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Restoring Hope for First Nations A Plan to Break the Cycle of Poverty in New Brunswick’s First Nations Communities Prepared by the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick November 2012

FirstNationsChiefsNB.ca


Table of Contents An Open Letter from AFNCNB . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

First Nations Poverty in New Brunswick: A Story that Can – and Must – Be Rewritten

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Equality and Autonomy: A Strategic Approach to Poverty Reduction A Need for Focus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Three Goals toward Economic Inclusion A Ten-Point Plan to Poverty Reduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Creating Opportunity and Building for the Future

1. A First Nations Economic Summit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 2. The Creation of First Nations Enterprise Zones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 3. The Provision of Tools to Attract Industry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 4. Tendering and Procurement Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 5. A First Nations Arts and Interpretation Institute. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 6. A Training and Life-Long Learning Agenda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 7. A First Nations Community Education Act. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 8. A First Nations Early Learning Curriculum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 9. A First Nations Governance Institute . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 10. Meaningful Social Assistance Reform. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Targets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Summary of Recommendations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

We Are All In this Together

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An Open Letter from the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick

First Nations Poverty in New Brunswick: A Story that Can – and Must – Be Rewritten There are too many First Nations families living in poverty. There are too many children going to school hungry, too many families who make daily choices between food and shelter, too many people who lack the tools to even travel or prepare for a job interview. The statistics are so dismal, the problem so persistent, that they almost lose their power to shock. Of the ten poorest postal codes in Canada, seven of them are in New Brunswick First Nations. A child born in a First Nations community is twice as likely to live in poverty, four times more likely to drop out of school, eight times more likely to be unemployed, and nine times as likely Of the ten poorest postal codes in to know prison or addiction compared to a non-First Nations child down Canada, seven of them are in New the street. In a Canadian nation that rightly prides itself on principles of Brunswick First Nations. A child generosity, equality and opportunity, these facts should bother us and call born in a First Nations community us to action. is twice as likely to live in poverty, four times more likely to drop out

Some things are simply unacceptable.

of school, eight times more likely to

There are, of course, reasons why poverty persists. Every problem this ugly and painful exists for a reason. There were traditional industries and ways likely to know prison or addiction of supporting our families that were destroyed when communities were compared to a non-First Nations separated from the land. Residential schools reaped social and economic child down the street. havoc on an entire generation taken from their homes and families, and forced into schools where they were more likely to be abused than taught to read. The Indian Act left First Nations governments without the autonomy over their resources that would let them attract jobs and investment in ways other governments can. be unemployed, and nine times as

When well-meaning, decent people in First Nations governments, federal and provincial governments, and communities around New Brunswick tried to repair the past, they found solutions hard to come by. How do you encourage business in communities where the investors, entrepreneurs and mentors were wiped out for several generations? How do you begin training in a community where an entire generation learned that school is to be feared instead of embraced? How does one rebuild an economy in a community for whom pursuing investment means trusting the same forces that wiped out that economy? Good people could be forgiven for finding the challenge too hard, the going too tough, the questions without easy answers. Yet, for leaders in First Nations communities, there is no choice but to confront these challenges. We see the children in broken homes, the families losing hope, and the pain behind the statistics. We know the misery and despair that destroyed our grandparents. We cannot sit idly by and let the ghosts of that terrible past visit the same pain upon our grandchildren.

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Our story can – and must – be rewritten. We cannot accept that poverty and illiteracy are the way it must be. We have seen that change is possible. There are First Nations schools that have doubled their literacy rates and slashed dropout rates. There are First Nations-run small businesses that have thrived and created jobs. There are examples of programs that have worked and other stories that have been rewritten. This poverty reduction plan is built upon learning from the successes we have seen in First Nations communities and other New Brunswick communities around us. We know that changing the story will require changes from old approaches, and from provincial and national governments as well as our own First Nations governments. We are not content with making people a little more comfortable in poverty – we want to lift people out of poverty.

This poverty reduction plan is built upon three important goals.

1. C reate partnerships and opportunities for our economic

We cannot accept that poverty and illiteracy are the way it must be. We have seen that change is possible. There are First Nations schools that have doubled their literacy rates and slashed dropout rates. There are First Nations-run small businesses that

leaders today.

have thrived and created jobs. There

2. Offer the dignity of work and training for those of working-age today.

are examples of programs that have

3. A ttack the root causes of poverty for the next generation of

been rewritten.

worked and other stories that have

First Nations leaders. We have a shared interest in ending First Nations poverty. The First Nations population is the fastest-growing segment of the population in this province. Part of our shared ability to succeed economically will depend upon how literate, hopeful and connected our young leaders become. If we lose another generation of First Nations youth, the economic effect will see everyone’s children more likely to leave New Brunswick in search of jobs and opportunity. More than ever, we are all in this together. As elected First Nations leaders, we have taken the first step by developing a concrete plan behind which we are united. Now, we need partners in government and in the broader community to help us succeed. We welcome partners to discuss this plan with us and help us put it into action. There are many moral, economic and human reasons why we should not accept First Nations poverty. The greatest reason of all is that, together, we have the power to change it. We ask you to join us. 

The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick

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Introduction Equality and Autonomy: A Strategic Approach to Poverty Reduction There is a common refrain politicians will use when faced with tough problems. “We can’t just throw money at the problem,” goes the refrain as the problem persists. Of course, First Nations governments agree that money should not be thrown at the problem. There has never been, for all that the most diligent researchers can find, a First Nations leader or government that has demanded the “throwing of money,” randomly and recklessly, at a problem. Indeed, any First Nations leader who has managed a budget understands the value of a dollar, since they are often asked to manage the same social services as a provincial government, but with fewer dollars and higher demand.

...In an attempt to deny First Nations leaders the power to make bad choices in marketing resources, Canada has also denied them the freedom to make the good choices that can lift their communities out of

There are two principles, however, that are desperately required to give First Nations a fighting chance to reduce poverty. Those two principles are equality and autonomy. In the early part of this decade, researchers from Harvard University began an extensive, cross-discipline review of success and failures in First Nations economic development.

poverty – the unintended result being

The most important variable identified by the Harvard Project was autonomy. First Nations governments required autonomy over the that the communities are trapped in resources needed to seek out investors and companies who can help crushing, sapping poverty because them develop and market those resources to create sustainable jobs. The we fear something bad may happen. unpredictability created by a lack of long-term planning stems, in many cases, from the fact that First Nations governments often lack the same ability that state governments have to enter into long-term development deals with companies, which denies jobs and expertise to the First Nation. The idea that autonomy may be an essential element of economic development stands in sharp contrast to the general approach of Canadian governments. The public policy trend in Canada has been to legislate restrictions on the decision-making authority of First Nations governments, often falling into a harm-avoidance model. The applied research at Harvard (as well as the experiences of provincial governments in Canada) suggests that in an attempt to deny First Nations leaders the power to make bad choices in marketing resources, Canada has also denied them the freedom to make the good choices that can lift their communities out of poverty – the unintended result being that the communities are trapped in crushing, sapping poverty because we fear something bad may happen. The sad reality for leaders dealing with poverty, family breakdown, school dropouts, addictions and suicide is that they are being denied a chance to take calculated risks when they have little to lose and a great deal to gain. The urgency in First Nations communities today lies with the risk of doing nothing or with the dangers of change. This poverty reduction plan is anchored by the principles of autonomy and equality.

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It’s a plan that we propose to develop together, through a tripartite oversight committee of federal, provincial and First Nations governments. This steering group should be guided by elected leaders supported by a secretariat of officials from all three governments. This steering group should feel free to ask private and volunteer sector leaders to participate as equals in fleshing out the plan and providing details in the implementation. Creating connections, among equals, between First Nations and their surrounding communities will go a long way toward ensuring economic success and inclusion of our people in the broader economy. With those initial boundary conditions met, we would be free to embark upon a plan to rewrite the story of failure and exclusion that haunts Canada’s treatment of First Nations people. We have a modest proposal to begin this work.

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A Need for Focus Three Goals toward Economic Inclusion There are endless things that could be done. When trying to fix generations of poverty, borne out of a shattered economic and educational system, almost anything will help.

Where there is despair, we seek to replace it with hope. Where children have known only unemployment and poverty, we seek to provide paths to learn and succeed. Where communities are dependent upon government help, we want to nurture the capital and know-how that leads

Through this plan, we have identified the steps to best achieve transformational change. We do not seek to simply make First Nations people a little more comfortable in poverty, but to end generational cycles of poverty. Where there is despair, we seek to replace it with hope. Where children have known only unemployment and poverty, we seek to provide paths to learn and succeed. Where communities are dependent upon government help, we want to nurture the capital and know-how that leads to strong local economies.

A journey, and not just a singular step

to strong local economies. The fact that we seek new ways to build economies does not mean that governments can turn their backs on struggling families today. The journey from poverty to employment is precisely a journey, not a singular step. One cannot take a single parent with a grade 8 education and starve them into becoming a systems analyst. We note the findings of the New Brunswick poverty reduction initiative, which found that punitively low social programs can delay the escape from poverty by forcing recipients to spend time and energy on survival instead of employability. We need to make our social programs more supportive of the journey to work by not only supporting good choices, but placing citizens in a place where good choices can occur. By distilling all the needs in our communities down to some key steps, we can articulate three clear goals.

1. Create partnerships and opportunities for our economic leaders today. First, we need to provide our working-age citizens with the ability to work with the tools they will require. There are many First Nations people with the desire and ability to work, who require mentors, capital and community connections. The poverty of past generations represents not simply financial poverty, but a scarcity of the tools for entrepreneurship that many communities take for granted. We have been strategic in proposing ways to end this historical imbalance.

2. Offer the dignity of work and training for those of working-age today. Second, we seek ways to help working-age First Nations people who lack employability skills to join the local economy. This will require smart, strategic social programs that extend beyond warehousing people in poverty. It will mean developing a skills agenda and replacing distant, inflexible bureaucracies with programs that respond to local economies and needs.

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3. Attack the root causes of poverty for the next generation of First Nations leaders. Third, we want to forever break the cycle of poverty by giving First Nations youth the tools they need to succeed. The First Nations population is one of the fastest-growing segments of the New Brunswick population. With local economies increasingly dependent upon the skills and energy of their population, equal opportunity for First Nations young people makes economic sense.

A moral and economic calling As First Nations leaders, we have the same dreams for our young people that every community has for theirs – that they may know the security of a home, the fulfillment of a job that embraces their potential, and a place in a community where they can be fully themselves. When communities are denied these opportunities, when entire regions fall out of the economy, it causes despair, lost potential and higher social costs. Equipping every community with the tools to succeed is an economic, as well as a moral, calling. There is a fierce urgency to act now. Action often becomes most compelling if the status quo is unacceptable. We therefore propose this ten-point plan as a way to begin working together. We can no longer wait. We hope all of our stakeholders feel the same.

The Facts 

• More than 18,000 people live within

New Brunswick’s 15 First Nations communities, of which nine are Mi’kmaq and six Maliseet.

• Youth, under the age of 25, make up over half of the First Nations population.

• Youth living in First Nations communities

are half as likely to graduate from high school, twice as likely to live in poverty and experience hunger, and six times as likely to commit suicide.

• Canada is consistently among the top 10

best countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. If the index considered only First Nations communities, Canada would rank 78th – the ranking held today by Kazakhstan.

• On average, First Nations people earn

30% less than non-First Nations Canadians, representing a difference of up to $9,000 per year. The income gap narrows to $648 per year for First Nations people with postsecondary education.

• Only 8% of First Nations people obtain a

university degree, compared to 22% of non-First Nations people. If we could close this gap by 2026, the economic benefits would include $11.6 billion per year in increased tax revenue and lower social costs for the government – with an additional $9 billion per year in privatesector productivity gains.

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A Ten-Point Plan to Poverty Reduction Creating Opportunity and Building for the Future Many of the challenges facing First Nations communities are unique, but the aspirations are largely the same. First Nations communities don’t aspire to make people more comfortable in poverty. We want our communities to be places where families know the dignity and example of work, where people have jobs that challenge them, and where children grow up believing they can be whoever they want to be. In the end, First Nations families share the same dreams as other Canadians. That’s why the largest number of change initiatives in our poverty reduction plan focus on creating economic opportunity in First Nations communities, at both the macro and micro levels. We believe that the best way to break the cycle of poverty is a job. We believe that the best way to break the cycle of poverty is a job. We have examined some of the most successful economic drivers for rural communities in North America that share some of the same criteria as First Nations communities – small populations, distance from population centres, and high training needs in the new economy. We recognize that there cannot be an infinite number of priorities, so we have placed the focus on a few key areas of development. Most of all, we have chosen areas where we are ready to show leadership and build partnerships. We will need the public, private and NGO sectors to work with us to build opportunity in our communities.

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Building for the Future We also propose change initiatives to build dynamic communities where children can learn the skills they need to succeed, where good governance provides for stability and faith, and where young families will want to live and believe that their children have every opportunity they deserve. We have learned through devastating, first-hand experience the conditions that lead to failure. With partners and a determination to succeed, we want to build the strong public services that become conditions for success. Through the following ten change initiatives, we look forward to writing a new, happier chapter in the story of our people.

Change Initiatives 1. A First Nations Economic Summit 2. The Creation of First Nations Enterprise Zones

Goal Alignment 1. C  reate partnerships and opportunities for our economic leaders today.

3. The Provision of Tools to Attract Industry 4. Tendering and Procurement Reform 5. A First Nations Arts and Interpretation Institute

2. O  ffer the dignity of work and training for those of working-age today.

6. A Training and Life-Long Learning Agenda 7. A First Nations Community Education Act 8. A First Nations Early Learning Curriculum

3. Attack the root causes of poverty for the next generation of First Nations leaders.

9. A First Nations Governance Institute 10. Meaningful Social Assistance Reform

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Change Initiative #1

A First Nations Economic Summit There are important lessons to be learned from the cluster-based development that Western economies have witnessed in the past 20 years. Economic clusters became important because certain ingredients are necessary for economic growth. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit is a noble goal, but even when individuals start with a great idea and a determination to succeed, they need more. Most successful entrepreneurs, particularly in emerging sectors, will speak of the need for mentorship and access to others who have learned what it takes to succeed. They will have communities that provide them with We propose that government and the social capital to reach investors, suppliers and potential customers. Many business work with First Nations good ideas rely upon angel investors who can help grow those ideas to the governments to hold a First Nations point of commercialization, profit and jobs. Economic Summit in 2013. If a young person with a great idea is in a community with few economic connections to the communities that surround it – in an area with high unemployment, few successful businesses and high poverty rates – investors and mentors are hard to come by. We want to begin to build communities that nurture entrepreneurship. We propose that government and business work with First Nations governments to hold a First Nations Economic Summit in 2013. The summit would provide a chance for New Brunswick business leaders to meet potential customers in our communities, to begin to build connections between business leaders and First Nations communities across the province, and to begin putting our emerging leaders in touch with potential mentors and investors. Building on the summit, next steps could include creating structured mentorship programs, building government policies that encourage investment in First Nations communities, and instituting a regular schedule of similar summits. We also propose that government work with First Nations governments to develop crowdsourcing web resources to put First Nations entrepreneurs in touch with potential investors. Working across sectors to organize a First Nations Economic Summit can be the catalyst for new ideas and growth industries in our communities. Economic success in our communities will result in a stronger middle class and a healthier society throughout New Brunswick, to the benefit of families, communities, business and governments across the province.

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Change Initiative #2

The Creation of First Nations Enterprise Zones First Nations governments are not looking for government to artificially subsidize industries to create short-term jobs. We want to allow the market to lead our communities toward greater growth and long-term success. However, low consumer incomes and economic isolation have separated our communities from market forces, so some initial steps to reconnect communities are in order. Across the United States, state governments have written many success stories through the creation of Enterprise Zones. These zones are areas where a period of low (or no) business taxation is established to spur initial investment. These taxation policies are combined with efforts to reduce red tape and minimize initial regulation for business – a goal First Nations communities are uniquely well-positioned to deliver. Enterprise Zones stimulate investment without artificially subsidizing particular industries. Governments do not pick winners and losers, they simply set up sensible policies to allow markets and investors to find the right areas for jobs and growth.

Building on the Economic Summit, we propose a tripartite effort among governments, business leaders and First Nations governments to develop a five-year Enterprise Zone model with the right mix of incentives to connect our communities to the modern economy. First Nations leaders pledge, in return, to work to create a climate in which business can flourish and business leaders can

have confidence. Building on the Economic Summit, we propose a tripartite effort among governments, business leaders and First Nations governments to develop a five-year Enterprise Zone model with the right mix of incentives to connect our communities to the modern economy. First Nations leaders pledge, in return, to work to create a climate in which business can flourish and business leaders can have confidence.

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Change Initiative #3

The Provision of Tools to Attract Industry While direct government subsidies to business rarely provide success stories, governments still play a role attracting jobs and businesses to their jurisdictions. In particular, potential employers look to governments to ensure that there will be stability in the resources they will need to make their business work in a given community. The community that is looking to reopen a lumber mill needs government to provide potential operators guarantees of wood supply. The mining operation needs to know that the necessary permits will be in place and that regulations will be stable. The new factory needs to know that the roads that carry their goods to market will be maintained. The company upgrading a production We propose that the trilateral process facility needs to know that potential employees will have access to the launch a Competitiveness Audit – training they need to fill the jobs. a process through which governments work in good faith with First Nations and business leaders to examine what tools our governments need to attract industry. Once these tools are identified, the correlating decision-making authority would devolve to First Nations governments, giving them the hands-on ability to

These are all tools that we expect provincial governments to bring to bear when opportunities present themselves. Yet, First Nations governments are denied these basic tools of economic development that would allow us to attract employment. Our training budgets are short term and underfunded compared to those available to non-Aboriginal Canadians. Our access to secure wood supply is never provided beyond a year-to-year process where we are forced to be competitors with private industry, rather than potential partners. Our ability to maintain infrastructure is dependent upon other governments.

help spur economic development in We propose that the trilateral process launch a Competitiveness Audit – a process through which governments work in good faith with First Nations and business leaders to examine what tools our governments need to attract industry. Once these tools are identified, the correlating decision-making authority would devolve to First Nations governments, giving them the hands-on ability to help spur economic development in First Nations communities. These powers may include, but are not limited to, long-term wood supply, multi-year training budgets and infrastructure funds. First Nations communities.

We have entered into trilateral agreements in good faith, hoping that these will be forums for action rather than tables where leaders talk while communities suffer through unemployment and poverty. The Competitiveness Audit process, along with clear timelines for its implementation, will be an important gesture to show that our good faith was well justified.

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Change Initiative #4

Tendering and Procurement Reform Every week, governments issue contracts for services that impact First Nations communities. There are upgrades to roads and infrastructure, information systems that support government programs, and professional services from legal to financial. More sweeping are the grants issued to industry, from energy to mining, to use natural resources and triggering a duty to consult. Too often, this economic activity near our communities and spurred by our consumers, does not leave the economic footprint that it should. Ideally, the activity would create jobs that bring income and experience into our communities, leaving behind increased demand and a reservoir of skills and experience that attract even more economic activity. Yet because the decision-making is too often divorced from our communities, the demand that exists does not boost our economies.

We propose that both levels of government undertake reform to procurement and tendering rules to reward companies that engage and employ the First Nations communities around them.

We propose that both levels of government undertake reform to procurement and tendering rules to reward companies that engage and employ the First Nations communities around them. These reforms could include assigning points on tenders to companies ready to build capacity in First Nations communities, to rewarding First Nations employment targets. Progressive companies in sectors like energy have begun including these plans in their pitches to government. Proper reforms can reward companies who are willing to invest in the development of a skilled middle class in First Nations communities, to form long-term partnerships, and tackle obstacles that freeze out First Nations people from projects that happen in our own communities. Tendering and procurement has long been used to value corporate social responsibility as well as provide for the bottom line. If ending economic isolation and unemployment is part of government’s vision, it can also become part of what we value and reward among private sector leaders and job creators.

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Change Initiative #5

A First Nations Arts and Interpretation Institute When the National Governors Association in the United States began compiling state government success stories in stimulating rural economies, they were surprised to find that the arts and culture sector was a leading source of rural economic rebirth. From small town theatres that built summer festivals, to historical exhibits brought to life, small towns were finding that it was easier to build upon the local culture that existed than to lure large enterprises into town that had no organic connection to the community. Happily for First Nations communities, our culture is a renewable resource. We have stories to tell, artists to promote and a culture to share with the world around us. In Europe, governments have begun to invest in interpretation and animation as a serious industry. No longer are historical sites and cultural communities content to have earnest tour guides read boilerplate text; rather, they are using theatre, visual arts, music and research to bring history and culture to life for visitors and locals alike. We propose that the Province establish a First Nations Interpretation and Animation Institute, to help train artists and entrepreneurs in our communities in how to bring cultural and historical sites to life. We would like our communities to become destinations for those who want unique experiences and windows into First Nations culture. We propose that the Province establish a First Nations Interpretation and Animation Institute, to help train artists and entrepreneurs in our communities in how to bring cultural and historical sites to life. We would like our communities to become destinations for those who want unique experiences and windows into First Nations culture.

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Drawing on worldwide best practices from similar institutes, this Centre would be overseen by a Board made up of artists, business leaders and First Nations representatives and would tailor instructional programs to match the need – from certificate and diploma courses to weekend seminars for business leaders. Of course, building a competitive tourism advantage and bringing visitors to First Nations communities isn’t just a win for our communities. It also boosts revenues and opportunities for all New Brunswick businesses. Even more importantly, it brings history and culture to life for all citizens to learn from and enjoy. Building a strong arts sector is the ultimate win-win project for our communities and our province.


Change Initiative #6

A Training and Life-Long Learning Agenda Hope is a powerful thing. Study after study about what makes young people succeed confirms that when a young person has a goal, they often persist and succeed. Motivated young people – those who know what they hope to achieve by learning – tend to persist through family, financial and emotional problems. Those who see no better lives for themselves often drop out at the first sign of trouble.

We propose to work with both levels of government and the private sector to develop a 21st century learning strategy for First Nations youth.

We need to find ways to make dreams real for young people growing up in communities with too few success stories and too many reasons to give up. That makes post-secondary education and training an indispensable piece of any poverty reduction strategy. We propose to work with both levels of government and the private sector to develop a 21st century learning strategy for First Nations youth. It starts with governments removing funding caps and providing equal access to higher education. From there, we can all innovate, using tools such as co-operative education and internships for promising young people, easy entry programs that use distance and supported learning to help First Nations youth transition to university, and service learning that encourages educated First Nations youth to return to their communities and put their skills to work. Further, by providing First Nations with long-term, locally driven training budgets, we can ensure that communities are responsive to changing labour market needs and economic opportunities. By providing hope and support to this generation of young people, we can guarantee role models and mentors to the next one. If we complete this final step, the cycle can be broken.

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Change Initiative # 7

A First Nations Community Education Act New Brunswick’s Education Act provides a basic structure for everything it takes to build a successful school system. There are conditions for curriculum, licensing teachers, setting academic standards, parental involvement and provisions for everything from student learning plans to anti-bullying programs. We have seen success stories in New Brunswick – lower dropout rates and greater First Nations control over education. But we need to do more. We propose to start by working with the federal and provincial governments to adopt a true First Nations Education Act, providing for the principles of equal funding, academic standards that meet First Nations’ needs, and access to educational professionals.

The federal Indian Act, in contrast, provides only six sections on education – four granting the government the power to require attendance and two protecting religious schools. That’s all. There are few learning specialists employed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, no standards, and still minimal response to Auditor-Generals’ reports calling for better results in First Nations education. We have seen success stories in New Brunswick – lower dropout rates and greater First Nations control over education. But we need to do more. We propose to start by working with the federal and provincial governments to adopt a true First Nations Education Act, providing for the principles of equal funding, academic standards that meet First Nations’ needs, and access to educational professionals. We can build on the good start we’ve seen in New Brunswick where First Nations have been granted greater control over funds directed for students’ education.

We can also build on a great made-in-New Brunswick solution and provide funding and training for community schools in First Nations communities. The New Brunswick model, adopted by UNESCO as a best practice internationally, uses entrepreneurship, culture, volunteerism and parental involvement to spark children to learn actively in their communities. New Brunswick provided start-up funding and teacher training to bring the model to our province – and together, we can expand and adapt the model for First Nations students. We also call for a new partnership between First Nations and universities and colleges that provides First Nations students with early exposure to post-secondary campuses and educators, to allow students still in school to begin to see higher education as a realistic goal, even if they may be the first in their families to attend. Breaking the cycle of poverty means investing and innovating in our schools – we stand ready to do both.

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Change Initiative # 8

A First Nations Early Learning Curriculum One of the revelations in education in recent years has been an understanding of just how early children start to learn. Observation, curiosity and problem-solving start at birth, and early years are critical to a child’s development. New Brunswick has made great strides in recent years, adopting play-based curricula in both official languages and providing financial incentives to childcare providers to ensure trained staff and the adoption of a curriculum.

We propose the development of a play-based curriculum for early learning in First Nations communities,

We propose the development of a play-based curriculum for early learning in First Nations communities, building upon the work that’s been done in New Brunswick and adapting it to the language and cultural needs of First Nations children.

building upon the work that’s been done in New Brunswick and adapting it to the language and cultural needs of First Nations children.

Further, we need to expand the number of trained First Nations early learning professionals in our communities and learn from the success of the Quality Learning grants in New Brunswick. We know that children are at risk when their communities have low levels of parental literacy. Breaking the cycle means an aggressive program for early learning.

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Change Initiative #9

A First Nations Governance Institute When the Harvard Project looked at predictors of economic success in First Nations communities, the stability of institutions was important. Good government – one that is rule-based, depoliticized and transparent – is necessary to the development of trust among investors.

We propose the development of a First Nations Governance Institute, run by First Nations governments and strengthened by connections to public administration schools and professional societies, to better equip our governments to find

First Nations leaders are often expected to deliver services as sophisticated and varied as provincial social services, often with more intense community needs. Yet the support, in terms of financial and human resources, is rarely the same. The solution is not to institute paternalistic third-party management regimes. There has been no correlation between these systems and better social outcomes in communities. What we are asking for is help to empower our communities to build capacity.

community-based solutions.

We propose the development of a First Nations Governance Institute, run by First Nations governments and strengthened by connections to public administration schools and professional societies, to better equip our governments to find community-based solutions. By offering portfolio-based learning to First Nations leaders and youth, we can begin the process of good governance from the ground up. Building upon that expertise, we also call for a new partnership with government, NGOs and policy leaders to develop crowdsourcing programs that allow community leaders with expertise to propose partnerships with First Nations governments to solve specific social challenges in local communities. Governance matters, in solving social problems and attracting economic investment. Working together, we can build that capacity in our communities.

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Change Initiative #10

Meaningful Social Assistance Reform There is one powerful principle that can establish common ground between First Nations governments and governments at every other level: the importance of helping citizens to find and keep meaningful work. The best social program is a job that provides security, experience and the dignity of work. Moving people from social assistance to work is a goal we all share. We must, however, push ourselves to greater creativity than simply downsizing the status quo. The challenges of overcoming geographic isolation, a lack of literacy and skills, and limited job opportunities will not be met simply by making poor families even more desperate. As the New Brunswick poverty reduction plan process found, when poor families are forced to expend mental energy and time on providing food and shelter, they do not tend to acquire the job skills and social connections needed to escape poverty. And studies across North America have found repeatedly that children who grow up in inadequate or unstable housing underperform in school, leaving them without the tools most needed to escape the cycle of poverty. Real social assistance reform will require more than the assumption that employment is the result when social assistance rates are made to be punitively low. Real social assistance reform must recognize that the journey from poverty to permanent work is often a journey, not a single step. It is critical to provide families the right kind of help at each step in that journey.

We propose that the provincial and federal governments work with us to develop a true overhaul of the social assistance system in First Nations communities, one built upon the

We propose that the provincial and federal governments work with us to develop a true overhaul of the social assistance system in First Nations communities, one built upon the principles that have proven most successful in other North American reform efforts.

principles that have proven most successful in other North American reform efforts.

These principles include:

• Providing incentives for part-time work and first jobs that reward recipients for working and gaining experience.

• Removing deductions that penalize recipients for finding work, such as reductions in health coverage, shelter allowances or childcare help when people first leave social assistance for work.

• Providing autonomy for individual First Nations to tailor local programs to local needs, including responding to local work and training opportunities.

• Providing transitional levels of assistance that allow new social assistance recipients a time period where

their assistance allows them the help needed to find work, such as transportation, clothing and childcare costs associated with looking for work.

the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs IN New Brunswick |

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Recognizing cultural differences in First Nations communities, such as the higher incidence of families caring for elderly parents and grandparents under the same roof.

• Introducing programs that recognize the unique challenges of people with disabilities and their families. • Ending jurisdictional black holes that leave First Nations people without access to services, including an end to the blanket exclusion of First Nations communities from provincial social programs.

These steps require work and resources, but there are no shortcuts to ending poverty. Every dollar spent on programs that trap families in the cycle of social assistance will be dollars spent year after year after year, making even reduced levels of funding wasteful spending. Breaking the cycle of poverty provides savings year after year, and makes the journey one worth taking, for all of us, together.

Targets Through the implementation of this plan, we pledge to work with the provincial and federal governments and other partners to achieve the following outcomes by 2017. Progress toward these measures and targets will serve as strong indicators of success across a host of other fronts in our quest to reduce poverty in New Brunswick’s First Nations communities.

1. There will be 1,000 net new jobs in New Brunswick First Nations communities, of which at least 50% will come from First Nations-led businesses. 2. New Brunswick First Nations literacy and high school completion rates will match non-First Nations rates, and post-secondary participation rates among First Nations youth will increase by 30%. 3. Social assistance usage will decline in all New Brunswick First Nations communities, with the reduction matched by employment gains.

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Summary of Recommendations Goals 1. Create partnerships and opportunities for our economic leaders today.

2. Offer the dignity of work and training for those of workingage today.

Change Initiatives 1. A First Nations Economic Summit

Target Alignment

In partnership with government and business, a First Nations Economic Summit is organized for 2013.

By 2017, there will be

2. The Creation of First Nations Enterprise Zones

Following the Economic Summit and also in partnership, a five-year, incentives-based Enterprise Zone model is developed.

communities, of which

3. The Provision of Tools to Attract Industry

Governments and First Nations launch a Competitiveness Audit to examine what tools First Nations need to attract industry, after which correlating decision-making authority would devolve to First Nations governments to empower them to help spur economic development.

businesses.

4. Tendering and Procurement Reform

Governments reform procurement and tendering rules to reward companies that engage and employ First Nations communities around them.

By 2017, NB First

The provincial government establishes a First Nations Interpretation and Animation Institute to help train First Nations artists and entrepreneurs, helping to transform our communities into tourist destinations.

First Nations rates,

5. A  First Nations Arts and Interpretation Institute

3. A  ttack the root causes of poverty for the next generation of First Nations leaders.

Recommendations

6. A  Training and Life-Long Learning Agenda

In partnership with government and business, First Nations will develop a 21st century learning strategy for First Nations youth.

7. A  First Nations Community Education Act

Working with governments, a true First Nations Education Act is adopted, providing for the principles of equal funding, academic standards that meet First Nations’ needs, and access to educational professionals.

8. A  First Nations Early Learning Curriculum

A play-based curriculum for early learning in First Nations communities is developed, adapting the current NB model to First Nations’ needs.

9. A First Nations Governance Institute

A First Nations Governance Institute, run by First Nations governments, is developed.

10. M  eaningful Social Assistance Reform

Working in partnership with governments, the social assistance system is overhauled in First Nations communities, following best practice principles established elsewhere.

1,000 net new jobs in NB First Nations at least 50% will come from First Nations-led

Nations literacy and high school completion rates will match nonand post-secondary participation rates among First Nations youth will increase by 30%.

By 2017, social assistance usage will decline in all NB First Nations communities, with the reduction matched by employment gains.

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Conclusion We Are All In This Together Ensuring that there is a path to the middle class for every First Nations young person is a big goal. It has big potential to enrich the lives of those in our communities, and all of New Brunswick. Succeeding in this poverty reduction plan also means more consumers for business, more skilled workers to attract companies and jobs to New Brunswick, and less strain on public resources. First Nations leaders will be reaching out to New Brunswickers to talk about how we can make this plan work, together. Maybe you can help. If you are a business leader willing to mentor future entrepreneurs and employees, a teacher with time to volunteer, or a citizen willing to learn more and become involved, we need you. As Chiefs, we pledge to be open to new partners and willing to work hard every day to provide hope and opportunity to our communities. Together, we believe that we can write a new, hopeful chapter in the story of New Brunswick.

The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick

Ch i ef Ga bri el Atw i n

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Contact For information, please contact: Kelly Lamrock Director of Research and Operations Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick kelly@kellylamrockqc.com 506-455-1886

FirstNationsChiefsNB.ca

the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs IN New Brunswick |

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NOTES

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FirstNationsChiefsNB.ca

AFNCNB Policy Document on Poverty in New Brunswick  

Fredericton, NB - November 13, 2012: The Assembly of First Nation Chiefs in New Brunswick (AFNCNB) launched a 10-point plan aimed at restor...

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