NEWS

AFN needs 'to engage at the community level' to stay relevant, says chief

12/09/2014 06:30 EST | Updated 02/08/2015 05:59 EST
First Nations leaders from across Canada are converging on Winnipeg this week to elect a new national chief to the Assembly of First Nations.

The election comes after former national Chief Shawn Atleo quit in May amid criticisms from chiefs that the AFN was getting too close with the Federal Government.

There are three names on the ballot: Perry Bellegard from Saskatchewan, Leon Jourdain from Ontario, and Ghislain Picard, the current interim chief of the AFN.

Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said he is "not certain" he will even attend the event.

All three candidates have said the structure and vision of the AFN needs to change — something Nepinak tends to agree with.

He said the organization is losing touch and is struggling to stay relevant with indigenous people.

“I think if the AFN wants to be relevant on a going-forward basis, it's going to have to engage at the community level,” said Nepinak. “That's something it hasn't done in a very, very long time.”

Pimicikamak (Cross Lake) First Nation Chief Cathy Merrick said she plans to be present for the election, but doesn’t know yet which of the three candidates she will vote for.

“They talk about treaty and aboriginal rights, and we need a leader that will speak and be able to come forth and protect those rights.”

The assembly will also honour Rinelle Harper, and discuss child welfare, First Nations education and missing and murdered indigenous women during their time in Winnipeg.

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