A Quebec Algonquin chief has joined other First Nation leaders in campaigning to form a new alliance, saying he's not satisfied with work being done by the Assembly of First Nations.
Gilbert Whiteduck, chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg band near Maniwaki, Que., said he has sent letters to the 11 Algonquin communities in Ontario and Quebec asking them to a meeting in September.
"There’s been division in the nation for some time and our young people have been telling us that we as leadership need to show that indeed we can come together," he said.
He said he’s hoping to find ways to better protect Algonquin land, wanting more say over development, along with language.
"We need to be equals at the table, we can no longer be relegated to the back of the bus, just kind of sending in our comments and offering our suggestions," he said.
"Governments only want to consult, they’re never willing to accommodate. We’re saying we need to be accommodated."
More 'forceful action' needed
The push comes a week after the AFN annual meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon was challenged by a meeting held by a separate group of chiefs in Saskatchewan.
Whiteduck, who didn't go to Whitehorse, said he’s unhappy with the way the AFN is representing the interests of Algonquins.
"It’s my belief that the AFN unfortunately has been spinning their wheels and not taking the kind of forceful action we believe needs to be taken," he said in an interview with host Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All in a Day.
"It doesn’t mean we can’t work with AFN but we don’t necessarily believe (they’re) the body that’s going to move forward very fundamental issues."
Whiteduck later said "forceful action" involves being more direct and willing to upset the government.
Courts could get involved
Also factoring in is the fact the assembly is an advocacy group, he said, not a treaty holder.
"We can have a body like the AFN helping us open doors, but once the door is open they need to step aside," he said.
Whiteduck said if the government doesn't recognize a new group and chooses to continue working through the AFN, they could challenge that decision in the courts or "on the ground."
He said he hasn’t received any feedback from the other communities as the letters were only mailed last week.