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AFN, CESO unveil new working arrangement.

By Kenneth Williams

Windspeaker Contributor

OTTAWA

The gathering may have been small and intimate but the significance of the celebration should have a wide-ranging impact on Canada's First Nations.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine was joined by the vice-president of CESO Aboriginal Services, Larry Sault, as well as the chair of CESO Aboriginal Services board of directors, Susan Tatoosh, and president of CESO, Charles Beer, to celebrate the April 12 signing of a new memorandum of understanding between the AFN and CESO Aboriginal Services.

The intent of the memorandum is to help First Nations communities achieve strong economic, social, cultural, self-reliant and self-governing structures.

CESO Aboriginal Services has had a 30-year involvement in Aboriginal communities throughout Canada, providing experienced volunteers from a wide range of business fields to help with a variety of economic development projects.

The first point in executing this agreement is to promote the Agenda for Action, a document released by the Government of Canada and the AFN in January 1998.

Created within the framework of Gathering Strength, the federal government's response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report, Agenda for Action, created a specific game plan for improvements in First Nations communities and set out a number of activities on which the AFN and the government agreed to work as partners in the coming years.

"It's quite clear to us that one of the most pressing issues that we face is poverty and its eradication," said Fontaine. "There's a desperate need to create self-sufficient communities so that people will have meaningful jobs, business opportunities that are currently non-existent, and just a general improvement in social conditions. CESO will have an ongoing opportunity to join with us in our fight to turn things around."

Fontaine praised Sault, the former chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, for being the driving force behind this memorandum and said it was a natural fit for the AFN and CESO Aboriginal Services.

"It represents a continuation of a very effective and valuable working relationship between CESO and First Nations communities. CESO has had a wonderful and supportive presence in our communities. It has a very good track record and, quite importantly, our communities have a high degree of trust for the volunteers," Sault said. "These are not people who sit on the sidelines and watch our people fail. These are people who roll up their sleeves and work with our people in developing viable projects."

Sault hopes this memorandum with the AFN will lead to further ones with the other national Aboriginal organizations.

"I've been in discussion with the other national [Aboriginal] leaders... and certainly there's an openness to create the same kind of MOU with the other organizations," said Sault, who added that CESO was uniquely placed to deal with the economic development issues of First Nations communities because of its history and ability to understand the regional problems of those communities.

The memorandum has a two-year time frame, but Tatoosh thinks it will be part of a longer-term arrangement between the two organizations.

"Even with a change of leadership in both areas it's something good and something that we would like to see continue."
COPYRIGHT 1999 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Williams, Kenneth
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:May 1, 1999
Words:532
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