Assembly of First Nations to be run by executive until new leader elected
AFN will hold a special chiefs assembly to discuss the First Nation education bill later this month
Assembly of First Nations regional chiefs have decided not to appoint an interim leader, but to have the executive committee run the organization until the election of a new leader.
"Obviously we find ourselves in very exceptional circumstances, given that our National Chief Shawn Atleo has resigned last Friday." said Ghislain Picard, AFN's regional chief for Quebec and Labrador.
"A first, a precedent in the Assembly of First Nations history."
The decision came after hours of talks over two days, triggered by Atleo's surprise resignation over criticism of his handling of the government's proposed legislation to overhaul First Nations education.
"It's been a very insightful discussion. I think it's no secret or mystery that there are different point of views with regards to Bill C-33." said Picard, who has been designated AFN spokesman.
Future of education bill unknown
On Monday, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt announced the legislation would be put on hold until the AFN clarifies its position.
AFN's executive committee announced today it will hold a meeting with the committee on education next week. There will also be a special chiefs assembly at the end of the month in Ottawa for all chiefs to decide the AFN's position on the First Nations education bill and when to hold an election for a new national chief.
This whole crisis with leadership really points to some very deep issues that need to be addressed within the AFN.- Chief Lynn Acoose, Sakimay First Nation
Picard said the federal government did the right thing Monday by putting the First Nations education bill on hold until the AFN clarifies its position.
"We understand the ball is now in our court and it is up to us as regional chiefs, representing the diversity of the country to do things right, have the necessary discussions that we need to have within our regions and provide the space for a national forum in order to respond to the situation as it stands," Picard told reporters.
An election will likely be held in the fall.
AFN future also uncertain
Chief Lynn Acoose from the Sakimay First Nation in Saskatchewan said a bigger discussion is also needed on AFN's future.
"The lack of a solid structure — to address the really diverse needs of First Nations across our territories — it doesn’t work, obviously. This whole crisis with leadership really points to some very deep issues that need to be addressed within the AFN," Acoose told CBC News.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly, a leader of the Sto:lo Tribal Council in B.C., says the organization is in a very precarious position.
"One wrong turn and we are going off the edge … All of the opposition to Bill C-33 and the way that it’s being framed by the opposition is really putting the credibility of the Assembly of First Nations at risk," he said.
Kelly said he hopes the chiefs will come together to push for amendments to the bill instead of scrapping it altogether.
"I think that the offer or the promise in the federal budget of $1.9 billion dollars of new funding for education of our children living on reserve is well worth our effort to advocate for amendments to the bill that address some of the key and fundamental concerns."
Both Kelly and Acoose are unsure if they will be able to attend the special assembly in Ottawa.
with files from Karina Roman and Connie Walker