Assembly of First Nations adopts resolution to add two-spirit council to governance structure
Council expected to add diversity of experiences to national organization
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) special chiefs assembly voted to adopt a resolution to create a two-spirit council, and leaders hope it will create space for more inclusive governance at all levels.
The resolution will see the AFN establish a 2SLGBTQ council as a "recognized principal organ," with a role similar to the elders', women's and youth councils in the organization's governance structure.
"It was a little bit emotional for me when I was speaking to it … because there's a lot of experiences of homophobia and transphobia, just discrimination even within First Nations communities," said Khelsilem, the chairperson of the Squamish Nation.
Khelsilem, who identifies as queer, put forward the motion at the virtual special chiefs assembly on Tuesday.
The motion was seconded by Brent Bissaillion, chief of Serpent River First Nation near Sudbury, Ont., and was passed unanimously by the chiefs in attendance.
Khelsilem said this opens up the door for other First Nations organizations to follow suit.
"The AFN as an organization can be quite conservative in terms of how it approaches different issues and it's not always representative of the full scope of possibilities that are available to First Nations," he said.
"I think for our young people in our communities who might not feel included or represented or heard as a part of this community, this might be a way to open up that conversation and think about ways to bring some of these ideas on the national level."
Inclusion 'a beautiful thing'
The new council will likely have two representatives from each of the AFN's regions. While most positions will be appointed by the regional chiefs, some will have the potential to be voted on, in provinces like British Columbia.
Bissaillion, who identifies as two-spirit, was recently re-elected chief of Serpent River First Nation in October. He said that during his first term, he started advocating at the AFN assemblies for a council that would include 2SLGBTQ perspectives.
"I'm hoping that it will create a change," said Bissaillion.
"I'm hoping that this is the start of a movement where two-spirited people, gay, trans and all of these people are included in leadership decisions. And what a beautiful thing that will be."
Cindy Woodhouse, the AFN's Manitoba regional chief, applauded the decision made by the chiefs.
"I think it's great. We need to be inclusive of all people, women and youth and men and LGBTQ. It's a good balance," said Woodhouse.
"When there's diversity, it's better for any organization, because that's where the best ideas come from."