Ex-AFN national chief Mercredi blasts chiefs over divisions during closed-door meeting

Tensions over Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo’s leadership spilled onto the floor of the 8th floor conference hall at the Marlborough Hotel in Winnipeg this week during a meeting between Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
WINNIPEG–Tensions over Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo’s leadership spilled onto the floor of the 8th floor conference hall at the Marlborough Hotel in Winnipeg this week during a meeting between Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan chiefs.

During the closed-door meeting, Grand Rapids First Nation Councillor Ovide Mercredie, a strong Atleo supporter and former AFN national chief, took to the microphone on Wednesday and berated the chiefs present over their lack of loyalty to the national chief and the AFN.

Mercredi did not return calls requesting comment.

“(Mercredi) said I support Shawn and I don’t want to hear AFN bashing or Shawn bashing,” according to a source who was present at the meeting.

Mercredi also personally confronted Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, whose community is in Ontario, on the sidelines of the meeting over the same issue.

Day, however, wouldn’t comment on the incident.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said Mercredi’s statements were “offensive” to some of the people in the room.

“There was a lot of emotion; there was anger in his statement. He even said he was angry. He used a bit of profanity,” said Nepinak. “There was posturing involved in the statement, which I found to be disrespectful, because where I come from, when people posture it means you are scared of something. I don’t know what he is afraid of. I believe we come together as friends and people who respect one another.”

Mercredi still carries considerable political weight within First Nation political circles and he swung it behind Atleo during this past summer’s AFN election for national chief.

Mercredi also played a key role in the lead up to the Jan. 11 meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Atleo and First Nations leaders. He was involved in 11th hour discussions with Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright over a demand by a number of chiefs who had travelled to Ottawa that the meeting be held in a larger venue.

The Prime Minister’s Office, however, stuck to the original plan and the meeting was held at the Langevin Block, across from Parliament Hill.

Chiefs from Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories boycotted the meeting because they claimed it was being done on Harper’s terms and did not meet the demands of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Spence launched her now-ended fast to force a meeting between the prime minister, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and all First Nations leaders.

On the eve before the meeting, Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox, Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee and Day called on Atleo to cancel the meeting.

Some chiefs from the prairies and Ontario say they feel Atleo is pushing the agenda of British Columbia chiefs at the expense of their own agenda which is based on re-establishing the Crown-First Nations relationship on the numbered and pre-Confederation treaties. Most of B.C. is not covered by treaties and many chiefs there are pushing for modern-day agreements.

Atleo wields considerable support in British Columbia and in a conference call following the Jan. 11 meeting, chiefs there expressed their full support for him and criticized his opposition. One of the chiefs on the call blamed former AFN national chief candidate Pam Palmater for fomenting dissent.

Atleo’s supporters believe much of the opposition Atleo faces stems from the recent electoral battle that saw Palmater finish a distant second.

Nepinak said during a press conference Thursday that there is now a push to hold an AFN all-chiefs assembly in Saskatoon in early March.

Nepinak also said there was talk of reviving a treaty alliance to push the treaty agenda.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Ex-AFN national chief Mercredi blasts chiefs over divisions during closed-door meeting

  1. while in Saskatoon all the chiefs I believe need to address their local needs and problems in each province, and have each provincial government address these concerns. Once these concerns are being addressed, then they can combine as a national majority to bring all the nations together as one and then address the national concerns of all the nations and again become one, as it was in the beginning.

    Just maybe Mr Mercredi in his own way is trying to bring the nations together with out the needless bickering at a most important time for all first nations. And to walk away from that and all you get is feeling disrespected? wow. I on the other hand believe he showed great respect to be able to talk to the chiefs that way. I know he was not comfortable doing it but he felt it needed to be done. All I know is that it is very difficult to bring so many people together as one, especially when all have very different needs.

  2. Sorry,
    AFN National Chief is not a free ride. It is an office that requires performance
    that benefits the people. Shawn Atleo has yet to prove he is able to
    do that.

  3. The Treaty’s must be honored this is a move by Harper to get rid of those rights. Atleo has a duty to stand up for all First Nations.

  4. Personally speaking I side with Chief Nepinak and other chief who allied to boycott the meeting. Why because they had a clue it would be a meeting just to have another . They carried the majority the day. And by consensus the meeting should d not have happened that day. Atleo failed to uphold a long standing tradition of bowing to consensus and chose to advance his own cause with few behind him. I have no respect for this and him now. Precontact all our F.N. Gov. Functioned on this long standing way of governance . People got to understand that once we trample our traditions then it is we who will suffer. Democracy is an off shute of consensus which the ppl from overseas saw rise out of consensus governance .

  5. Like i’ve been saying, Mb Chiefs have too many Chiefs with personal agendas and need to be more considerate of how they got there. It was’t AMC thats for sure, it was their people and it’s their demands you were supposed to bring forward. Nepinak is only a chiefs representative and should not have any decision making over our agenda. Support is all you have and UNITY should be for all. Do your jobs.

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