Former Grassy Narrows chief announces candidacy for AFN national chief

APTN National News
A former chief of Grassy Narrows announced Thursday he’s running for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, making him the third person to the put their name forward for the top job.

Simon Fobister said he was approached by chiefs across Canada to run.

“It would be an honour and privilege to be selected by the chiefs of the First Nations in Canada to represent them as national chief of the AFN,” said Fobister in a statement. “I want to make a difference in working in close cooperation with the chiefs to find solutions to First Nations poverty, the absence of basic infrastructure, housing, potable water and sewer, health and education.”

Fobister joins Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation Chief Perry Bellegarde and current AFN interim National Chief Ghislain Picard.

The election is scheduled to be held in December.

Bellegarde made his announcement last month.

“I am committed to being a catalyst for positive change for First Nations across Canada,” Bellegarde said in a statement. “I want to see Aboriginal rights and tittle and our treaty rights recognized, honoured and implemented.”

Bellegarde conceded to former AFN national chief Shawn Atleo in the 2009 race following a marathon round of voting in Calgary. He was widely expected to run again and had been working the phones, calling chiefs for support over the last several months.

Picard announced his candidacy early last month, as well.

Picard was chosen by the AFN executive to hold the role in the interim after Alteo’s sudden resignation in May.

During his time in office Fobister presided over Grassy Narrows’ decade-long fight with the province over clear-cut logging in their traditional territory. The First Nation launched court action against Ontario’s provincial government. It was a case that eventually made its way to the Supreme Court which sided with the province and ruled clear-cutting did not infringe Grassy Narrows’ treaty harvesting rights.

Grassy Narrows is also the First Nation where toxic waste was dumped into the community’s river system in the 1970s, resulting in severe contamination.

Decades later, people in that community are still coping with the debilitating health impacts of mercury poisoning.

Journalist, educator and former hip hop artist Wab Kinew was also contemplating a run, but is now not expected to enter the race.

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