By Shari Narine - Windspeaker
When grassroots First Nations people were pushing Harper for answers, the Assembly of First Nations gave the Prime Minister a way out.
“I’m not putting a value judgement on that,” said Wab Kinew, director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg.
Kinew was referring to the thousands of mainly Indigenous people who gathered throughout the months of December and January to protest omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45, which brought in changes to legislation on how First Nations business is conducted and to legislation controlling development that impacts the environment.
While rallies took place at provincial legislatures, Parliament Hill and other sites, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with representatives from a divided AFN membership, which presented him with an 11-point document. The outcome of the meeting was a pledge by Harper to work with First Nations at a high level.
“We have to be politically pragmatic. That means we have to understand that when you put political pressure on a group of people they are going to seek a way to resolve the situation. I was just presenting an analysis that presents the Assembly of First Nations in these last few weeks as being that sort of help for the federal government,” said Kinew.
Kinew said the actions of Idle No More, which represents the grassroots, and AFN, led by National Chief Shawn Atleo, are not at cross-purposes, but rather there is a “disconnect” between the values being pushed by the AFN executive and the priorities set by the Idle No More movement.
“So what I’m suggesting is that Idle No More needs to engage and either present an alternative emissary for the federal government to deal with or work with the AFN to make sure that the priorities of the people you see coming out to the grassroots events are shared by the people at the Assembly of First Nations.”