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The deeply divided and unrepresentative Assembly of First Nations (AFN) needs some major structural changes to survive and be an effective advocate for Canada’s 640 chiefs in dealing with the federal government.
However, the majority of the chiefs who gathered in Halifax this week for the AFN’s annual meeting have wisely decided that too many pressing issues are facing the organization to put off finding a replacement for the ousted national chief Shawn Atleo until the reforms are put in place.
Chief Atleo in May became the first to quit what aboriginal affairs columnist Doug Cuthand has called “the worst job in politics,” when the majority of chiefs were critical of his support for federal reforms to education on reserves, considering him a sell-out.
Faced with an unyielding federal government whose take-it-or-leaveit approach to the aboriginal file has been no different from what it did with the provinces on issues such as health-care funding, the AFN chief was in an untenable position.