Chiefs want work done at Assembly of First Nations general meeting despite chief’s suspension
Chiefs from across Canada are gathering in Vancouver this week as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) prepares to hold its first in-person general assembly in three years.
The 43rd annual meeting, titled Walking the Road to Healing, is taking place July 5-7 on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nation territory.
This comes amid growing divisions and tensions at the AFN, which defends 634 First Nations, following the suspension of National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.
Regional chiefs suspended her last month after she made public statements accusing four staff of asking for more than $1 million in severance packages. She also called for a forensic audit alleging corruption within the organization.
However, the leaders present at the assembly hope that the situation will not divert the planned agenda. Annual General Meetings are for leaders to set priorities and strategic direction for the organization.
“We need to stay focused on what we’re doing and why we’re here,” said Chief Ralph Leon of Sts’ailes First Nation in British Columbia.
« Our people in our communities depend on us to do a good job, so we need to keep doing that. »
As the assembly officially opens on Tuesday, dialogue sessions were held on Monday on housing, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, specific claims, languages and policing. These are questions that will be debated throughout the week during the assembly.
The national leader also faces an expected vote of no confidence. Archibald was initially barred from attending the Vancouver assembly, but the AFN overturned that decision.
Dalton Silver, Chief of the Sumas First Nation in British Columbia, expressed similar sentiments to Leon.
« It’s certainly a distraction from the ongoing business that many of our nations want to do at a meeting like this regarding our interactions with the federal government, » Silver said.
“Much of what happens is an administrative possibility at the head office in Ottawa and I would like it to be dealt with there, but it seems to be [will] take place in the main plenary of the assembly. »