Perry Bellegarde confidently won a second term as the Assembly of First Nations National Chief. We offer our congratulations on his election success. It was a hard won struggle. We can see that he had obviously done his homework and had worked hard. He clearly outperformed the second place finisher Sheila North by over two hundred ballots.
National Chief Bellegarde brings a long-term vision looking well into the next 150 years with his plan to “build a better country for all of us.” His win shone all the brighter when compared to the depths Ms. North lowered herself while she campaigned with ignorance and name-calling.
Normally, we would applaud for all the candidates as well as have applause for the winner. Normally, there would be compliments for all candidates about all their hard work and debates. But, unfortunately, as the result of this election, we cannot applaud Ms. North’s shameful behaviour.
Ms. North had no coherent or thought-out election campaign. North failed to build the necessary relationships to carry her across the winner’s finish line. She failed to distinguish herself from the pack. Her election bid is best to be forgotten. But before we forget this week in Vancouver, we must ask what kind of politician she is and whether she has aspirations to be anything more than an angry mud-slinger.
North will be remembered by her unfounded and irrational attack on the federal Liberal government at the AFN election. North was quoted as saying “We need a national chief who can sit at the table with Liberals without becoming one.” She also confronted Minister Bennett’s presence at the AFN election as “a disgusting display of interference.”
While National Chief Bellegarde took the high road in building relationships with the federal Liberal Government and with First Nations, Ms. North stated without reason that “It’s disgusting. We have to find a way to unify for the heart of our people.” How she can talk about unity by attacking making productive relationships? It’s a mystery.
The federal Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken action as no other government across Canada – federal or provincial – has previously done for the Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations. Ms. North’s attacks on the federal Liberal Government leave us to question her reasoning. In attacking the current government, she either doesn’t understand or she is ignoring the good work that is being done.
The federal Liberal Government is making unprecedented investments in First Nations education, health, governance, housing and infrastructure. The federal Liberal Government is making positive policy and legislative changes at a rate unheard in generations.
Ms. North has forgotten or intentionally ignores that it is this federal Liberal Government that is taking steps to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it was a Conservative Government that walked away from it.
Ms. North has also forgotten, or again, intentionally ignores, this Liberal Government’s innovative and groundbreaking 10 Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. No Conservative government in recent memory has done anything like this.
Ms. North has conveniently overlooked that this federal Liberal Government is currently developing a Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework. Again, this is a government that is making change.
She has displayed very short-term thinking. This can’t possibly be good or helpful for First Nation’s people in the long run. How can she return to MKO to be an effective leader for our First Nations in the North? How is this possible? When it comes to having a relationship with the current government she has now become what is called a Lame Duck.
Is she now going to turn to support Andrew Scheer, leader of the federal Conservative opposition? Or, possibly, Brian Pallister, the Premier of Manitoba? She must remember that recent Conservative governments – federal and provincial – have decreased social funding, increased restrictions to the exercise of self-government, and flatly denied other indigenous rights.
What was her plan for winning the AFN election? What is her plan now? What can she be thinking? How will she help her people? Unfortunately, for many it is becoming increasingly apparent that she has no plans and that there is no thinking at all. Sadly, this lack of leadership may hurt her people today and for many years to come.