APTN National News
SASKATOON–Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation Chief Perry Bellegarde is taking another run at the brass ring of First Nations politics.
Bellegarde announced on Wednesday his candidacy in the race for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
“I am committed to being a catalyst for positive change for First Nations across Canada,” said Bellegarde, in a statement. “I want to see Aboriginal rights and tittle and our treaty rights recognized, honoured and implemented.”
Bellegarde conceded to former AFN national chief Shawn Atleo in the 2009 race following a marathon round of voting in Calgary. He was widely expected to run again and had been working the phones, calling chiefs for support over the last several months.
It appears that those phone calls paid off, as Bellegarde unveiled supporters from British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Xeni Gwet’in First Nation Chief Roger William, who led the Tsilhqot’in charge in their landmark Supreme Court ruling victory, is supporting Bellegarde.
“Given the opportunities and challenges in front us, as First Nations people, I can’t think of a better candidate for the position of national chief of the AFN than Perry Bellegarde,” said William, in a statement. “We need Perry’s leadership at this time.”
Bellegarde’s only declared candidate is current AFN interim national chief Ghislain Picard. Picard is the former head of the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador.
APTN National News has learned Simon Fobister, the former chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, will soon officially announce his candidacy for national chief. Fobister was chief of Grassy Narrows for a total of 16 years.
During his time in office Fobister presided over Grassy Narrows’ decade-long fight with the province over clear-cut logging in their traditional territory. The First Nation launched court action against Ontario’s provincial government. It was a case that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court which sided with the province and ruled clear-cutting did not infringe Grassy Narrows’ treaty harvesting rights.
Grassy Narrows is also the First Nation where toxic waste was dumped into the community’s river system in the 1970s, resulting in severe contamination.
Decades later, people in that community are still coping with the debilitating health impacts of mercury poisoning.
Journalist, educator and former hip hop artist Wab Kinew was also contemplating a run, but is now not expected to enter the race.
Atleo suddenly resigned the national chief post in May.
Voting for national chief is scheduled for December in Winnipeg.
-with files from Delaney Windigo