Serpent River suspends participation at Vancouver gathering over ‘ego’ and lack of leadership at AFN

By day three of the Assembly of First Nations, Serpent River First Nation Chief Brent Bissaillion had seen enough.

“The last few days have been mired in drama and ego and these times of uncertainty distractions and lack of leadership of the AFN,” he told the gathering. “Serpent River will be suspending its participation in today’s assembly and we are going back to our community to hold discussions on our future to our community.

“I want to apologize for this assembly to our elders, our youth and the next generation – we have failed you. We can’t waste any more time on this – our people need us and we are going home – Meegwitch.”

Bissaillion then turned and walked out.

The gathering which officially got underway on Tuesday, has been mired in politics.

National chief RoseAnne Archibald faced a confidence motion as she continued to do battle with the AFN’s executive over what she claims are financial irregularities that she wants investigated.

The coup against her failed – and now she says it’s time to move forward.

“There’s a real healing path forward that has been charted by the chiefs through that resolution they want to see us working together,” Archibald said.

The drama over Archibald’s leadership and the resolution requesting a forensic audit dominated the proceedings that are supposed to be about bettering the lives of First Nations Peoples across the country.

Chiefs vented their frustration with how the event was handled – and so did members of the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council.

“We had the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, we haven’t even had a conversation about that ($40 billion compensation package) and that’s the most important thing that we need to talk about right now and it’s not even on the agenda,” Rosealie Labillois, co-chair of the AFN Youth Council.

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The assembly meeting’s theme is “walking the healing path.” It began the day after the AFN announced a $20-billion settlement to compensate First Nations children and their families over the harms caused by chronic underfunding of child welfare on reserves.

The deal must still be approved by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and Federal Court.

“I want to apologize to them for us sitting here for one and a half days arguing about millions of dollars while we sleep in $400 room hotels,” said Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod. “We eat buffets and we get nothing done.

“I feel frustrated, first and foremost that we’re spending so much time on this and not enough time on the issues that really matter to our communities.”

On day three of the gathering, the forensic audit of the AFN was approved by 75 per cent of chiefs and proxies taking part.

The national chief survived the week – and her wish to have a forensic audit of the AFN was passed – but the question is will there be political will to follow through with it.

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