The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is reaching out to Murray Sinclair to help it through its current woes at the executive level.
In her opening address to the special chiefs assembly in Ottawa on Tuesday, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said Sinclair, a former senator and commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is being hired to help the AFN with conflict resolution in 2023.
The organization, which serves as the national advocacy voice for more than 600 First Nations, has spent months dealing with infighting between some regional chiefs across the country and Archibald.
That conflict played out in public during the last AFN gathering in Vancouver in July. Archibald attended the meetings despite a vote from the executive committee and board of directors to temporarily suspend her leadership.
She survived the July coup attempt and vowed to press on with internal investigations over how the lobby group awards contracts. There is also an internal investigation regarding Archibald herself.
Archibald told chiefs there are important matters the organization must deal with and warned that it cannot afford to spend more time embroiled in conflict.
“We can’t spend another minute, never mind a chiefs’ assembly, in turmoil,” she said.
“Our people are watching.”
Archibald said there are still human resources and legal matters that need to be resolved over the coming months.
Since the gathering in July, she said she has “made every effort to heal and create harmony” in her relationships with the organization’s regional chiefs – and blamed colonialism for the current crisis.
For her part, Algonquins of Pikwakangan First Nation Chief Wendy Jocko said she stands firmly behind Archibald and remains convinced the AFN can move past its current troubles.
“I certainly do support the National Chief RoseAnne Archibald,” she said. “I did nominate her, proud to say, and she was elected. Fifteen other chiefs of course also made that nomination. And I mean historically she’s got 31 years plus behind her. She’s a very experienced chief and I think she’s done a tremendous job under the conditions we are all in.”
However, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck said he remained skeptical about the AFN’s ability to overcome this – and that the only solution is to bring in a new national chief.
“The godfather and the reconciliation master himself Murray Sinclair, I don’t think he can fix this,” he told APTN News. “If they continue this rabbit hole of looking at HR (human resources), litigation, this division of regional chiefs and everything else, I just think a new national chief will probably have to come in.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as some of his ministers tasked with leading files that deal directly with matters affecting First Nations, are set to address the assembly later in the week.
Chiefs will also vote on a list of some 73 draft resolutions ranging from positions on child welfare to justice reform to how the AFN tenders contracts.
With files from the Canadian Press