Election of new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations to take place at December gathering

From APTN.ca

AFN national chief election set for Winnipeg in December

NATIONAL NEWS | 15. JUL, 2014 

AFN national chief election set for Winnipeg in December

By Tim Fontaine
APTN National News
HALIFAX-The election for a new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations will take place in Winnipeg this coming December.

Chiefs and proxies made the decision this afternoon at the AFN's annual general assembly in Halifax, after considerable debate. Some chiefs argued that more time was needed to work out organizational issues, including a rift a between the Confederacy of Nations and the AFN Executive.

Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation Chief Gordon Beardy felt that with so many divisions within the organization and the unprecedented resignation of the former national chief, more time was needed to heal and to look at the organization as a whole.

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe was one of the Chiefs calling for an early election.

"We need a national chief almost immediately." he told the assembly.

Pashe said the next national chief needs to take a softer approach with Ottawa.

"We need a national chief that can work with the federal government. Not a 'vigilante chief' who is going to wield a hammer," said Pashe.

The 2015 Federal election was also cited by many chiefs, who felt a leader must be in place by then.

The Chiefs were presented with 3 options, with dates that included October 2014, December 2014 or July 2015. All included Winnipeg as the host province.

Grand Chief David Harper, whose organization the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) won an earlier bid to host the election, welcomed the decision to come to Winnipeg in December.

Grand Chief Harper told the assembly that MKO is "financially ready" to host the election and has the full support of the province and Winnipeg.

But the decision was not without scrutiny.

Serpent River Chief Isadore Day questioned the validity of the vote, saying it may have violated the AFN Charter.

But the meeting's chair Harold Tarbell said he was confident that the Charter allowed for Chiefs in Assembly to call an election.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence told the Assembly that the time has come to open the election to First Nation citizens, not just chiefs and proxies.

Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavon Fontaine cautioned that holding the election in December risked losing the full attention of First Nation chiefs.

Chief Fontaine stated for him and many other leaders, "families come first."

The meetings continue this afternoon with a discussion about restructuring or reforming the Assembly of First Nations.


From GlobeandMail.com

Assembly of First Nations sets rules for election of new national chief


Halifax - The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Jul. 15 2014

Native leaders have voted to elect a new head of the Assembly of First Nations quickly rather than allow the fractured organization to go leaderless during the period of renewal that they agree must follow the resignation of Shawn Atleo.

Some of the chiefs attending a three-day annual meeting in Halifax said on Tuesday that the challenges and opportunities facing First Nations, including the impact of a recent historic Supreme Court decision on aboriginal title, are too immediate to allow the job of chief spokesman to be vacant for more than a year.

And with a federal election looming in 2015, some said the AFN needs to speak with one voice to political parties as they establish campaign priorities.

(What is the Assembly of First Nations? Read The Globe's easy explanation)

Others had argued that replacing Mr. Atleo, who stepped down as national chief in May over his support for the Conservative government's attempts to reform on-reserve education, should wait until the organization has been restructured into an entity that is more responsive to the people it serves. But they were overruled.

Some First Nations regions had declared the AFN has outlived its usefulness, or were threatening to go their own way because they cannot find common ground with the others. However, those who say it is urgent to stand together argued successfully that a new national chief could be the uniting force.

The chiefs voted to hold a leadership vote in December in Winnipeg instead of waiting until next July, when a convention to elect a new national chief had been scheduled.

Some, such as Chief Joe Miskokomon of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in southwestern Ontario, said he wishes the election were sooner than December because several issues require urgent action.

A Supreme Court ruling last month that provided clarification for proving aboriginal title, and another last week that said Ontario can issue logging permits for First Nations' land, will have "a very significant effect on the whole issue of accommodation and consultation," Mr. Miskokomon said. "So there needs to be somebody who has some view of that, and can express that view on behalf of the First Nations of Canada."

Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said any of the candidates to replace Mr. Atleo will have to campaign on promises of reform, but the AFN cannot function as a "headless" organization. That is particularly true in the year before a federal election, he said. "This is the time to set the parties straight and say, 'This is what we want, now what will your platforms do?'"

But even though the December date was not officially opposed in a vote on the assembly floor, many chiefs said it is wrong to elect someone to lead a flawed organization.

Chief Gordon Beardy of the Muskrat Dam First Nation in northern Ontario warned the more than 300 native leaders at the meeting that, without renewal, the next national chief will be torn apart by the AFN membership. "We did that to Shawn Atleo," he said.

Alvin Fiddler, the Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which includes Muskrat Dam, said the biggest challenge faced by the incoming leader of the AFN will be the lack of time the organization has given itself to do internal work of renewal and healing.

"The analogy I would give," Mr. Fiddler said, "is that many of our members, because we are remote and isolated, have to travel out for help if they have issues with addictions. And, when they come back, because nothing has changed, the chances of them relapsing are great."

It is difficult to gauge how many people may be interested in becoming AFN's national chief, especially given the obvious fissures in the organization.

Ghislain Picard, the AFN regional chief for Quebec who has been the AFN spokesman since the departure of Mr. Atleo, said on Tuesday he has not ruled out a bid. A motion will be decided on Wednesday that could see him appointed interim national chief.

Two other names being floated as potential contenders for national chief are Perry Bellegarde, the AFN regional chief for Saskatchewan, and Wab Kinew, a broadcaster and musician who is the director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg.

Mr. Picard told reporters that everyone realizes the primary focus of the AFN is the interests of native peoples. But "as any other entity across the country," he said, "we have to go through difficult times."


From HillTimes.com

Timing of election, role of Confederacy of Nations to dominate AFN General Assembly

The Hill Times photographs by Steve Gerecke and photo handoutsAFN:Quebec and Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard; Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde; and Kamloops First Nation Chief Shane Gottfriedson; and University of Winnipeg's director of indigenous inclusion Wab Kinew are among those considering running to replace former Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo, who resigned in May amidst a revolt over his handling of the federal government's First Nations Education Bill. The date for electing Mr. Atleo's successor will be at the top of the agenda when the AFN convenes its general assembly in Halifax this week.By CHRIS PLECASH | 
Published: Monday, 07/14/2014 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 07/14/2014 11:35 am EDT


First Nations leaders will determine the election date for AFN national chief at the organization's general assembly in Halifax this week, but several other pressing matters will be on the agenda, including the role of the recently-revived Confederacy of Nations.

Chiefs from the country's 634 First Nations will meet in Halifax on July 15 and 16, where they will determine the timing of the next election of the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations following Shawn Atleo's resignation from the position on May 2.

Some chiefs will be advocating to hold an election as soon as possible, while others support holding the election in December to coincide with the organization's special assembly. Another bloc is expected to argue in favour of waiting until next summer when the Chiefs-in-Assembly were originally scheduled to elect the next national chief in Winnipeg.

The timing of the next election for national chief is just one of the subplots that will be at play at the annual meeting this week. Other matters on the agenda include Bill C-33, the federal government's First Nations education legislation; the Supreme Court's recent ruling in favour of B.C.'s Tsilhqot'in First Nation; and the role of the Confederacy of Nations within the AFN.

The Confederacy of Nations, which had been dormant for the past decade, was revived earlier this year in response to concerns over Bill C-33 and then-AFN national chief Atleo's support for the federal legislation, and its re-emergence contributed to Mr. Atleo's resignation. 

Some of the chiefs feel that there are more serious issues within the AFN that need to be addressed before a new national chief is elected, said Russell Diabo, an indigenous activist who has served as policy advisor to past AFN leaders.

"Some think that the dysfunction with AFN about sorting out the charter issues around the Confederacy is important to resolve before electing a leader. Others think that it's important to get a leader in there now, but people are concerned when they look at what the federal government did with [Shawn Atleo]," said Mr. Diabo, publisher of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin. "They're concerned about sorting out the role of the national chief, the mandate, within this broader discussion of the purpose of AFN. There are those two schools of thought, and they'll be at play on the floor and in the backrooms."

Isadore Day, chief of Ontario's Serpent River First Nation, has played a central role in coordinating the Confederacy's recent activities and said he's in no rush to see another national chief elected.

"There was clearly something wrong with the way that the process of political advocacy and coordination had been operating. The central issue and concern was the mandate of the Confederacy of Nations to have oversight, where the executive is reporting to the Confederacy," Chief Day told The Hill Times in an interview last week.

The Confederacy of Nations will meet ahead of the General Assembly on July 14 in Halifax, where Chief Day expects the AFN's future to be debated. Based on proportional representation, the Confederacy's revival has been primarily supported by chiefs in Ontario and Manitoba, and is a counter to B.C. First Nations' high representation among the Chiefs in Assembly. 

B.C. accounts for nearly one-third of the chiefs, but representation in the Confederacy of Nations is based on population, with each region having one representative, plus an additional representative for every 10,000 First Nations living in the region. Within the Confederacy, B.C. accounts for 15 of 105 votes, while Ontario is allotted 21 votes.

"I don't believe right now that the AFN is in a condition to continue with the current format and the hierarchy that's in place. [That's] why I feel the Confederacy of Nations is so vital right now," Chief Day said. "Perhaps we don't even need a national chief. Maybe we go back to the original vision of a United Nations-style format that would work a lot better in the current political environment."

No one has officially declared their intention to run for national chief yet, but several First Nations leaders and activists are rumoured to be considering leadership bids, including Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, who lost to Mr. Atleo on the eighth ballot in 2009; and AFN Regional Chief for Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard, who has assumed the role of AFN executive spokesperson in the wake of Mr. Atleo's resignation.

Chief Bellegarde's office did not respond to an interview request from The Hill Times. In a recent interview, Chief Picard confirmed that he had yet to decide whether he'll run for national chief. Other rumoured contenders include Winnipeg-based journalist and musician Wab Kinew and Shane Gottfriedson, chief of B.C.'s Kamloops First Nation.

Mr. Kinew, who holds a BA in economics and hosted the CBC's 8th Fire documentary series before joining Al Jazeera's Fault Lines program as a correspondent, told The Hill Times that his decision to run will be based on timing. The 32-year old plans to marry later this year, recently signed a two-book deal with Penguin Canada, and currently serves as director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. He said that the time has come for the AFN to "evolve" and become more engaged with grassroots First Nations in Canada.

"There's definitely a need for a national voice for First Nations people, but what we've seen in the past two years is the rise of social media, and that's given the average, grassroots First Nations person a lot more insight into the political process and a lot more voice," he said. "It would be good to see the organization find a way to bring in the voice of the grassroots, and also evolve and start to use some of that technology to communicate back to the people it represents."

Mr. Kinew said that he plans to attend this week's general assembly, as well as the meeting of the Confederacy of Nations, and expects the timing of the next election to dominate talks in Halifax.

"That's going to be the number one topic of discussion, both in the Confederacy meeting and also the General Assembly. I've heard some people say that we need to proceed slowly and go through the process, in their view, the right way. I've heard other people say that we need someone in that position as soon as possible," said Mr. Kinew.

Chief Gottfriedson also told The Hill Times that his decision to run for national chief will be influenced by what transpires at this week's general assembly. The 48-year old, four-term chief of Kamloops First Nation was an ally of Mr. Atleo and ran unsuccessfully for B.C. regional chief in 2009.

"I'm going to see what's going to happen in Halifax and make sense of it. I should have my mind made up within the next weeks," said Chief Gottfriedson, who expressed frustration with the national chief's recent ouster. He favours the AFN holding an election as soon as possible.

"AFN can be a very effective body when everybody works together. I've noticed in the last little while that it can also be really dysfunctional with everybody in their own personal agendas," he said. "Having someone sit in there on an interim basis, I don't think, is a very strong statement for our citizens across the country. Getting a national chief into a functional role will only enhance our people as we continue to move forward in light of the many opportunities before us now with the Tsilhqot'in case."

Mr. Diabo said that Chief Bellegarde of Saskatchewan could have "quid pro quo" support among B.C. chiefs based on his decision not to run against Mr. Atleo in 2012, while Mr. Kinew would likely garner support from First Nations to the east of Saskatchewan.

"[Chief Bellegarde] would be a serious contender if B.C. supports him over Wab. Wab's support is probably going to come from where Phil [Fontaine's] support came from - the Anishinaabe communities in Manitoba and Ontario," he said. "It's all rumour at this point.... There could be other people coming out, you never know. We're in interesting times, so there might be other names emerging."