Atleo illness creates uncertainty with First Nations talks

Jan 15, 2013 | News

By Ian Gill (Ecotrust Canada) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Ian Gill (Ecotrust Canada) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Christian Quequish

National Chief of Assembly of First Nations, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, has been given medical advice to take time off in the midst of ongoing negotiations between the federal government and First Nations.

New questions were raised about Atleo’s departure. According to a CBC report, Saskatchewan Regional Chief, Perry Bellegarde said “Atleo’s need for time off is probably a combination of the illness and the stress of the last week.”

“I regret to have to tell you that those long days have caught up with me,” said Atleo in a press release on Monday and sent to Humber News.

Shelley Charles, Elder Advisor on Aboriginal Relations at Humber College told Humber News that the momentum gained by the grassroots movement Idle No More could be lost in the next couple of days.

“I think AFN should be embracing grassroots leaders as advisors and no meeting should be stalled or cancelled because he isn’t present,” said Charles.

She added that she hopes Atleo’s sickness isn’t anything serious, but she said she can understand why he would be “extremely stressed out.”

Charles said there are issues such as environmental, water, fisheries, treaties and education that haven’t been resolved yet.

“It must be difficult for him, because these issues have not been resolved for several years now,” said Charles.

Atleo’s inability to reach a consensus on behalf of First Nations communities could have had a stressful impact on him, personally, Charles said.

“On a very personal level, this is a good opportunity to ask the founders of Idle No More movement to let us know what the voice of the people have been saying,” said Charles.

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Chair of the Board of Directors for Canadian Roots Exchange, said that it’s essential that First Nations have a national voice, and that AFN serves that purpose.

“I do not expect the Prime Minister of Canada, whether it’s Conservative, Liberal or NDP to be in the position to meet with 632 individual chiefs on a regular basis, it’s just impossible,” said Wesley-Esquimaux.

Regional Chiefs Jody Raybould and Roger Augustine have been put in place by AFN to look over negotiations, said Wesley-Esquimaux.

Manitoba and Ontario chiefs spoke about the possibility of a non-confidence vote in Atleo during the boycotting of the Jan. 11 meeting with the prime minister, according to a CBC report.