(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo responded to today’s Federal Court decision declaring the federal appointment of a third-party manager to address the housing crisis in Attawapiskat First Nation as unreasonable.
“First Nation leaders from across Canada and I have stood in support of the leadership and citizens of Attawapiskat First Nation as they exercise their rights and responsibilities to address the challenges in their community,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “Today’s Federal Court decision underscores the important need for First Nation governments to be supported and respected to make the decisions that impact their peoples and their lands.”
In its judicial review of the federal appointment of a third-party manager to the community of Attawapiskat last fall, the Federal Court ruled that the decision by Aboriginal Affairs officials was “contrary to law” and “unreasonable in all the circumstances of this case”. The ruling basically establishes that in reaction to heightened media and public attention AANDC officials imposed a heavy handed, colonial remedy when financial management was not in question, rather, that a specific request had been made for operational assistance in managing a housing crisis. The ruling points out the lack of substantiation for decisions within AANDC which raises concerns about transparency and accountability.
The ruling noted that the relationship between the federal government and First Nations is government to government and that “While treaty rights are not directly at issue, treaty and Crown relationship plays an underlying role. This situation engages the honour of the Crown.”
“It is clear the current approach must change, and this is what First Nations and I have been consistently calling for,” said National Chief Atleo. “This decision provides further evidence in support of First Nations call for treaty implementation, government to government relations including new fiscal arrangements with Canada. We need to move beyond harmful practices like third party management, to a relationship based on mutual accountability.”
At the December 2011 AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Chiefs unanimously expressed their support for Attawapiskat First Nation through Resolution #46-2011, and called on the federal government to work with First Nations on creating sustainable joint solutions for the future as opposed to unilateral actions, such as the imposition of third party management without involving the community, that undermine the authority of Chief and Council.
AFN submitted evidence in support of the Attawapiskat First Nations in the proceedings.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter at @AFN_Updates @AFN_Comms.