Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023):
Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 17, 2022)
Here are some of the reasons why Assembly of First Nations was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2023):
- Assembly of First Nations supports employees who want to start a family, providing maternity and parental leave top-up of up to 93 per cent of salary for up to 50 weeks for mothers, and 93 per cent of salary for up to 35 weeks for fathers
- Assembly of First Nations offers a number of time-off programs that allow employees to rest and recharge, including three weeks of starting vacation allowance, five paid days off during the winter holidays, and up to 15 paid sick days annually
- Assembly of First Nations encourages employees to maintain a healthy mindset with wellness lunch and learns and a physical fitness allowance of $360 annually
The Assembly of First Nations is about building relationships
It was, literally, a dark and stormy night. Dakota Edwards-Barber and her colleague from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) had rented a small car back in Gander, Nfld., and were trying to find their homestay in Miawpukek First Nation, also known as Conne River. “There were no streetlights, it was pouring, and we were completely lost,” EdwardsBarber recalls. Suddenly, out of the gloom, emerged a pickup truck with a powerful light. To their relief, it was their contact, the director of education for the First Nation, who had got out of bed to lead them to their destination.
To Edwards-Barber, that story tells a lot. For one thing, it’s the nature of the job. Travel is a part of working at the AFN – just about everyone is on the move throughout the year. Edwards-Barber, a policy analyst for the Languages and Learning sector, was invited to Miawpukek First Nation to update the chief and council on First Nations education policy at a national level. “I just remember thinking, ‘how lucky are we that we are greeted with such amazing hospitality.’ He just dropped everything to come and get us.”
“It really highlights how important it is that we’re building relationships with First Nations across the country. That’s what we’re here for: to build those relationships, amplify their priorities, and advocate on behalf of our Peoples.”
Based in Ottawa, the AFN is a unique organization that balances First Nations traditions with modern methods to pursue its goals for the good of First Nations individuals and communities. Along with its political leadership, a national chief and regional chiefs, its 170-strong secretariat develops policy, manages outreach and carries out support tasks such as finance and human resources. Many employees work on cutting-edge issues such as residential institutions, climate change, education and child welfare.
With, yes, lots of travel, says AFN CEO Janice Ciavaglia, noting that staff visit communities all over the country and attend international conferences. But it’s not really about the journey, she says. “It’s about how we’re embraced when we get there, like a family. You’re able to see many different aspects of the community that I think at other organizations – non-Indigenous organizations – you wouldn’t be able to experience.”
While the AFN does look for employees with “lived experience” of the issues they’re dealing with, says Ciavaglia, the staff includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. “We welcome all cultures and ethnicities. We welcome all gender identities. One of the great things about working in an Indigenous organization is it’s very welcoming.”
Edwards-Barber, who grew up in Ottawa with a First Nations mother and a Caucasian father, has found the AFN to be an “awesome and culturally supportive environment” since joining in 2017 after graduating from the University of Ottawa. Elders and Knowledge Keepers provide opening and closing prayers to start and end meetings and are available for consultations, along with a mental health counsellor. Ottawa staff, now coming to the office two days a week, also engage in fun activities, including staff feasts and staff Halloween costume competitions.
And the work is very meaningful. Along with various First Nations education policy mandates, including working on the AFN’s It’s Our Time Education Toolkit, a teaching resource for First Nations and non-First Nations people, she works with the AFN’s National Youth Council that advises secretariat and executive leaders. “A lot of these youth council members go on to be politicians or regional chiefs,” Edwards-Barber says. “It’s fantastic that our organization recognizes that youth aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they’re actually leaders of today.”