Pam Palmater, one of the candidates for Mr. Atleo’s job who teaches indigenous studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, said a frank discussion about treaty rights and revenue sharing cannot even begin if the government’s ultimate objective remains “assimilation, integration, sameness will all other Canadians.” It is an objective she says the government does not even try to hide.
Ellen Gabriel, another candidate who grew up in Kanesetake and was a spokeswoman for her people during the Oka crisis, said the fact that little has changed since that time is creating a new generation of more militant youth, which could become a problem for a government that would rather provoke first nations than negotiate solutions.
“I think it’s a matter of holding them to the rule of law,” she said. “What we need to do is hold them accountable and make them responsible for the kind of chaos that they are creating within indigenous communities and within the environment itself.”
But another part of the issue is driven by corporate Canada – and those who have worked with large energy corporations say the blame lies not just with first nations, but with companies.
“First nations can have significant value for a project. But today, many industries see them as an obstacle or a risk,” said Roger Harris, a B.C. consultant who spent two years working on the aboriginal file for Northern Gateway.
Enbridge, for its part, has said it is offering more than $1-billion in benefits to first nations through Northern Gateway. The company “will have officials present” at the AFN election, spokesman Todd Nogier wrote in an e-mail. “We look forward to developing a positive, productive and mutually beneficial relationship with whomever the Assembly of First Nations select as their National Chief.”
Other Pertinent Issues with Candidates
Shawn AtleoIncumbent national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He is a hereditary chief of Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island.
Education, youth and empowering local chiefs.
Long-time chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the AFN’s regional chief of the Northwest Territories.
Issues:Empower existing land treaties and earn sovereignty through a unified national voice.
Member of the Kanesatake Mohawk Nation and former leader of the Quebec Native Women’s Association.
Issues:Revitalizing indigenous languages, education and governing structures.
Lawyer from the Berens River First Nation in Manitoba and helped found the Nakina Centre for Aboriginal Living and Learning.
Issues:Prioritizing indigenous languages, letting regions drive the AFN’s national agenda.
Lawyer and the chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University. She is originally from the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick.
Issues:Focusing on people, not politics, and education, health and justice.
Fifth-generation chief and is the regional chief of Alberta. He is a member of the Frog Lake First Nation.
Issues:Protecting treaty rights and pressing for self-reliance.
Spent five terms as chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba. He is vice-chairman of the American Indian Movement.
Issues:Reversing funding cuts to first nations made by the Harper government.
Diane M. Kelly
Lawyer and was the first female grand chief of Grand Council Treaty 3. She is from the Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation in Ontario.
Issues:Protecting the spirit and intent of treaties and asserting rights and jurisdictions.