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At any given moment, there are nearly 500 government lawyers challenging aboriginal treaty rights in Canada. There are 100 First Nations communities just like Attawapiskat — places of abject poverty with no adequate housing or hydro and almost as many reserves are without clean drinking water.
On some days, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, the 45-year-old national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, admits it is like he is knocking his head against the wall in trying to make real progress for indigenous people. But he is running for re-election Wednesday because he feels the “moment of reckoning” is now.
Canada is moving to develop precious resources in Alberta’s oilsands and Ontario’s Ring of Fire — where one of the world’s largest chromite finds in the James Bay lowlands is said to exceed $30 billion — but they have to deal with the First Nations living adjacent to these riches in order to do so.
“Canada will not be whole until it addresses its relationship with First Nations through a rights-based viewpoint,” says Atleo, emphatically. “We are not just stakeholders.”
Atleo will defend his position as national chief Wednesday as 634 chiefs from across Canada prepare to pass judgment on his leadership over the past three years and decide if he should be given three more. Atleo must get 60 per cent of the vote to win.
The AFN, a United Nations type body made up of communities across the country, is holding its annual general meeting this week at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Toronto will be awash with aboriginal culture this week with everything from free concerts to a special showing of the works of famed Ojibwa artist Norval Morrisseau on display Wednesday at the Steam Whistle roundhouse on Bremner Blvd.
Atleo has seven challengers including Ryerson University professor and Mi’kmaw citizen Pam Palmater and Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus. First ballot results are expected around noon on Wednesday but results may not be ready until later.
Also running are Manitoba lawyer Joan Jack; Terry Nelson, a Manitoba chief; Quebec Native Women’s Association’s Ellen Gabriel; Diane Kelly, the former grand chief of Treaty 3 near Kenora; and Alberta Regional Chief George Stanley.
Atleo is the hereditary chief from the Ahousaht First Nation on the west coast. He is a father of two, has a master’s degree in education and he married his high school sweetheart, Nancy, 26 years ago.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1227368–shawn-atleo-will-defend-post-as-national-chief