Despite those who voiced concerns that Shawn Atleo was granting the Harper government too much leeway, he managed to win the June 18 vote and keep his position as National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
Atleo, a hereditary chief of Ahousaht, has held the position of national chief since 2009 and defeated seven challengers in three ballots for his second term.
His challengers accused Atleo of having too cozy a relationship with the Harper government and not challenging their policies enough. Atleo’s supporters say he is acting as an advocate and maintaining a civil relationship rather than being confrontational.
The Harper government has not been good to First Nations communities. The way Aboriginal Affairs Minister dealt with the housing crisis in Attawapiskat was shameful and the refusal of the Prime Minister to visit the community and see for himself the living conditions many of these communities face was a misstep at best.
When the UN rapporteur came to Canada and talked to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people about their food insecurity — and received a submission from the AFN — the government managed to totally ignore the issue, instead focusing on the fact that the rapporteur was from Europe and the European Union is moving to ban the import products made from seal skin. It was a totally nonsensical response and the minister didn’t see any particular backlash from Atleo or the AFN, though there was a call for an apology.
Now facing a majority Harper government for the entirety of his new renewed mandate, Atleo may not have a chance to get much of anything out of this Prime Minister, no matter what tactics he decides to use. Government ministers are aware of the potential for skilled labor coming out of reserves where Canada’s youngest population resides. It will be interesting to see if the situation improves in First Nations communities by 2015 and quite a waste if it doesn’t.
Photo Credit: EcoTrust Canada