Monday, December 8, 2014

First Nations chiefs set to pick new leader amid conflict with Harper

Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, addresses the audience as native leaders from across Canada attend the Assembly of First Nations' 35th annual general meeting in Halifax on Thursday, July 17, 2014. Photograph by: Andrew Vaughan , Ottawa Citizen

By Mark Kennedy, Ottawa Citizen:  Canada’s First Nations chiefs gather in Winnipeg for three days this week for a momentous meeting that could set the tone for how indigenous leaders assert their demands to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in coming months.
   Several hundred chiefs from the country’s largest aboriginal group — the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) — will elect a new national chief.
Will that chief be a hard-edged rebel who adopts angry, perhaps even threatening, rhetoric to get the attention of Harper and the rest of the country?
   Or will he appeal to the better nature of Canadians, and try to use logic to persuade Harper to accept aboriginal demands on issues such as First Nations education funding and control of schools, treaty rights, missing and murdered indigenous women, and shared natural resource development?
   There’s a lot on the line — for the unity, peace and self-image of Canada, for the many thousands of aboriginals living in poverty, and for the future of the AFN, which has been accused of becoming irrelevant to the First Nations’ “grassroots”.
   “Our young people are getting frustrated,” Saskatchewan Chief Perry Bellegarde, one of three leadership contenders, told the Citizen.
   “They are tired of the poverty and the overcrowded housing and the systemic racism. They are tired of being held back.”
   “The relationship in Canada between indigenous peoples and governments has got to change.”...Continue reading...

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