(Ottawa) Leaders and delegates of the First Nations Assembly (AFN) offered holy words and mourning prayers on Tuesday.
This virtual summit set a bad tone for the legislature leading to the election of a new Grand Chief.
The traditional opening ceremony of 42 peoplee AFN’s annual general meeting has been revised to include testimonies of tragedy, but recently found anonymous burials at former residential school sites for tribal children.
Credit First Nation Elder Gary Salt’s Mississauga believes leaders should support and comfort their communities and members as they go through difficult times of awareness by ensuring attendance. Hundreds of unidentified bodies were buried on the sites of former residential schools.
“It is with regret that we must welcome this conference and find ways to discuss reconciliation with a government that does not care,” he said. Salt said.
“This is when we need strong leaders who can unite us with a good attitude to turn our pain into a call for justice for what has happened to our people and what has happened to us.” It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
The boarding school system for tribal children, established by the federal government and administered by the Catholic Church, has been in operation for more than a century. About 150,000 tribal children were forcibly recruited into these institutions, depriving them of their families and communities.
In its 2015 report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that the organization was tantamount to cultural genocide. It describes child abuse, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
The National Residential School Student Death Register, maintained by the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, now has more than 4,000 names.
The general assumption that more will be buried anonymously is that the pain and reminder of the trauma experienced will be real and “it will be very difficult,” Ontario Regional President Glenn Hare told the legislature.
“It was made clear that our first nations must accept the responsibility of caring for our children,” he added.
“We are making our own child welfare laws. It is time for the government to get out of our way. That is our responsibility. This is our jurisdiction,” Chief Hare stressed.
Credit First Nation chief Stacey Loformin Mississauga called for the unity of the first people through “pain and anger.”
He had the opportunity to recite a poem written as a tribute to children who did not return from residential schools.
“Time will tell their story. I will educate the community so that their memory is preserved. When I am asked: “What is reconciliation?” I would say I would love to see them come back to life. I want them to live and grow. I want to hear their laughter, I want to see their smiles “, he concluded:” Give me all this, I will give you reconciliation “.
Tribute to Perry Bellicard
Tribute was paid to outgoing AFN leader Perry Bellicard. In a previously recorded message, he spoke of his praise over the past six years as a spokesman and advocate for the organization’s 634 First Nations, which has more than 900,000 people.
“I believe we will always work together, collaboratively, collectively, and succeed in the ceremony, and then by creating processes that unite rather than divide,” he said.
In a series of messages posted on Twitter over the past few days, the AFN leader said the outgoing person wanted to retain confidence and reach out to non-natives in Canada.
“We all know there is still work to be done. I’m glad to see Canadians, especially young people, entering into a national dialogue on reconciliation. This is progress,” he wrote in particular.
Now he says, Canadians should take the next steps and teach them what is needed to pursue reconciliation with the Indigenous people.
He wants everyone to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and the testimonies of residential school survivors, saying these are “easy things anyone can do.”
“We need all Canadians to get down the path of reconciliation. Canada’s best story has not yet been written.”
Seven candidates are contesting
Seven candidates want the national leader’s successor, including three women. AFN was never mentioned by a woman.
- Alvin Fitler, Grand President of the Nishnavbe Aski Nation, and Roseanne Archibald, Outgoing Regional President of Ontario;
- Kathy Martin from Listugue Migmac, Quebec;
- Kevin Hart of Manitoba, the outgoing regional leader;
- Reginald Belleros, the first head of state of Muscovite, Saskatchewan;
- Lee Crosild, former President of Sootina First Nation, and Jodie Galahu Stonehouse, Managing Director of the Yellowhead Indigenous Education Trust of Alberta.
The resolution seeking to postpone the election was discussed on Tuesday. Some leaders lamented that some colleagues in British Columbia could not participate due to the wildfire outbreak.
In some isolated communities the quality of internet connection was degraded by others. In addition, the AFN charter does not allow online elections, which can be problematic if the results are contested.
However, the resolution confirming that the referendum will take place from Wednesday was defeated.
Several ballots are expected to be required before the winner is announced. A candidate must get 60% of the vote to win. After each round of voting, the candidate with the lowest number of ballots is eliminated until a winner is determined.