Newly elected Assembly of First Nations chief Perry Bellegarde speaks to his delegates in Winnipeg

Newly elected Assembly of First Nations chief Perry Bellegarde speaks to his delegates in Winnipeg

‘Canada is Indian land,’ says First Nations chief Bellegarde

The group's new national chief vowed to stand up to any pipeline or government project intended for First Nations land.



The Assembly of First Nations’ new national chief Perry Bellegarde spoke to his delegates in Winnipeg on Wednesday, delivering a rousing victory speech months after former leader Shawn Atleo resigned from the position in May.

“To the people across this great land, I say to you, that the values of fairness and tolerance which Canada exports to the world, are a lie when it comes to our people,” Bellegarde told the assembly in Manitoba. “Canada will no longer develop pipelines, no longer develop transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual.

“We will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our lands and territories and resources.

“Canada is Indian land. This is my truth and this is the truth of our people.”

**********

Perry Bellegard: ‘Canada is Indian land’

By Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG – The new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says it will no longer be business as usual when it comes to development on First Nations land.

In a fiery speech to assembly delegates in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s Perry Bellegarde singled out pipelines and energy development as one of the frontlines in his battle to put First Nations on equal footing with the rest of Canada.

“To the people across this great land, I say to you, that the values of fairness and tolerance which Canada exports to the world, are a lie when it comes to our people,” Bellegarde said.

“Canada will no longer develop pipelines, no longer develop transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual.

“That is not on.”

He pledged opposition to any project that deprives First Nations a share of the profits.

“We will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our lands and territories and resources,” he said.

“If our lands and resources are to be developed, it will be done only with our fair share of the royalties, with our ownership of the resources and jobs for our people. It will be done on our terms and our timeline.”

His final remarks drew one of the loudest responses from the crowd.

“Canada is Indian land,” he said. “This is my truth and this is the truth of our peoples.”

Bellegarde took 63 per cent of the 464 first-ballot votes cast, more than the 60 per cent required for victory.

Ghislain Picard, the assembly’s interim leader, finished second. Leon Jourdain, chief of the Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario, finished third.

Bellegarde, who is chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, ran a campaign that focused on a pledge to restore pride among First Nations and focus on self-determination.

He told reporters the assembly under his leadership will “be respectful, it’s going to be responsive and it’s going to be relevant to First Nations people.”

“I believe it’s a strong mandate and I’m humbled.”

Bellegarde will have an extra six months added to his three-year term as the organization restructures amid questions about its relevance.

Many argue the assembly should wean itself off federal funding, while others have argued it doesn’t reflect the views and concerns of grassroots people.

The AFN’s top job came open earlier this year when former national chief Shawn Atleo resigned due to fallout from his support of a controversial federal act to reform First Nations education.

Ken Coates, senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, followed the election campaign. He said opinion among First Nations is split between those who want to negotiate more rights for aboriginals and those who say treaties don’t need to be rewritten, but properly enforced.

Bellegarde represents the latter, he said.

“He’s more outspoken,” Coates said. “He’s more likely to say dramatic things.”

Bellegarde has a difficult job ahead, he said.

For the first year at least, the national chief will have to focus on reshaping and redefining the organization, Coates said. The political landscape for aboriginal rights has changed so quickly the assembly has to catch up.

The Idle No More movement that saw nationwide protests was as much a rejection of aboriginal leadership as it was of the federal government, he suggested.

“The status quo is not acceptable. It’s obvious people want to go in a different direction.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rendering of the proposed Esquimalt public safety building. (Courtesy Township of Esquimalt)
Esquimalt blazes new trail toward modern public safety building

Township using alternative approval process for first time to gauge public support for proposal

Landmarks such as Howard the giant gnome at Galey's Farm in Saanich make a stunning backdrop for celebratory dance in the Greater Victoria Festival Society trailer for its coming Dance Victoria campaign. (Screeshot/Greater Victoria Festival Society)
Residents’ videos help campaign Dance Across Victoria

Celebratory dance clips to be compiled into Greater Victoria Festival Society video

Reynolds Secondary School’s spring musical Freaky Friday features Grace Fouracre as teen Ellie Blake (left) who swaps bodies with her overworked mother, Katherine, played by Nadia Lurie. (Photo courtesy Reynolds Secondary School)
Saanich high school goes virtual with Freaky Friday musical

Reynolds Secondary theatre program to livestream performances March 9-12

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Saanich Fire Department. Black Press Media File Photo
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read