First Nations united against “common enemy” of status quo, says AFN leader Shawn Atleo

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      First Nations leaders remain united in their resolve to change the status quo, vowed Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo today (January 24).

      “We have a common enemy, and it’s the status quo,” Atleo said at a press conference in Vancouver. “That’s what people are saying by gathering as they are, in rallies and in round dances, holding teach-ins about the reality of the legislative agenda."

      The national chief made the comments after returning from a brief medical leave. Atleo returned just as Chief Theresa Spence marked the end of her hunger strike in Ottawa. The Attawapiskat First Nation leader had been subsisting on fish broth and tea for 44 days.

      Atleo said the AFN will continue pushing the federal government for action on issues such as resource-revenue sharing and treaty implementation. The AFN has endorsed a 13-point declaration brought forward by Chief Spence calling for a series of commitments from the federal government, such as addressing the housing crisis in First Nations communities, launching a national inquiry on violence against indigenous women of all ages, and creating equity in capital construction of First Nation schools.

      “We’ve arrived at a moment of reckoning,” said Atleo. “This is not a moment that is characterized by just today, or this week, or a certain meeting or gathering or rally. This is a moment that has arrived for all of Canada, not only for indigenous peoples in this country, but it’s one that’s arrived for indigenous peoples around the world, and it’s one that we must seize…now is the time for change.”

      Atleo acknowledged the involvement of young people in the grassroots Idle No More movement, and stated that “real progress” has been made in recent weeks in bringing attention to First Nations issues.

      “There is unprecedented engagement of our people,” Atleo told reporters. “This is tangible, it’s real and it’s here to stay.”

      Jody Wilson-Raybould, the regional chief of the B.C. AFN, acknowledged what she called the "hope and optimism" within the Idle No More movement, and the calls that demonstrators have made for changes within their own communities. 

      "We recognize that not only does the hard work occur in challenging the federal government in its unilateral legislative agenda, but the hard work also occurs back home in our communities, to change the status quo and to take the energy that has been established now and to translate it into meaningful, practical benefits on the ground in our communities," she said. "That’s the hope, that’s the optimism, and that’s where the change is going to come."

      Atleo downplayed divisions among leaders within the AFN, noting there are diverse opinions within the organization. The national chief and leaders from most regions met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on January 11, while regional leaders from Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories boycotted the meeting.

      “We are diverse peoples...and with this rich diversity comes a wide variety of ideas of how we move forward,” said Atleo. “But make no mistake, on principles of substance, we are unified.”

      Atleo and Wilson-Raybould were joined by other First Nations leaders including AFN regional chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Roger Augustine, Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Edward John of the First Nations Summit, and Sto:lo Tribal Council leader Doug Kelly. The chiefs are gathered for a two-day meeting at the Musqueam community centre.


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      Jeffrey Leonard Murphy-formerly-Joseph Leonard George

      Jan 25, 2013 at 5:42am

      The AFN has been declared 'An Enemy of the Great Peace' by those of us Off-Reserve Natives, who have no say in the election of any of its members or its leader nor do we receieve any consideration or benefit from this groups existance yet are considered to be under their authority by most Canadians. The AFN,its Associates and the Indian Act that allows them to exist must come to an end to allow equal consideration and treatment of the majority of First Nations who are without a voice.

      26 9Rating: +17


      Jan 25, 2013 at 7:09am

      Why dont we (canadians)tell the natives that we will be taking back the millions in their treaty mony and they can live like the rest of us.A Native communaty gets millions in aid and when it goes missing they cause a disrupion to cover the loss and hold out thir hand for more.The chifs in a lot of these communities are getting to be vary ritch and the rest get crumbs.Everyone should be accoutable for the treaty monys without the word Discrimination thrown at the gov.when they ask for paper work.


      Jan 25, 2013 at 9:55am

      HD---you are spouting racist propaganda


      Jan 25, 2013 at 11:25am

      There is nothing racist about natives standing at the gimmie line ,then when they need a raise they rebel.Funny I have to work to get payed.They stand and protest

      Shana Manson

      Jan 25, 2013 at 11:25am

      CORRECTION: Doug Kelly is the President of the Sto:lo Tribal Council. Chief Douglas White of Snuneymuxw First Nation is an Executive of the First Nations Summit.

      19 9Rating: +10

      Salty one

      Jan 25, 2013 at 12:08pm

      It never occurred to me until now how blindly devoted aboriginal people – particularly their leaders - are to Atleo, an unwise thing in any politics. In fairness, this blindness and kid gloves also extends to the Straight too. You hold other leaders accountable and practically waterboard them during interviews about issues but you hold Atleo and other aboriginal leaders to a softer standard.


      Jan 25, 2013 at 12:19pm

      HD, like many, don't realise that ignorance breeds racism. If I have learned anything over the past months, is that the basic levels of ignorance and racism being expressed by so-called ‘normal’ Canadians is uncomfortably high. Sure, there may have been accounting errors – but why so quick to blame the band and not the people handing out the money? Why is it even an issue? The Harper government can’t balance the books to save their lives, but since they are not First Nations, who cares – just elect them some more! Despicable.


      Jan 25, 2013 at 1:49pm

      Have a look at. Canada's Human Rights record, it isn't pretty. You can see where Harper has his methods, for his manner in which, he treats the F.N. people.

      I have seen sites with comments that rival, Goebbels propaganda machine and, his hate speech towards the Jewish people. Never have I ever been so ashamed of this country, since Harper won his, so called majority. Have a look at the comments on, the National Post site. Try not to heave your cookies, as you do so. Have a look at the comments, on the CBC web site.

      Chief Spence did offer her books. She said, right on TV, she was glad for the meeting, she was shown where she went wrong, in her method of doing the books. Would she have done what she did? If she was stealing, for cripes sakes?

      F.N. kids are expected to compete in a high tech market? How in the hell can they? Their education program is so crappy, they can't go on to a higher education. Besides which. Arrogant, ignorant Dictator Harper, just canceled the Kelowna Accord, killing the chances for the F.N. to succeed.
      Now, lets see Harper open his books. The A.G. can't complete his books either. Harper is refusing to give him, the information he needs to do so.

      How is the investigation going for, the robo-call election fraud? How about the investigation for the riding disputes?

      As well in Harper's Omnibull Bill, giving Communist China the right to sue, any Canadians getting in China's way. His Omnibull Bill, gives himself the right to intrude on, waterways, fish and F.N. hunting grounds. People are so stupid they don't see. Harper can also intrude on our own, farmlands, ranches, lakes, river, and streams. He can and he will, pollute anywhere he chooses, for the benefit of Red China.

      CSIS warned of China's huge inroads into Canada. BC was specifically mentioned. Gordon Campbell sold BC out to Red China long ago. BC yelled and hollered about it. Did any-one listen? Isn't there anything, Canadian's don't sleep through? Not on your Nelly. That's exactly what, Harper can count on.


      Jan 27, 2013 at 7:48am

      What if the canadians stop subsidizing the FN ?If they have so much mony why do they want more.Now they want to control OUR resourses,This almost sounds like USA influence somwhere so we can only sell accross the border with them,as the FN try to block the pipe lines from AB leaving no other market for oil.