Bellegarde, Diabo announce intentions of running for AFN national chief

Russ Diabo says he’s running for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations to defeat two people.

Russ Diabo says he’s running for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations to defeat two people – incumbent Perry Bellegarde and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I felt compelled,” the Mohawk policy analyst from Kahnawake, Que. says in wide ranging interview with Nation to Nation scheduled to air Thursday evening.

“The federal government needs to be called out that their self-government and land claims policies are unfair and unjust.”

He’s confident he can get the 15 chiefs needed for an official nomination.

Perry Bellegarde was in Winnipeg Wednesday and nodded when asked if he was running again and said “there will be a formal announcement soon.”

But Sheila North, a former journalist and grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), would not confirm saying only she “is considering it.”

“Even though chiefs from all over Canada have indicated that (North) asked them for their support to run in AFN election,” said Mi’kmaq lawyer and professor Pam Palmater. “It’s widely known.”

However, no candidates are official until they fill out their forms, get the required signatures and are confirmed by the electoral officer for AFN, Palmater added.

Diabo has already been publicly endorsed by Ryan McMahon, a writer and comedian from Winnipeg, and some B.C. chiefs and activists.

Bellegarde, from Little Black Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, was first elected national chief three years ago. The AFN is biggest Indigenous lobbying organization representing 634 First Nations.

North works on behalf of 30 First Nations in Manitoba but has expanded her profile nationally and internationally via her work on the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) file.

She has been front and centre demanding changes to make Trudeau’s national inquiry into MMIWG more representative of and responsive to families.

Nominations for national chief open next month. The vote is scheduled for July 25 during the AFN annual general assembly in Vancouver.

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