor progress. ECCC works with Inuit, Métis and First Nations to advance environment priorities identified through the PBMs and other existing mechanisms. For example, ECCC co-leads with Inuit partners the advancement of the whole-of-government Inuit Crown Partnership Committee (ICPC) environment workplan that was approved in April 2019. Métis have also identified the environment as a priority in this forum.
ECCC also engages with Indigenous Representatives and Indigenous groups through other mechanisms on various issues such as climate change at the Joint Climate Change Action Tables; on conservation through the National Steering Committee for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas; on programs such as at the Indigenous Guardians Working Group; and on the protection of species through the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
In addition to engagement at the local community or regional level, ECCC engages regularly with national Indigenous representatives who are involved in these mechanisms, namely, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada (ICC-C), and the Métis National Council (MNC). Other national organizations with which ECCC engages include the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP). All of these bodies represent and advocate for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis at a national level and facilitate engagement of Indigenous peoples in work under ECCC’s mandate including development and implementation of policies and programs related to environmental protection, wildlife and nature conservation, environmental and wildlife monitoring, and scientific research. Information on the National Representatives and their leadership is provided below.
Assembly of First Nations
National Chief: Perry Bellegarde
National Chief Perry Bellegarde is from Little Black Bear First Nation in Treaty 4 Territory. He has served as Tribal Council Representative for the Touchwood-File Hills-Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Saskatchewan Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, as well as Chief and Councillor for the Little Black Bear First Nation. In 2014, the Chiefs-in-Assembly first elected Chief Bellegarde as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He was re-elected to the position in July 2018.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country. The AFN’s mandate is to protect and promote the social, environmental, legal and cultural interests of First Nations. The AFN advocates on behalf of First Nations on issues such as Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, Economic Development, Education, Languages and Literacy, Health, Housing, Social Development, Justice, Taxation, Land Claims, Environment, Land and Resources, and other issues of common concern. The AFN National Executive is made up of the National Chief, 10 Regional Chiefs and the chairs of the Elders, Women’s and Youth councils. The AFN is an organization that advocates on behalf of First Nations as directed by Chiefs-in-Assembly. This includes facilitation and coordination of national and regional discussions and dialogue, advocacy efforts and campaigns, legal and policy analysis, communicating with governments, the private sectors and the public.
Métis National Council
Interim leader: David Chartrand
David Chartrand, a citizen of the Métis Nation, was born and raised in the Métis community of Duck Bay, Manitoba. Chartrand will lead the Métis National Council until the scheduled 2020 elections after former President Clément Chartier announced he was stepping away in early November 2019. He is serving his sixth successive term as President of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Vice-President of the Métis National Council’s Board of Governors. Prior to this, Chartrand served four terms on the Manitoba Métis Federation Board of Directors and has held numerous volunteer positions with Indigenous organizations in Winnipeg.
The Métis National Council (MNC) is the national representative body for the Métis Nation; descendants of distinct Métis communities developed along the routes of the fur trade and across the Northwest within the Métis Nation Homeland (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, as well as, parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the northern United States). Established in 1983, the MNC has represented the Métis Nation nationally and internationally. It receives its mandate and direction from the democratically elected leadership of the Métis Nation’s governments from Ontario westward.
The MNC established the Métis Nation Cabinet in 2001. As the MNC works towards a Métis National Constitution, the Cabinet compliments and supports stronger governance within the Métis nation. The Cabinet is responsible for 10 portfolios, with one Minister covering each priority sector. Cabinet portfolios include, among others, culture, heritage and language, economic development, environment, finance, rights and self-government, and social development.
Overall, the MNC’s central goal is to secure a healthy space for the Métis Nation’s on-going existence within the Canadian federation.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
President: Natan Obed
The President of ITK, Natan Obed, is from Nain, Nunatsiavut. Prior to moving to Ottawa, he lived in Iqaluit, Nunavut for 10 years, where he worked for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. as the Director of Social and Cultural Development.
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) is a representational organization that serves as a national voice protecting and advancing the rights and interests of Inuit peoples and culture across Canada. ITK is governed by leaders of Inuit rights-holding land claims organizations - the Inuvialuit Regional Council, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Makivik Corporation, and the Nunatsiavut Government. ITK also works with various Inuit organizations including the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada (ICC-C), the National Inuit Youth Council, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. The organization was founded in Toronto in 1971 by seven Inuit community leaders who shared a common concern about the status of land and resource ownership in Inuit Nunangat (homeland).
ITK’s environment mandate is to ensure that Inuit are partners in decision-making, and that Inuit knowledge, perspectives and interests are considered in the development of environment and wildlife research, policy, legislation, and programs. ITK’s environment mandate also includes actively communicating on environmental and wildlife issues affecting Inuit, and supporting the enhancement of Inuit capacity to better address environment and wildlife priorities.
Inuit Circumpolar Council - Canada
President: Monica Ell-Kanayuk
Monica Ell-Kanayuk, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Canada (ICC-C) was elected in July 2018 at the 13th General Assembly in Utqiaġvik, AK. Ms. Ell-Kanayuk was elected in a by-election to the third Legislative Assembly of Nunavut in September 28th, 2011 to the riding of Iqaluit West. In the 3rd Assembly Mrs. Ell-Kanayuk served as Minister of Family Services, Minister responsible for Homelessness, Minister responsible for the Qulliq Energy Corporation and Minister responsible for the Status of Women. She was then re-elected in the general election held October 28th, 2013 to represent a new constituency of Iqaluit-Manirajak in the 4th Assembly of Nunavut. Mrs. Ell-Kanayuk was elected to serve on executive council during the November 15th, 2013 proceedings of the Nunavut Leadership Forum, and has held several high profile positions such as Minister of Health, Minister of Economic Development and Transportation, including that of Deputy Premier.
Founded in 1977 by the late Eben Hopson of Barrow, Alaska, the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is a major international non-government organization representing approximately 160,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). The ICC holds Consultative Status II at the United Nations, Economic and Social Council, and represents the Inuit in the international arena of environmental and social initiatives.
The ICC international office is housed with the Chair; however, each member country maintains a national office under the political guidance of a president. The Canadian arm of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada (ICC-C), is led by a Board of Directors comprised of the elected leaders of the four land-claims settlement regions: Inuvialuit, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, and Nunavut.
ICC-C and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) have come to an agreement that ICC-C will be the sole representative of Canadian Inuit internationally.
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP)
President: Robert Bertrand
Robert Bertrand is the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP). Chief Bertrand was elected on September 30, 2016 during CAP’s 45th Annual General Assembly. Hailing from Fort Coulonge, Québec, Chief Bertrand began his career in life insurance before entering politics where he served as MP for eleven years. During his time in Parliament, he acted as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defense of Canada, Assistant Party Whip, as well as Chair of the Standing Committee on National Defense and Veterans Affairs and Sub-Committee on Agenda and Procedure of the Standing Committee.
Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) was established in 1971 as the Native Council of Canada (NCC) to promote the rights and interests of off-reserve non-status Indian and Métis people living in urban, rural and remote areas of Canada. Reorganized and renamed in 1993, CAP has extended its constituency to include all off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis and Southern Inuit Aboriginal Peoples, and serves as the national voice for its provincial and territorial affiliate organizations to promote and advance the common interests, collective and individual rights, and needs of its constituents. CAP does not have individual memberships or provide programs and services directly to individuals.
Native Women’s Association of Canada
President: Lorraine Whitman
Lorraine Whitman, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, is a member of Glooscap First Nation in Nova Scotia. Whitman was elected President in September 2019, prior to which she served two years as elected president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. Educated in health care and healing, she worked for over two decades in social development for Glooscap First Nation before spending 15 years as an elected councillor.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a national organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in Canada, inclusive of First Nations on and off reserve, status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit. NWAC was founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies. NWAC is an aggregate of thirteen Native women’s organizations from across Canada and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974. NWAC’s mission is to help empower women by being involved in developing and changing legislation, which affects them, and by involving them in the development and delivery of programs promoting equal opportunity for Aboriginal women.
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