The Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is now in the running to lead the Assembly of First Nations.
FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde announced this morning that he will be on the ballot when 633 chiefs vote for a new AFN leader in Winnipeg in December.
- Shawn Atleo agreed to 'substantive amendments' to First Nations education bill
- Ghislain Picard to seek top job at Assembly of First Nations
Ghislain Picard, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, announced his intention to run for the leadership of the AFN last month.
Picard has been doing the job of national chief since July, when First Nations leaders chose him to replace Shawn Atleo following his sudden resignation last May.
Bellegarde says his 25 years of experience and ability to get things done make him the strongest candidate.
"We've talked about treaty implementation since they were first signed and we still don't see that. We've talked about recognition of aboriginal rights and title, we still don't see that," Bellegarde said. "I always say you've got to have a legal strategy, a political strategy and an on-the-ground activist strategy."
Bellegarde identified the following points in a press release as the areas he would focus on if elected National Chief:
- Establishing processes for self-determination, including revenue sharing, ensuring environmental sustainability, adherence to the duty to consult and accommodate and international standards such as free, prior and informed consent
- Establishing a new fiscal relationship with the federal Crown
- An immediate action plan and inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Revitalization and retention of indigenous languages
Bellegarde also told reporters that he intended to fight for the rights of First Nations, describing the federal government's approach to aboriginal issues as 'adversarial'.
"We have to avoid the pitfalls of divide and conquer," Bellegarde stated. "We have to avoid the struggles because government would just love that, to see the Assembly break up. They would just love that, to see our FSIN break up, or tribal councils break up, or fights in the community, and that stuff is not on. Our people are going to see the need to stay united, strong and collected."
Bellegarde said he will use his vacation days and take a leave of absence from the FSIN —his term as Chief is up in October— so he can tour First Nations throughout the country for the next two months.
Bellegarde ran against Atleo in the 2009 AFN leadership contest. He is the former Regional Vice Chief for the AFN.