Six candidates looking to become the next National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
Posted November 29, 2023 4:17 pm.
Last Updated November 29, 2023 6:41 pm.
Six candidates have put their names on the ballot to become the next National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, after former AFN National Chief Roseanne Archibald, who became the first woman to lead the AFN in 2021, was ousted following an investigation into her leadership.
“We need to speak in a common voice, in solidarity with each other,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
All six candidates gathered at a forum in Winnipeg Wednesday, ahead of the December 6 vote. Cindy Woodhouse is one of two Manitoba representatives vying for the job.
She has recently been serving as the AFN Regional Chief for Manitoba. Woodhouse has been an advocate for clean water and better housing for First Nation communities and recently went to the United Nations to talk about these issues.
“Our membership codes and the way we are treated in this country is wrong and we can’t be discriminated once again through other bills and legislation, so we have to be strong in Parliament,” said Woodhouse.
Sheila North is also one of the candidates from Manitoba. She is a journalist and former Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak. She says unity among Indigenous people is important.
“We have to be at the driving, you have to be at the driving force, and I want to make AFN responsive and inclusive of what you are saying needs to be done at AFN,” said North.
Reginald Bellerose says funding the needs of people living in remote and northern communities is vital.
“When it comes to housing, mental health, training, access to primary health care, that is all different from the southern perspective,” said Bellerose.
Candidates Dean Sayers, Craig Makinaw, and David Pratt all say it’s important for Indigenous people to chart their own path and begin moving forward.
“Our inherent rights; our inherent obligations were never surrendered in any treaty. We never gave up the right to manage water. We never gave up the right to manage the forest, those are our relatives,” said Sayers.
Makinaw added, “We need to find different ways to promote and enforce our treaties and our inherent rights.”
Meanwhile, Pratt stated, “Our people are hurting. We’re still dealing with all the impacts from the residential school system, and we learn that lateral violence from the colonizers. Everyone is at their own stage in their healing path, and we have to respect each other as we are on our own healing path.”
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick says it would be great to see a Manitoban representative as the National Chief.
“Having the highest population, First Nation people in the country, here in Manitoba. We need a voice that will be able to speak to that population, for that population,” said Merrick.