The Assembly of First Nations Renewal Commission (AFNRC) has released its nearly 300-page report containing 47 recommendations for reorganizing the AFN.

The commission was formed 18 months ago to examine the purpose and structure of the national organization representing nearly a million First Nations citizens across Canada.

Among other recommendations, the report calls for the election of the National Chief through a democratic electoral system of all Native people, instead of just the 633 Chiefs across Canada.

It also says the AFN should be given greater standing within the Canadian confederation. It recommended that the AFN focus on political advocacy of Aboriginal rights and issues, forging protocols and strategic alliances with First Nations themselves and with other Aboriginal organizations to develop a unified voice and to facilitate the delivery of services to First Nations communities.

The report, subtitled “A Treaty Among Ourselves,” was presented to First Nations leaders at a Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa December 8. The report’s recommendations will be considered by a Special Assembly of the AFN in the spring.

The Renewal Commission was formed in December 2003 when National Chief Phil Fontaine requested its creation to examine the charter of the AFN and make recommendations on how to improve the organization.

The AFN was more than 20 years old, and its structures and processes had not evolved in step with the First Nations communities. With recent court cases and land claims literally changing the landscape of Canada’s First Nations, a huge contingent of First Nations peoples living in major urban centres, and an increasingly young demographic, it was time for a change.

First Nations citizens responded enthusiastically to the renewal initiative, and their input is the basis of the report, said Commission Co-chair Wendy John.

“We listened to the First Nations peoples of Canada and this report is wholly representative of our peoples’ thoughts and wishes for the national organization that represents them,” she said in a press release. “The recommendations are far-reaching, covering topics from self-government to women’s rights, from organizational structure to youth initiatives.”