By Tim Fontaine
APTN National News
HALIFAX–The election for a new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations will take place in Winnipeg this coming December.
Chiefs and proxies made the decision this afternoon at the AFN’s annual general assembly in Halifax, after considerable debate. Some chiefs argued that more time was needed to work out organizational issues, including a rift a between the Confederacy of Nations and the AFN Executive.
Muskrat Dam Lake First Nation Chief Gordon Beardy felt that with so many divisions within the organization and the unprecedented resignation of the former national chief, more time was needed to heal and to look at the organization as a whole.
Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe was one of the Chiefs calling for an early election.
“We need a national chief almost immediately.” he told the assembly.
Pashe said the next national chief needs to take a softer approach with Ottawa.
“We need a national chief that can work with the federal government. Not a ‘vigilante chief’ who is going to wield a hammer,” said Pashe.
The 2015 Federal election was also cited by many chiefs, who felt a leader must be in place by then.
The Chiefs were presented with 3 options, with dates that included October 2014, December 2014 or July 2015. All included Winnipeg as the host province.
Grand Chief David Harper, whose organization the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) won an earlier bid to host the election, welcomed the decision to come to Winnipeg in December.
Grand Chief Harper told the assembly that MKO is “financially ready” to host the election and has the full support of the province and Winnipeg.
But the decision was not without scrutiny.
Serpent River Chief Isadore Day questioned the validity of the vote, saying it may have violated the AFN Charter.
But the meeting’s chair Harold Tarbell said he was confident that the Charter allowed for Chiefs in Assembly to call an election.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence told the Assembly that the time has come to open the election to First Nation citizens, not just chiefs and proxies.
Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Donavon Fontaine cautioned that holding the election in December risked losing the full attention of First Nation chiefs.
Chief Fontaine stated for him and many other leaders, “families come first.”
The meetings continue this afternoon with a discussion about restructuring or reforming the Assembly of First Nations.