(Former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson. APTN/File Photo)
By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A former Manitoba chief who says the federal Aboriginal Affairs department orchestrated a “coup” against him plans to ask Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for permission to address Iran’s parliament on how Canada treats First Nations people.
Former Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Chief, Terry Nelson, said he wanted to speak to Iran’s parliament on the “economic sanctions” Canada has imposed on First Nations.
“I will go to Iran if they want me to address the issue of economic sanctions and what is happening with our Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Nelson. “The chiefs continue to go meet with (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and don’t do anything more than leave their people suffering.”
Nelson visited Iraq in 1998.
The former chief said he has no choice but to go international after what he calls a “coup” orchestrated by the Aboriginal Affairs department.
Nelson said the department’s decision to cancel a referendum scheduled for Thursday in his community was aimed at ensuring he could not return to power.
Roseau River band members were to vote on whether to elect a band government based on a custom code or one under the Indian Act.
“This was a coup at Roseau River,” said Nelson, who has made national headlines when he called for a national day of action in 2007. “They are not allowing people to make any decisions…there is no democracy.”
Nelson has been voted in repeatedly under section 74 of the Indian Act, but he is opposed by a group that adheres to an election code outside section 74.
The Federal Court issued an interim ruling earlier this month naming the chief elected under the custom code as the legitimate leader of the community.
The ruling is temporary and comes on the heels of a drawn-out power struggle where both sides claimed to be the legitimate government and the department refused to acknowledge either.
The custom council attempted to oust Nelson in the fall and called an election that put current Chief Ken Henry Jr. in power.
The department said in a statement that the planned referendum “has been postponed until further notice.”
The statement said the department planned to “allow chief and council to submit a plan to address governance issues in the community.”
The Winnipeg Free Press reported that Henry planned to have Aboriginal Affairs officials arrested if they came on the reserve to hold the planned referendum.
Nelson won re-election last spring under section 74 of Indian Act election despite the department releasing a forensic audit a week before the vote that slammed Nelson’s council for poor management of band funds and incomplete accounting.
Roseau River is currently under third-party management.
A group of community members protested in Winnipeg Wednesday demanding the department hold the referendum.
Nelson said the federal government has targeted him because of his recent calls for First Nations to assert jurisdiction over oil deposits and pipelines in their territories.
He has also called for unspecified action against oil pipelines.
A motion, partially authored by Nelson, calling on the Assembly of First Nations to back actions against pipelines was rejected in December because the organization feared it promoted “terrorism.”
Nelson planned to hold a press conference Thursday at 1 p.m. local time.
Nelson issued a press release on Jan. 23 stating he was not trying to hang on to his job as chief.
“As I stated many times, I am not running for chief again,” Nelson wrote.
He went on to accuse the federal government of meddling in his band’s affairs.
“They want the court to install a regime that was voted in by less than 13 per cent of the 1,470 eligible voters and they want the court to give them access to millions of dollars currently held in trust for the First Nation,” he wrote.