(Photo courtesy Ben Powless)
APTN National News
TORONTO–Calling the last three years an honour and privilege, incumbent Shawn Atleo said First Nations today have much to learn from historic battles waged over rights and resources.
“Today we face some of these very same challenges and just as they did we must listen to one another and to our sacred duties. Just as they did we must be ready to act. And just as they knew, our greatest strength will be by uniting and supporting one another,” he said.
Atleo said that First Nations have arrived at a moment of reckoning. He says his first term has allowed him to formulate a clear plan for the next three years.
“It’s a plan that builds on the efforts of our ancestors, honours all of our citizens and looks to confirm a fair game for our children,” he said.
Atleo, a former British Columbia AFN regional chief, is one of eight candidates vying for the position of national chief of the AFN. He was speaking during the candidates’ forum during the AFN gathering in Toronto where chiefs will vote for national chief on Wednesday.
Atleo said his plan has four main elements including acting on treaties, building governments and economies, caring for the environment and education.
“We must act on our treaties and our inherent rights. We must build governments and economies while caring for our waters and our lands. We must achieve change for our kids delivering excellence in education and health,” he said. “We must support every First Nation to deliver safety, security and healing.”
Atleo spoke of different First Nations across the country who are fighting for their rights and says he stands firm with them.
“Treaties and inherent rights must form the foundation of the relationship with the Crown, not the Indian Act,” he said.
He said the AFN must move toward eliminating legislation that keeps First Nations from resource revenue sharing.
“The Indian Act is a relic of the colonial past and it violates the treaties and inherent rights. We must overcome the Indian Act, a hypocrisy which costs over a billion dollars each year. Money that should be rightly sent directly to you,” he said.
Atleo also called for a full national inquiry into the hundreds of missing & murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“Let’s make a personal commitment, a commitment to end to end violence in our hearts and our homes. This is necessary and it will strengthen us and it will lead us forward,” he said.
Atleo finished his presentation with a further call for unity among chiefs and communities.
“We are stronger together. I will stand with you and I am prepared to lead this effort. Together we will succeed,” he said.