The annual general meeting of the Assembly of First Nations begins on Tuesday under a cloud of uncertainty and division among top leaders that threatens to overshadow the meeting.
At the event, which runs through Thursday at the Vancouver Convention Center, hundreds of chiefs, elders, youth and representatives will consider resolutions and reports that will set the organization’s goals for the year on reconciliation, housing, care children and the continuing healing of the legacy of residential schools.
But the suspension of national chief Roseanne Archibald, who has raised allegations of corruption and intimidation against the AFN’s executive council, is likely to dominate the three-day assembly.
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Archibald, the first woman elected as national chief, was suspended by the AFN in June, a day after she publicly called for an internal investigation and financial audit. She also claimed that allegations of intimidation and harassment against her were being used to silence her attempts to reform the organization.
The AFN has since reversed an earlier statement that Archibald was barred from attending this week’s meetings, saying he will be allowed to speak on a resolution upholding his suspension.
However, a new draft of the general assembly agenda eliminated several scheduled appearances by Archibald, including his keynote address on Tuesday.
On Twitter, Archibald accused AFN regional chiefs of “continuing to try to silence me (and) my call for transparency, accountability and truth” by removing her from the agenda.
An Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed Archibald’s urgent request for the court to find his suspension unlawful and sided with the AFN, which argued that indigenous peoples can manage their own affairs.
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But one expert says the drama surrounding Archibald and the AFN leadership threatens to undermine that constitutional right to self-government.
“A lot of people in this country … aren’t really comfortable with the idea of indigenous peoples being full partners in the Confederation and they’ll take an example like this and say, ‘Look, I told you so,'” said Ken Coates, professor of public policy at the University of Saskatchewan who studies indigenous rights.
He added that if Archibald’s suspension is ratified at the general assembly, “it will cause even more dissension and difficulty, so we will be watching (meetings) more closely than in recent years.”
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The issue has become a sore point for chiefs and elders attending the meeting, many of whom still recognize Archibald as their national chief despite AFN’s suspension.
“She was voted in,” said Sts’ailes tribal chief Ralph Leon (Sah-ahkw), adding that Archibald has a duty to attend the general assembly.
“No one has that right to ban our national chief from their meeting,” he said. “This is where you get direction from all the bosses, so you can’t do your job without being here.”
A “show of solidarity” for Archibald is being arranged independently for Tuesday morning before the day’s events begin.
National Chief RoseAnne Archibald suspended from Assembly of First Nations
The general assembly is still expected to include comments from several other First Nations leaders and regional chiefs from across the country, who will present the resolutions that will be put to a vote.
resolutions They range from calling for a committee of AFN chiefs on residential schools and legal fee reimbursements for survivors, to addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on indigenous communities and supporting their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AFN will also mark a historic $20 billion final settlement with the federal government to compensate First Nations children and families harmed by chronic underfunding of child welfare on the reservation.
The deal, announced Monday, was hailed by Indigenous Services Canada as the largest in Canadian history.
— archived by Neetu Garcha of Global and Canadian Press
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