By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–First Nation chiefs attending a planned Confederacy of Nations meeting in Ottawa Wednesday are expected to develop a strategy to immediately engage Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt on his government’s proposed First Nation education bill, APTN National News has learned.
Chiefs are expected to explore a range of positions on the bill, from outright rejection to exploring proposing amendments to the bill. The chiefs are also expected to discuss strategies on arranging a meeting with Valcourt to discuss Bill C-33, known as the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, APTN National News has learned.
The chiefs will also discussing revitalizing the Confederacy, which hasn’t met since 2004.
All the Confederacy’s actions will be reported at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs gathering which is scheduled for May 27 in Ottawa.
A Day of Resistance protest is also expected to converge on Ottawa Wednesday. Several communities, including Kahnawake, Six Nations and Alderville First Nation, are expected to bus people to the capital city that day.
Chiefs and organizers have been working since last week to make the Confederacy meeting a reality. The Assembly of First Nations executive rejected a request last week from Ontario regional Chief Stan Beardy to call the meeting.
The Chiefs of Ontario posted a notice this week announcing the meeting on its website.
The AFN executive, however, continues to resist attempts to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Confederacy meeting. The executive, which took over the national chief’s role in the wake of Shawn Atleo’s surprise resignation, has argued too many logistical barriers stand in the way of an official Confederacy meeting. The executive has also said the gathering isn’t necessary with a scheduled chiefs committee on education meeting set for Thursday and the larger special chiefs assembly set for the end of the month.
The executive, however, appears to be wielding one interpretation of the AFN charter, while proponents of the Confederacy meeting have advanced a competing perspective.
AFN CEO Peter Dinsdale wrote Beardy this week questioning whether the Confederacy was able to meet the requirements for an official meeting outlined in the AFN’s charter.
“Again, while I acknowledge that Ontario has convened a meeting on education, I am not aware of any region that convened a meeting for the express purpose of selecting Confederacy of Nation representatives,” wrote Dinsdale. “I am sure you appreciate the important mandating purpose that this portion of the charter identifies. It will be important to distinguish the difference between representatives from a region who have been selected or appointed through a meeting convened for the purpose of representing them at a Confederation of Nations meeting and representatives who show up to the meetings without being duly mandated.”
AFN CEO Peter Dinsdale’s letter to Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy
Saskatchewan regional Chief Perry Bellegarde also wrote one of his own chiefs questioning whether Saskatchewan could send an official delegation.
“(The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations) as Saskatchewan region, has not called a meeting to determine official Confederacy representatives,” wrote Bellegarde in a letter to Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass Monday. “Additional time would be required in order to allow all regions to select Confederacy representatives.”
Saskatchewan regional Chief Perry Bellegarde to Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass
Wapass, however, said the Saskatchewan delegation did not need Bellegarde’s blessing to become official.
“When the Confederacy of Nations meets, the Confederacy itself will decide if any region is not properly constituted and whether or not the meeting is valid,” wrote Wapass in a response letter sent to Bellegarde Tuesday.
Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass to Saskatchewan regional Chief Perry Bellegarde
Wapass said a delegation of at least 20 chiefs from Saskatchewan planned to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“I think there is going to be a good contingency of Saskatchewan chiefs and proxies that will be over there,” he said.
Wapass said it bothered him that the AFN executive rejected the request for the Confederacy meeting.
“I think the executive are chicken shits. They should know who they are representing and what their responsibilities are as the executive,” said Wapass. “Why are they running away from chiefs?”
Alberta will also be arriving in Ottawa early Wednesday morning with an official delegation, according to Treaty 6 Grand Chief Craig Makinaw.
Makinaw said education was his number one priority going into the meeting.
“I am hoping that the areas of concern on the bill get addressed,” said Makinaw. “Hopefully it will all work out in the end.”
The delegations from Alberta and Saskatchewan will be joined by chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
In order to form quorum, the Confederacy needs at least five of the AFN’s 10 regions present that represent over 50 per cent of the status Indian population.
The Confederacy has the powers of an oversight body within the AFN charter and the AFN executive falls beneath its purview.
The body is separate from the “chiefs in assembly” which includes the chiefs and their proxies who attend the organization’s bi-annual assemblies