The Nova Scotia and Newfoundland chiefs have elected Paqtnkek Chief Paul J. Prosper to represent them in the Assembly of First Nations.
The decision was made on Thursday. Prosper, a lawyer who has worked with the Nova Scotia chiefs since 1995, will hold the position for the next three years.
"I feel ecstatic [but] kind of bittersweet, too, because I thoroughly enjoy being chief of my community," Prosper said. "I love my community, I love the people ... it's something that is certainly deep in my heart."
Prosper has been chief of Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation, near Antigonish, since 2013. But he said he'll have to quit the position to be the regional chief because he can't hold two elected positions.
It's not clear when Prosper will step down, but he anticipates it will be some time before the end of the month. He said he's working on "transition issues."
National Chief Perry Bellegard congratulated Prosper in a tweet.
"I look forward to working together with Regional Chief Prosper to better the lives of the many First Nations in his region," he said.
Prosper said one of his main focuses of being regional chief will be working to formalize the office and to highlight the key issues of the region.
"One certainly would be for government to respect the laws in their country and the decisions provided by their courts within this country, and to implement the treaties that the Mi'kmaq have with the Crown," he said.
"There's a need for understanding and recognition and reconciliation between these rights, which are constitutional rights."
Prosper said there also issues around housing and infrastructure he'd like to tackle.
The Nova Scotia Native Women's Association and the Native Women's Association of Canada had called for a female chief to be appointed for the region. Prosper said he intends to be an advocate for women.
"I have a deep and profound respect for Mi'kmaw women, and women generally, and I look forward to having that opportunity to prove that, to represent their interests in the best way I can," he said.
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