APTN National News
PORT ALBERNI, BC–Former Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo has surfaced in his home territory.
Atleo made an appearance at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s annual general assembly in Port Alberni, B.C., the Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper reported Tuesday.
This is the first reported appearance of Atleo at a public event since his May resignation from the post of national chief. At the time, Atleo said he was resigning because he had become a “lightning rod” in the controversy raging over the Harper government’s proposed First Nation education bill.
Atleo was paid tribute and wrapped in a blanket during a ceremony at the general assembly, the newspaper reported. Atleo also addressed the assembly, saying he had enough of Ottawa, according to the report.
“Six years in Ottawa. That was enough,” said Atleo, according to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “Six winters in Ottawa, that was enough…I’m really happy to be home. I’m very happy to be home.”
Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s vice-president Ken Watts told the assembly the organization wanted Atleo to know he still had support.
“Whatever (his) choices are in life and whatever (he’s) been through, we always stand behind A-in-chut and the amazing work that he has done on behalf of our people,” Watts reportedly said.
Atleo has maintained a low public profile since his resignation. He is now living in Nanaimo, B.C., and recently spoke to a Simon Fraser University master’s class. The former national chief also took some time off in the U.S. where he travelled alone on a motorcycle.
While Atleo may be trying to distance himself from his time in Ottawa as national chief, events may still keep his name in the spotlight.
The federal government recently filed a document in Federal Court that appears to show a secret agreement between Atleo, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the contents of a bill for First Nation education. The document, which contains the signatures of the three men, was filed as part of an ongoing court case over the bill launched by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL).
The emergence of the document forced the AFNQL to rethink its legal strategy. Senior AFN staff and the AFN chiefs’ executive were not aware of the document’s existence and it has raised more questions around the backroom machinations behind the education bill.
The bill, called the First Nation Control of First Nations Education Act, still remains in limbo. The AFN rejected the bill following Atleo’s resignation.
Atleo is still the chair of the National Indian Brotherhood Trust and his term expires in 2015.
The next national chief for AFN will be elected in Winnipeg this December.