The sudden resignation of Shawn Atleo as the Assembly of First Nations' national chief is being applauded by Manitoba's top aboriginal leader, who has been one of Atleo's critics and political rivals.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has blasted Atleo for supporting the federal government's proposed overhaul of aboriginal education without giving it a proper review.
- Shawn Atleo resigns as AFN national chief
- First Nations divided over education act and their leadership
- Chiefs vow to do 'whatever it takes' to scrap aboriginal education bill
- More news at CBC Aboriginal
Atleo has publicly backed Bill C-33, the so-called First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, calling it a step toward long-standing aboriginal demands for control of their schooling, respect for their treaty rights and recognition of their language and culture.
But Nepinak and other First Nations leaders have argued that the legislation puts too much control over their children's education in the hands of the federal government.
- SHAWN ATLEO: First Nations Education Act 'must act as a bridge'
- DEREK NEPINAK: Education legislation an 'illusion of control'
On Friday, Nepinak said Atleo was in a difficult position but he did the right thing by stepping down.
"Shawn Atleo came into leadership in a very difficult time," Nepinak told CBC News in an interview.
"He came into leadership at a time when we knew that the Conservative government was going to be pressing us from many different directions. He came at a time when a lot of people are starting to wake up to the recognition of self-determination."
Nepinak blamed the federal government for "cornering" Atleo.
"[The federal government has] disrespected our national leader," Nepinak said.
"It's put him in a place where he had very little choice but to make the decision that he did. His integrity was called into question. I think he brought back some integrity today in the decision that he made."
The Assembly of First Nations will meet in Ottawa next week to choose an interim leader.
It's not the first time Nepinak has been at odds with Atleo.
When the AFN held its annual meeting in Whitehorse last summer, Nepinak helped organize a competing gathering of rival chiefs in Onion Lake, Sask., forcing some people to choose which meeting they would attend.
Nepinak was also among those who criticized Atleo for agreeing to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the height of the Idle No More protest movement last January.