Saskatchewan’s Perry Bellegarde faces many challenges as the new National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The organization is in crisis after Shawn Atleo resigned from the post before the end of his term.
A number of chiefs felt he acted too independently and was too cozy with the Harper government in Ottawa.
Bellegarde’s first challenge will be to convince the chiefs that he needs a degree of independence to be effective, and that cooperation with government can result in meaningful change.
If the national chief works closely with Ottawa, there may be movement on calls for a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Bellegarde also needs to focus on education. A majority of chiefs across the country want the government to kill Bill C-33, the Control of First Nations Education Act.
They want the money for schools that would come with the legislation but don’t want government to dictate reform of the education system.
Bellegarde should definitely encourage all First Nations to improve education on reserves.
He should also strongly support a proposed First Nations Property Ownership Act, which will allow Indigenous communities to become more self-sufficient.
Hopefully the new national chief will make good decisions and be supported by the Assembly of First Nations.
I’m Roger Currie. Join us again next week for more thoughts on the Frontier.
For more on Aboriginal policy, visit www.fcpp.org