First Nations scholar says AFN stuck in old ways, needs to change

Niigaan Sinclair speaks at length about how AFN could improve

National Chief Perry Bellegarde says he won’t seek reelection to lead the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and that’s opened the door to discussions on how the First Nations lobbying group needs to transform, says Niigaan Sinclair.

First, if chiefs are going to be voting virtually, due to the novel coronavirus global pandemic, then why can’t grassroots people finally vote for whom speaks on their behalf with the federal government.

“If that was the case I think, maybe, the AFN would have some legitimacy at the grassroots,” said Sinclair, on Nation to Nation, Thursday.

The AFN has long been criticized for being disconnected with the grassroots.

Sinclair said a country-wide vote may be difficult to deliver, considering wifi issues on-reserve, but it’s an initiative worth looking at.

“Because the AFN would then have a model to be able to represent First Nations interests, not the interests of program delivery model from the federal government,” said Sinclair, who is a professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba and writes a regular column for the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.

That’s just one step.

A second would be following through with a recommendation from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to have an Aboriginal parliament.

“And maybe the AFN could possibly be that delivery model,” said Sinclair.

N2N also spoke with NDP MP Leah Gazan.

Her private members bill wants an emergency declared over the climate crisis.

“We either act now or we’re going to further exacerbate this crisis we’re in,” said Gazan.

Watch both interviews below.

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