Rift among First Nations leaders over threat for ‘economic shutdown’ coast-to-coast
Peter O’Neil, National Post/ Postmedia News, May 16, 2014
B.C. First Nations leaders distanced themselves Thursday from a formal threat by a group of aboriginal leaders to grind Canada’s economy to a halt.
A resolution from leaders claiming to represent the Confederacy of Nations, a regional entity that is part of the Assembly of First Nations, passed a resolution in Ottawa on Wednesday threatening the Harper government over education legislation.
They want the government to scrap a bill aimed at giving First Nations greater control over education, which includes $1.9 billion in new funding. Instead, they want to replace it with direct cash transfers and full jurisdiction to run primary and secondary education with no federal role.
“Should Canada not withdraw and cease all imposed legislation on First Nations without our free, prior and informed consent, we will strategically and calculatedly begin the economic shutdown of Canada’s economy from coast-to-coast,” said the resolution passed by a group of leaders from more militant bands in Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
But B.C. regional AFN leader Jody Wilson-Raybould challenged the legitimacy of the resolution, noting that the AFN executive didn’t agree to sanction a formal meeting of the confederacy, which last met in 2004 and is based on regional representation.
She also suggested that the resolution to sabotage the economy was based on political jockeying.
Wilson-Raybould and another prominent B.C. leader, Doug Kelly of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, have both noted that some of the hardline positions on the federal education act are being pushed by people positioning themselves to replace Shawn Atleo, who recently resigned as AFN chief due to the bitter divisions over education.
“I’m here and our educational professionals are here to talk about education,” said Wilson-Raybould, in Ottawa for an AFN meeting to come up with ways to convince the government to amend C-33, the bill the government put on hold after Atleo’s resignation.
“And sadly that agenda of doing what’s best for our kids is being overtaken by politics, and that’s the really sad thing about what’s going on now,” Wilson-Raybould said.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he understands aboriginal leaders who say “direct action” measures — such as bridge, road and border blockades — are necessary to get the government’s attention.
“The aboriginal people of this country are extremely upset — for good reason. I understand the frustrations that give rise to these statements.”
But he said he would only advocate direct action measures if his organization, which includes 115 of the 203 First Nations in B.C., passes a resolution sanctioning such a step.
He said his group, the most militant of the main B.C. aboriginal organizations, has in the past passed resolutions endorsing such measures. But these included caveats stating that direct action can only be sanctioned after all efforts to engage with the federal and B.C. governments, and industry, have been exhausted.
“No, absolutely not,” he said when asked if he would endorse the call for actions against the Canadian economy. “That’s a decision made by individual First Nations.”
The internal crisis within the AFN is expected to come to a head here on May 27, when chiefs from across Canada will meet to discuss the education bill and the AFN leadership vacuum.
Posted on May 16, 2014, in Indian Act Indians and tagged AFN, Assembly of First Nations, Confederacy of Nations, First Nations Education Act, indian act band councils, Indian Act Indians. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.