FSIN Chief Candidates Spell Out Platforms
Wednesday, October 15, 2003 at 14:34
With the FSIN election just a day away, the three candidates vying for the federation’s top post addressed the annual assembly of the Prince Albert Grand Council yesterday.
Incumbent chief Perry Bellegarde called for a number of changes to the justice system and the treaty commission. Bellegarde says the recommendations of the Justice Reform Commission should be implemented once they’re released.
As well, he wants a re-thinking of how First Nations people deal with the federal government at a treaty level.
Bellegarde also took the opportunity to address the deficit situation the FSIN currently finds itself in. He cites legal battles with Indian Affairs and challenges to the First Nations Governance and Gun Control Acts as prime contributors to the loss.
Challenger Alphonse Bird also laid out his campaign platform yesterday — one that centres heavily around economic development. The former manager of the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert believes First Nations training institutes in the province have to do a better job of recognizing the economic demands of the times. Bird gives the future construction of a graphite mine in Southend and diamond mine at Fort a la Corne as examples of initiatives that will require detailed training in the near future.
As well, he wants to see the office of the FSIN working more constructively with government on financial issues.
Bird says the federation also has to be ready for the possibility of a Saskatchewan Party win in next month’s provincial election. He says if that happens and the party follows through with its intentions of selling off Crown corporations, the FSIN has to find a way of grabbing some of the shares. He says, that way, more hirings of First Nations people will happen.
The other challenger to the current chief is Wes George. An expert in the field of international indigenous rights, George sees the arena of law as being a potential springboard to the realization of regional, national and international First Nations objectives.
George laid out what he calls a pro-active action plan to the delegates in the assembly yesterday. One of his plan’s main strategies calls for the FSIN to lobby for the elimination of the Indian Affairs department. George says band members only receive a fraction of the dollars earmarked for them through treaty obligations, and most of it is eaten away by bureaucracy.
He also wants to see increased communication between First Nations communities, as well as women taking a more active role in the day-to-day decision-making of the bands.
He also says First Nations business is a vital area that shouldn’t be overlooked as it can play a key role in treaty protection and promotion.