Canada’s First Nations chiefs gather in Winnipeg for three days this week for a momentous meeting that could set the tone for how indigenous leaders assert their demands to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in coming months. Several hundred chiefs from the country’s largest aboriginal group — the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) — will elect a new national chief. Will that chief be a hard-edged rebel who adopts angry, perhaps even threatening, rhetoric to get the attention of Mr. Harper and the rest of the country?
Or will he try to use logic to persuade Mr. Harper to accept aboriginal demands on issues such as First Nations education funding and control of schools, treaty rights, missing and murdered indigenous women and shared natural resource development? There’s a lot on the line — for the unity, peace and self-image of Canada, for the many thousands of aboriginals living in poverty and for the future of the AFN, which has been accused of becoming irrelevant to the First Nations’ “grassroots.” Postmedia’s Mark Kennedy takes a look at what to watch for as the meeting begins Tuesday.
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