By Annette Francis
APTN National News
OTTAWA-Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo is calling on re-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately move to meet with First Nations leaders and assuage the “fear” and “anger” growing in First Nations communities.
“There is a real, I think, fear as well as anger that has to be honoured and respected. That is the reason why real change needs to being to happen in this country now,” said Atleo, in an interview with APTN Tuesday. “Especially with such a fast and rapidly grown youth population.”
Atleo says his first step will be to get the prime minister to keep his commitment on education and strengthening the government’s relationship with First Nations.
“(Harper) also promised to hold a First Nations-Crown gathering which is something that we’ll look to secure ASAP,” said Atleo. “We really do need to transform the relationship between First Nations and the government and to do so based on our Treaties passed and on our title and rights.”
The national leader may face resistance to his agenda from Indian Affairs bureaucrats.
A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2009 and recently released by whistle-blower Web site WikiLeaks quotes Indian Affairs officials essentially dismissing the national chief’s agenda.
“Nor does INAC expect the election of Shawn Atleo as the new Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations to change the federal aboriginal agenda,” the cable said.
The AFN issued a statement accusing Indian affairs of have poor intelligence and analysis.
The statement said that Atleo has pushed to have First Nations move out from under the Indian Act, help force the government endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and adopted a national strategy on Treaty implementation “not based on the Indian Act, but based on the original Treaty relationship,” the statement said.
Atleo said those sentiments from Indian Affairs won’t deter his commitment to improve the lives for First Nations citizens across this country.
“I think officials can say what they choose. I think I’m like any other First Nation across the country,” said Atleo. “I feel strongly about who I am and where I come from and feel strongly about supporting First Nations individuals and First Nations government for a better future.”
Atleo says the AFN will continue to education Canadians and political parties about the challenges faced by many First Nations.
He says there is a potential for conflict if these challenges aren’t addressed.