HALIFAX — The agenda was a full one at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting, which began Wednesday in Halifax. Ghislain Picard, regional chief for Quebec and Labrador was selected as interim National Chief with an election for the permanent position slated for December.
Terry Belgard seems to be ready to throw his Guswenta into the ring for the new National Chief’s chair. Thirty-two-year journalist Rob Canoe has also made statements to that effect.
Most held out little hope that the Harper Conservatives would do more than release a few stats sheets and empty promises. Cheryl Maloney, representing the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association echoed that thought when she told Canadian Press reporter covering the conference, “I don’t hold out much hope for the Harper government. “We have a lot of commitment from Canadians and from parliamentarians, just not the right ones.”
The AFN regional Chiefs and delegates discussed a serious lobbying blitz on opposition leaders in Ottawa, as well as gathering a team of lawyers and experts to bring legal pressure on Harper’s government, domestically and internationally.
There was a renewed call for the federal government to get serious about investigating several hundred cases of missing or murdered Onkwehon:we women.
Numbers of between 600-800 unresolved cases were seen as exaggerated by the mainstream corporate media and Conservative leaders, but when the RCMP published their own records, that number was actually rather low. It is now estimated that as many as 1,100 cases are gathering dust in files across Canada.
Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill reports that there will also be a task force struck with the task of reforming the AFN.
“The Confederacy of Nations is still there which is included in our charter, and there was discussion about that,” she says. “Whether we want to keep that or change it will be addressed. If we are going to move along the lines of Nationhood, there should be a true Confederacy of Nations.”
She says the task force will be doing some work on that and will make a report at the convention in December with a final report next July.
“I would like us to sit there as Nations,” said Elected Chief Hill. “We are working with the other Iroquois communities, and there are six Nations among the Iroquois and we all come together under the banner of Iroquois Caucus, and I think that is what we should be doing with the AFN.
“We need to look at the whole structure of the AFN,” Hill continues. “Do we need these regional Chiefs at all?
These and other related issues were discusses on how to restructure the AFN from the top down.
Education was also discussed, as was the disbursement of an anticipated $300 million in settlement money from the Residential Schools settlement.