Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Special chiefs meeting set

-- Manitoba could opt out of AFN -- Atleo's leadership in question

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First Nations in Manitoba will gather at the Marlborough Hotel next week to discuss treaty implementation and whether the province's bands should refuse to allow the Assembly of First Nations to speak for them on treaty negotiations any longer.

Many Manitoba chiefs were livid last week when AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, even though Harper didn't bend to the demands of many chiefs to include Gov. Gen. David Johnston and hold the meeting at a larger, more neutral location than Harper's own office.

Manitoba was not at the table for the meeting. Neither was anyone from Ontario or the Northwest Territories. Numerous chiefs from other provinces boycotted.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has now called a special chiefs assembly for next Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss treaty implementation. A source says the agenda's main item is going to be whether the Manitoba chiefs will support Atleo's leadership and whether Manitoba will vote to no longer allow the AFN to speak for the province on treaty negotiations with the federal government.

Treaty First Nations from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Northwest Territories will attend on Wednesday.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak wrote earlier this week to Harper asking him to reconsider and agree to a meeting with Johnston, particularly as that is what it is going to take to get Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to end her hunger strike.

"Although it is apparent that growing political dissension is of no consequence to you, we will continue to try to appeal to your higher sensibilities of humanity and love for others to preserve life when given the choice," Nepinak wrote Jan. 14.

Many treaty First Nations argue their treaties were with the Queen, and therefore her representative in Canada should be at the table for treaty implementation discussions.

The government and some other chiefs, however, argue the executive power of the Crown now lies with the prime minister and it would be inappropriate for Johnston to participate. The governor general does not partake in day-to-day policy activities of the government.

Manitoba chiefs are themselves divided about what to do.

Former AMC grand chief Ron Evans, now the chief of Norway House, said he didn't agree with the decision not to attend the meeting with Harper, and said the decision was not made with proper input from all chiefs in Manitoba.

Only chiefs who could afford to get to Ottawa were involved in the discussion, said Evans.

Evans said he understands the governor general doesn't have any real power, and to reject a meeting with the prime minister because Johnston wasn't there was foolish.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Queen won't intervene in hunger strike

OTTAWA -- The Queen has rejected an appeal to intervene in Chief Theresa Spence's liquids-only protest, but says she is taking "careful note" of concerns for the chief's health.

In a letter dated Jan. 7, Buckingham Palace tells a supporter of Spence that the chief should deal instead with the federal cabinet.

"This is not a matter in which The Queen would intervene," says the letter.

"As a constitutional Sovereign, Her Majesty acts through her personal representative, the Governor General, on the advice of her Canadian Ministers and, therefore, it is to them that your appeal should be directed."

The letter also says the Queen understands the concerns about the welfare of Spence, who is now well into her sixth week of protest, surviving on fish broth and tea.

"Her Majesty has taken careful note of the concern you express for the welfare of Attawapiskat First Nations Chief Theresa Spence who is currently on a politically motivated hunger strike in Canada."

The response is addressed to Jonathan Francoeur, a small businessman in British Columbia who took it upon himself to write to the Queen on Dec. 15. It is signed by Miss Jennie Vine, deputy to the senior correspondence officer.

"I was reading a (Facebook) post and it was explaining the cause," Francoeur said in a telephone interview, when asked why he wrote to Buckingham Palace.

"It said to support the cause, it would be good for somebody to write the Queen and the prime minister."

 

-- The Canadian Press

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 A4

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