Candidate for AFN national chief says she doesn’t want her gender to be defining characteristic

Throughout the nomination process APTN News will be approaching each of the candidates who are putting their names forward for national chief

Listuguj Mi’gmag Nation member Cathy Martin says she’s a good candidate for the head position at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) because of her education, professional experience and her political proficiency at the community and grassroots level.

If elected Martin would be the first woman to hold the position.

Martin said it’s not imperative to have a woman as national chief and she didn’t want people to view her gender as her defining characteristic.

However, she did point out many First Nations are matriarchal societies and a female national chief would bring different viewpoints.

“That being said, an Indigenous woman (as national chief) will come with a different kind of perspective,” she told APTN. “Traditionally women are more compassionate and caring and they think more along those lines, whereas males tend to think more analytically.”

The AFN elections for the national organizations top job is in July and the nomination process is presently underway.

Current National Chief Perry Bellegarde announced in December 2020 that he would not be seeking re-election.

Bellegarde advocated for such important issues as revitalizing Indigenous languages and the implementation of the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people.

Martin announced her candidacy on social media Thursday.

She said she has 20 years of experience as a councillor in her community of Listuguj and said she also has experience working nationally.

Over the past few years she has been working out of Ottawa as an education specialist with the First Nations Health Management Association and she delivered workshops around the country for the Aboriginal Financial Officer’s Association.

Marin has a doctorate in curriculum leadership development.

“Frameworks are my specialty,” Martin said, “so how do you respect the diversity of each independent nation because we are independent nations, while addressing the issues that have been instilled upon us.”

Martin said all First Nations share the commonality that they are “at the mercy of the federal government” who have implemented Indian Act legislation with what she called a “blanketing band aid approach.” She clarifies that method is problematic because First Nations across the country are diverse and unique nations.

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, elections will be held in a virtual, on-line format.

Martin said this will hurt the election process especially in the current nominations stage where, in the past, candidates could go to assemblies and talk to chiefs to pitch their platforms and gain support.

“You could talk to these people in person and it’s much more personal,” Martin explained.

The AFN election rules state a person requires 15 nominations from First Nations chiefs to qualify.

Martin said she is having difficulty fulfilling that requirement due to the online process and COVID-19 is making it even more difficult as chiefs are especially busy these days and making time to meet virtually can also be a challenge.

“We only have three weeks to gather these nominators and whereas a better know politician, or a more experienced politician, would have had those contacts quite readily, I don’t and I’m still in the active stage of gaining those,” Martin explained.

The nomination process for AFN national chief ends June 2 and the virtual election starts July 7.

Three others have put their Alvin Fiddler, RoseAnne Archibald from Ontario and Jodi Calahoose-Stonehouse from Alberta.

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