Jody Wilson-Raybould, the British Columbia Regional Chief of the AFN will hold a conference call with fellow chiefs Wednesday and is expected to tell them that disrupting the provincial economy is unproductive.
But many indigenous people disagree with her.
Arthur Manuel, the former chief of B.C.’s Neskonlith band, said in an open letter to chiefs and councillors on Tuesday that the British Columbia economy has not benefited indigenous peoples as it has the rest of the population.
“I urge the elected chiefs that support the Idle No More (INM) to get on the call and let the Regional Chief know that the Idle No More is a grassroots movement and that the Chiefs will not become a shield for the province,” wrote Mr. Arthur, “especially because the province is unjustly rich and the INM is grassroots moment that is systemically made poor.”
A possible closure of the main highway leading to Fort McMurray, Alta., the hub of the oil sands, seems unlikely to take place – although there were rumblings about that earlier in the week. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said Tuesday there are no imminent plans to blockade Highway 63.
“However, the people are upset with the current state of affairs in this country and things are escalating towards more direct action,” said Mr. Adam in a statement. “As a leader I have been talking to the people, talking with governments and industry to try and diffuse the situation that is coming to the surface. However, neither government nor industry seems willing to move on the issues and the people have said that enough is enough.”
Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the AFN, is taking time off to recuperate from a severe bout of stomach flu and exhaustion after last week’s intense negotiating session with chiefs and then Mr. Harper.
A number of first nations leaders are upset that Mr. Atleo proceeded with the meeting even though Mr. Harper refused to meet the demand of Theresa Spence, the Chief of Attawapiskat, who wanted Governor-General David Johnston to be in the room.
Those schisms within the AFN could come into play in the future as the government tries to negotiate a way out of the unrest that is being demonstrated across the country by supporters of Idle No More.
But the executive of the AFN says the work of preparing for future talks with the government is carrying on in Mr. Atleo’s absence and they are holding meetings to plot strategies going forward.
With reports from Bill Curry and from Canadian Press
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