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TORONTO — Compromise is for losers, read the T-shirt worn by one delegate to the Assembly of First Nations leadership convention. As it turns out….not so much.
Shawn Atleo, who boasts proudly of his background as a mediator and facilitator, beat seven other candidates to retain the AFN leadership, winning on the third ballot.
A number of them, including his closest rival, Pam Palmater, had called for the AFN to start wielding a big stick in its dealings with Ottawa. Ms. Palmater openly accused Mr. Atleo of selling the AFN’s soul to the devil. Mr. Atleo countered by talking tough about the prospect for unilateral action. “We will never compromise,” he told delegates Tuesday.
But, in reality, the National Chief knows he needs a willing partner in Ottawa if he wants to achieve his goals of reforming land claims policy and ushering in resource revenue sharing.
Much of the rhetoric this week was about the need for change. But the 540 chiefs who voted decided discretion was the better part of valour. Co-operation and compromise won out over confrontation as the way to deliver changes to comprehensive claims policy, economic development and native education.
Yet it fell short of an acclamation. That nearly half of the chiefs voted against Mr. Atleo on the first ballot suggests he has almost as many doubters as advocates. The main job of national chief is to get the money from the “shoonian okimaw” (literally, the money boss or the Aboriginal Affairs department). Many delegates muttered darkly about Mr. Atleo’s failure to squeeze more cash from the feds. This signals trouble ahead, given the healthy disregard many aboriginals have for their chiefs.
For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/07/18/john-ivison-co-operation-wins-over-confrontation-as-afn-re-elects-shawn-atleo/