First Nations activist calls for the impeachment of AFN Chief Shawn Atleo over education bill

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

'#IMPEACHATLEO'

That's the hashtag that First Nation lawyer and activist Pam Palmater is using to promote her new blog post about what's wrong with the Bill C-33, the so-called First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

In the very thorough column, published here, Palmater claims that under the new deal — endorsed by Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo — Ottawa retains all of its control over First Nation education except over some limited administrative functions; she argues that funding is inadequate and will be eaten up by new bureaucracies; and she complains that the Act excludes First Nation control over their students within their territories but off reserve.

Palmater's arguments echo those of Chiefs from five provinces who held a press conference in Ottawa on Monday. Those Chiefs — from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec — expressed their dissatisfaction with Atleo's endorsement of the Bill and served notice that they will do what they can to block the legislation from passing.

"We are planning, whether they be deemed demonstrations, rallies … to again get attention," Grand Chief Michael Delisle said, according to the Canadian Press.

"But I think [the] Canadian economy, eventually, will be the target. Again, I can’t give you specifics today, but we’re prepared to take whatever action [is] necessary to ensure the control is not taken away from us."

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But Palmater says that Atleo has to go.

"I am calling on First Nations leaders to hold a special assembly for the purposes of removing Shawn Atleo as National Chief," Pamater,who ran against Atleo for AFN Chief in 2012, told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"This is not about politics, elections or any other purpose – it’s is about protecting our inherent rights, Aboriginal and treaty rights. We need to send Harper a very strong message that we do not accept his agenda of assimilation. That he can’t rely on the National Chief to cut deals on our inherent, Aboriginal and treaty rights."

Palmater — who served as a spokesperson for the Idle No More movement — argues that Atleo has no inherent political authority to 'negotiate' a deal on First Nations' behalf. She says that his sole job is to advocate "strenuously and arrange meetings for the real rights holders to engage in negotiations if they so choose."

"For the most part, we, First Nations, used to be unified in our position. For decades, First Nations, asserted their sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction over all aspects of education as well as their treaty rights to funded education," she said.

"It was the actions of National Chief Atleo and the AFN that broke our unity. We have tried to restore this unity ever since to no avail. The AFN has stopped listening to its Chiefs, has over-stepped its political and legal authority and has marginalized those who voice opposition. Grassroots people are working frantically to raise their concerns and pressure their Chiefs to stop this legislation, but the AFN simply won’t listen.

"I think Atleo should be removed for having destroyed our unity, our political cohesiveness, and our leverage. Our best chance is to remove him, put AFN back in its place and let Harper know that First Nations are still in charge, not AFN. First Nations have never subscribed to the mythical race of Indians perpetuated by Canada, and have never sought one-size-fits-all-Indians as a solution. Nothing has changed with education – different Nations have different issues, priorities and needs."

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In her email, Palmater references Article 22, paragraph 2 of the AFN’s Charter which says "The National Chief shall be elected for a three-year term and be eligible for re-election but may be removed by a majority of 60 per cent of the registered representatives of First Nations at a Special Assembly convened by the Confederacy of Nations for that purpose."

Atelo has been AFN chief since 2009. His second term ends in July 2015.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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