Kwakwaka’wakw chief Bill Wilson says experience counts in Assembly of First Nations election

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      Kwakwaka’wakw chief Bill Wilson claims that he was the first Native leader to sit on a float in Vancouver’s Pride parade, and he also says he is a passionate defender of gay rights.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight about his candidacy for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in this month’s election, the West End resident began crying while talking about the issue.

      “My attitude about that is, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, what is the fuss about?” Wilson said by phone June 29. “These are people. They have human rights, and if the religious right dumps on them, I think they’re full of shit. I don’t like it, and I’m glad [former U.S. president] George Bush is gone, because any kind of oppression like that is an oppression of me.”

      Added Wilson: “I gotta tell you, that’s one thing that really pisses me off about [Stephen] Harper and that religious-right horseshit. I cried when they passed a law in California to allow gay marriages and then eight years later—or whatever it was—they rescind it via referendum. Now how bloody stupid is that?”

      Wilson, a grandfather of three, will find out July 22 whether he can beat out AFN B.C. regional chief Shawn Atleo and chiefs Terrance Nelson, John Beaucage, and Perry Bellegarde to the position vacated by Phil Fontaine. Wilson said he is confident he has what it takes.

      “I looked at them and I thought, ”˜Christ, I have more experience at the national level than all four of them combined,’ ” Wilson said. “I particularly like John Beaucage, and I thought, ”˜What the hell, I’m 65 and healthy.’ ”

      When asked about Atleo, Wilson deadpanned: “One day, after I serve two terms, he’s going to be a good national chief.

      “I think Shawn has a lot of talents and a lot of energy, but he doesn’t have the national experience,” Wilson said. “Nothing against him. I would never run a negative campaign, but I just know that it’s quite a different thing to be cute and articulate and quote platitudes that please non-Indian people. It’s quite another thing to sit at the table and negotiate with people like Mulroney and Vander Zalm and be there in the heat of the moment and have the wherewithal to do it.”

      Wilson said he helped get Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, amended and passed into law during the reign of then–prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Wilson also takes credit for helping get the treaty process off the ground in B.C. And aside from rights in the LGBT community, Wilson said he finds the poverty within the First Nations community and the Trail of Tears murders of women hitchhiking on Highway 16 particularly troublesome.




      Jul 3, 2009 at 11:38pm

      Wilson won't win. While he has a long history in Indian politics, he has a lot of burned bridges to show for it too.

      Wilson had his time in the late 80's and early 90's- when he was Shawn Atleo's age I might add. And I well remember him arrogantly dismissing older leaders who questioned him.

      While Section 35 was amended, it was the result of many people pulling levers, of which Wilson was just one. And it was the tribes who took goverments to court and won who were the underpinnings of the BC Treaty Process, not Wilson. The guy is like Forrest Gump; he just happened to be there during some of history's greatest events.

      Wilson's day might be dead, but for all of his folly his crticism of Shawn Atleo's inexperience is dead accurate. Atleo is a candidate who is a model, and not a model candidate. Indeed, Atleo says and does the right things, and that's the problem. He's a brand, not a leader. And when the Straight sells that brand without criticially analyzing Atleo's candidacy or the AFN for that matter, then they aren't doing their job.

      It shouldn't have taken Bill Wilson to critically examine Shawn Atleo's candidacy for public office. When no other media took on a politician, you could always count on The Straight - until now.

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      Ditto says

      Jul 14, 2009 at 11:25am

      ditto that

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      Jul 21, 2009 at 8:04pm

      Bill Wilson has had his day. He speaks loud and often but says the same thing over and over. Shawn is a young man by FN leadership standards and he's trying to prove himself. Of course he is, in the FN business they shred you to pieces before they take you one bit serious. You gotta prove your stuff Shawn. I hope when John Beaucage has served two terms that Shawn will be ready again--and by then there will be many more up and coming FN young men and women.

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      Oct 12, 2010 at 11:15pm

      while it didnt take a political student to figure out that wilson wouldnt win he started to late....but bring things up to date here wilson wouldve never danced for the british monarchy as atleo did when they brought in the new governor general....what a disgrace he is to the native people of this country....he may as well have danced the surrender dance ...DOLT

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