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The most visible changes in the new arrangement are reductions in the number of Executive members and Boards and Commissions. Effective October 1997, the Executive will be composed of a Chief and four Vice-Chiefs. The Boards and Commissions will be reduced in number to five.
"We have talked about [re-organization] at great length," said FSIN Chief Blaine Favel. "We are now moving forward."
The process of the FSIN re-organization has been discussed over several years. The last major renewal of the structure occurred in 1982. Since then, Saskatchewan Chiefs have determined that additional changes were required. They viewed the FSIN as being too "top-heavy" with regard to the current Executive structure and the number of Boards and Commissions.
As a result, the Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution in September 1995 mandating the FSIN Executive Council and the Indian Government Commission to establish a Steering Committee and direct the development of a comprehensive re-organization plan. This plan was to be based on accountability, treaty rights protection, treaty implementation and self-government implementation, the separation of political functions from the administrative functions and equity of representation of FSIN Boards and Commissions.
Three steps were taken to ensure that the FSIN downsized in such a way as to not diminish the organization's effectiveness. First, the look of an organizational chart was agreed upon. Second, the structure was developed from this chart. This structure was given content through the establishment of terms of reference.
And, third, the Tribal Councils and First Nations were consulted and given the opportunity for feedback.
The election in October 1997 will see the Chief, First Vice-Chief and Third Vice-Chief elected for three-year terms. The Second Vice-Chief and Fourth Vice-Chief will be elected for two-year terms. All terms will subsequently be three years. This system will ultimately stagger the election years of the Executive. The goal, says Chief Favel, is to ensure that there is "always continuity" in the Executive structure.
The responsibility of AFN representation will be returned to the Office of the Chief along with the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association and Veterans
issues. The Office of the Chief is also responsible for the assignment of portfolios to the Vice-Chiefs.
While the structure of the Executive has changed, the voting procedure remains the same. Therefore, each First Nation receives five votes for the first 400 members. One additional vote is granted for each additional 200 members or part thereof. And, each Executive member must be elected by a clear majority, that is, 50 percent plus one.
The second re-organization resolution deals with the reduction of the number of Boards and Commissions. There are currently 22 FSIN Boards and Commissions. The new structure will see these amalgamated to five Commissions with supporting secretariats. The Commissions are: Lands and Resources, Economic and Community Development, Education and Training, Health and Social Development and Justice.
The new Lands and Resources Commission takes over from Hunting, Fishing, Trapping and Gathering. The Commission is to take a lead role with First Nations in protecting and implementing the treaty right to lands and resources and create policies and legislation in this area. The Treaty Land Entitlement Advisory Group, Northern Resources Committee, Sustainable Development Committee and Land Claims Negotiation Committee will all receive direction from this Commission.
The Economic and Community Development Commission is an amalgamation of the existing Economic Development Commission, the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Commission and the Saskatchewan Indian Housing and Roads Commission. The new mandate is to protect and implement the treaty right to economic and community development. The Housing and Roads Committee will be established under this commission.
The mandate of the Health and Social Development Commission (HSDC) is to protect and implement the treaty right to health and social development. The Commission will continue to support and facilitate community healing activities, programs and services. It will also develop partnerships with preventative treatments and aftercare services in regard to gambling addictions. The Senior Technical Advisory Group, Home Care Working Group, Brighter Futures, Indian and Child Family Services, Residential Schools and NNADAP all remain under the HSDC's jurisdiction.
The Justice Commission amalgamates the Young Offenders, Policing, Courts/Tribunals and Corrections Commissions. This Commission is mandated to assist First Nations with lobbying for sufficient resources to allow the success of justice initiatives. It will also provide support in developing community strategies to deal with specific justice issues.
The third resolution adopts new terms of reference for the Executive Council and the Indian Government Commission (IGC). The Executive Council consists of the FSIN Executive members, Tribal Council representatives, one elected member from each independent First Nation, the FSIN Chief of Staff, two FSIN Senate members and an appointee from the Saskatchewan Treaty Women's Secretariat.
Under the new terms of reference, the Executive Council is responsible for strategic planning and overseeing the political functions of FSIN in between sittings of the Legislative Assembly. The Council also facilitates political decision making and policy development.
The fourth resolution restructures the Treasury Board and the role of the Auditor General. The Treasury Board will enforce the management of FSIN's financial functions. This includes the expenditures and financial aspects of personnel and administration.
The Auditor General will have new powers to review the financial management of the FSIN. The Auditor General will verify the accuracy of the FSIN's accounts and records and the effectiveness of its programs. Chief Favel calls the Auditor General FSIN's "safety mechanism".
The final resolution dealing with reorganization establishes a Northern Affairs Committee. This Committee falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief. The Committee replaces the role of the Seventh Vice-Chief in representing the unique issues of the Dene people. Typically, these northern communities have language and remoteness issues that are not shared by the majority of Saskatchewan's First Nations.
The Northern Affairs Committee will grant northern First Nation communities the opportunity to deal with these issues and move them forward.
The ratification of all five resolutions dealing with re-organization means that the new structure will be implemented. In October 1997, an election of FSIN Executive members will be held under the new structure. Following the election, the new structure of the FSIN will be adopted in its entirety.
Vice-Chief Bellegarde stated at the June Assembly, "The organization will adapt to meet these new changes." It is the FSIN's ability to effect change that has kept it viable over the course of its 51 years. This current restructuring is simply a means of further streamlining the organization to make it more responsive and accountable to Saskatchewan's First Nations people.