Chiefs and delegates meet for Annual Chiefs Assembly

Posted: September 15th, 2017

It’s 7:30 on a Wednesday morning when Tikinagan staff, community members and First Nation delegates start arriving at the John C. Yesno Education Centre in Eabametoong First Nation. It’s a cool morning on August 23, and those arriving early grab their hot coffee and start helping themselves to the catered breakfast while mingling and sharing laughter. It doesn’t take long for the elementary school to feel like a conference centre, with people gathering in classrooms assigned the temporary titles of dining areas. Those who finish breakfast sign in at the registration table in the gymnasium, which now feels like a large meeting room except for the two basketball nets and side bleachers pushed in. This is the 2017 Tikinagan Annual Chiefs Assembly.

The two-day meeting welcomes Chiefs and proxies, who are authorized to speak on behalf of their community’s Chief and Council. The delegates attend to receive updates on Tikinagan Child and Family Services’ activities from the last fiscal year and give direction to the agency. In addition to roughly 20 delegates attending the meeting, Tikinagan’s board of directors, management and staff welcome guests from the community as well as those coming to make special presentations.

During the first morning, after breakfast and registration, delegates take to their seats at the semi-rectangle arrangement of tables in the centre of the gymnasium. At the far end of the gym sits the Wawatay sound technicians and the translators, who make it possible for delegates and presenters to communicate to all in attendance. At one side of the gym, stationed behind long tables, sit the Tikinagan Board, Elders’ Council and management team. And at the other side, there sits the Resolutions Committee and a gallery of guests and community members seated chairs and intently taking in the meeting.

The first morning is all about establishing the meeting. After opening prayer by Councillor Charlie Okeese, Assembly Chair Eno Chapman is adopted into his role with the first resolution. Soon after, the agenda is reviewed and welcoming remarks are made by Eabametoong First Nation’s Chief Elizabeth Atlookan, Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum and Tikinagan Board of Director’s co-chair Sonny Gagnon.

After welcoming remarks, Tikinagan’s Board of Director’s chair Lorraine Crane presents her annual update, followed by Executive Director Thelma Morris.

“At the core of who we are as an agency, Tikinagan is here to serve our children and our communities. This focus is especially crucial in light of the challenging year we’ve had,” reads Lorraine Crane, Board Chair, from her written report. “Every year has its challenges of course, as we work with the most vulnerable, and most important, population of our communities. This means it’s even more imperative to focus on our quality of service and where we can improve. The work we do is never easy. But as long as we do what’s right, we will continue to be true to our values and responsive to the unique needs of our children and families.”

The report from the Executive Director highlights some of notable changes this past year, such as the preparation that went into new legislation being introduced which mandates child and family service agencies to soon provide child protection services to youth up to the age of 18 (previously 16).

“In anticipation of this legislation, this past fiscal year we created a position amongst our service management team to develop programming for specialized services. This legislation and the crisis we see in youth suicide means specialized services for children coming into care are more important than ever,” Morris notes.

Following coffee break, the Director of Services presents Service Highlights from this last year. Click here to view the full Annual Report online.

The afternoon features an update on last year’s Resolutions and the presentation of the financial audit. Delegates later hear from Nishnawbe Aski Nation with an update developments in Aboriginal child welfare. The day was adjourned and delegates enjoyed dinner.

The second day of the meeting welcomed delegates again, bright and early for breakfast at 7:30. Following registration, Mr. Chapman called the meeting to order and delegates heard a presentation on Tikinagan’s services for high-risk youth. Later on, there was a presentation from Beaver Lake Camp on their services. The delegates participated in a Chiefs’ Forum, where they were free to speak on any issues and concerns.

The meeting wrapped up with resolutions and Awards of Recognition.

This year, we recognized staff who have been with the agency for landmark years (10, 15, 20) and celebrated one employee who reached their 25 year anniversary this year. Congratulations and thank you to Robert Cantin!

After the staff recognition presentation, Tikinagan presented the foster parent awards. Each year, the agency selects one or two foster families who have shown much dedication in the host community. This year, we recognized two families from Eabametoong First Nation. Thank you and congratulations to Ida and Mathias Wapoose, and Lena Sagutcheway. These foster parents have provide loving foster care and stable homes for many children over the years and exemplify the qualities we look for in our foster homes. They have made an incredible difference in the lives of many children.

Following the foster parent recognition awards, the Oneesh Tam Key award was presented. Each year, Tikinagan presents this award to someone who has made outstanding contributions to Tikiangan’s development. Oneesh Tam Key means “someone who sits in the front of a boat or canoe guiding the direction. Others follow the direction of the one sitting in the front.” This year’s recipient was Kenora Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services (KRR). KRR was selected to receive this award in recognition of their long-standing collaboration with Tikinagan and their recognition that First Nation families in their district are best served by First Nation agencies.

KRR has acknowledged that Indigenous CASs serving specific First Nations would have the closer connections with the extended family, the community, the First Nation leadership and the specific First Nation culture so that the best interests of the children can be served as well as best supporting the well-being of the family as a whole.

We thank the management and staff at KRR for the strong working relationship that has been established between our agencies and for living up to the spirit of our service model, Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin - everyone working together to raise our children. The executive director of KRR, Bill Leonard, attended the meeting to accept the award on behalf of the agency.

“We had another successful Annual Chief’s Assembly. Many staff and community members worked tirelessly to organize this meeting and on behalf of the board and management we thank each and every one of you,” says Thelma Morris, Executive Director. “This year we were hosted and welcomed by the community of Eabametoong First Nation. The community was so welcoming and we deeply appreciate the hard work that went into not just organizing the event but also the catering, accommodations and genuine welcoming spirit we all felt. Meegwetch!”

Next year’s meeting will be held in Fort Severn First Nation.