Chiefs frustrated with AFN meeting

A key Mohawk chief says he is getting frustrated with the structure of the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs gathering in Gatineau, Que.

(Akwesasne Grand Chief Mike Mitchell. APTN/Photo)

APTN National News
Gatineau, Que
.-A key Mohawk chief says he is getting frustrated with the structure of the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs gathering in Gatineau, Que.

Akwesasne Mohawk Council Grand Chief Mike Mitchell said chiefs attending the meeting are “sitting there like zombies” while AFN executive and regional chiefs give “long winded speeches.”

Mitchell said chiefs should be discussing big picture issues, not technical issues which are usually handled by band council staff.

“We should be discussing life after the Indian Act and governance,” said Mitchell. “I’m getting frustrated.”

While AFN national Chief Shawn Atleo has made abolishing the Indian Act one of his main priorities, Mitchell said chiefs were hoping to discuss what to do if and when the over century-old legislation gets scrapped.

“I have had 20 chiefs saying, ‘what is it going to be like after we get the Indian Act out,” said Mitchell. “We just can’t say we are going to get rid of the Indian Act, we have to replace it with something, and discussing that replacement is the dialogue chiefs have to have with each other.”

Mitchell said the AFN should be relaying technical information about environment and health programs in annual reports, not burying chiefs with data.

 “There are all these long-winded speeches, but nothing is said,” said Mitchell, who stepped out of the Ontario chief’s caucus meeting to regain his composure.

Mitchell said several chiefs had left in frustration.

AFN Ontario regional chief Angus Toulouse said Mitchell’s concerns have been raised by other leaders.

He said the AFN needs to expand to include sessions for administrative staff to focus on technical issues and a separate forum for chiefs to discuss broader issues.

“The AFN is limited because of resources,” said Toulouse.

Mitchell said he was hoping to discuss reported plans by Canada and the U.S. to integrate the border and create a continental security perimeter.

Akwesasne straddles the Canada-U.S. border and residents there face numerous bureaucratic and security hurdles in their daily life as a result.

Mitchell said Canada needed to include Akwesasne in any discussions around integrating the Canada-U.S. border.

“We are gathering as much information as possible,” he said. “Canada has gone ahead and pledged many things on our behalf without consulting or discussing with us.”

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

4 thoughts on “Chiefs frustrated with AFN meeting

  1. That is a good question: “What is it going to be like after we get the Indian Act out?” nnThat topic may be more important than abolishing the Indian Act. For all we know, whatever replaces the Indian Act may end up being worse. Chief Atleo needs to have a greater and more far-seeing vision than just getting rid of the Indian Act. In fact, unless there is a well thought out alternative, the Indian Act may never be replaced.

  2. go ahead and have your meeting with other chiefs and talk about the things you want to talk about. nothing’s stopping you. go ahead.

  3. Chiefs need a forum to discuss issues that are important to their communities…..a format like “Open Space Technology” would work for a large gathering. They would be able to design their own agenda items and time to present topics in smaller group discussions…and report back to the larger group. Gone are the days of the “Talking Heads” – Participatory Action is needed in 2010!! Go to the people, they have the answers!!! Come on now, get with the program!

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