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First Nations chiefs set to elect national leader

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    ... From: RUSSELL DIABO To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;@priv-edmwaa03.telusplanet.net Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 6:44 AM Subject: First Nations chiefs set to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 11 7:03 AM
      ----- Original Message -----
      To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;@...
      Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 6:44 AM
      Subject: First Nations chiefs set to elect national leader

      First Nations chiefs set to elect national leader

      Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine

      CTV.ca News Staff

      Updated: Tue. Jul. 11 2006 8:57 AM ET

      Phil Fontaine is to arrive in Vancouver today, where the Assembly of First Nations will decide this week whether to give him a third term as national chief.

      The AFN's 27th annual general assembly will begin on Tuesday, one day before more than 600 chiefs will vote for their next national chief.

      The two-term incumbent's only challenger is Chief Bill Wilson of British Columbia, who contends Fontaine's political affiliation with the former federal Liberal government could hurt the assembly.

      "If (Fontaine) gets elected he is going to be for the next three years the impotent national chief. I intend to be the important one,'' Wilson told The Canadian Press on Monday.

      "Phil is constantly saying that doors are open to government, well perhaps they are, but I'll tell you something, the doorman happens to be a Conservative, not a Liberal," said Wilson, the former co-chair of B.C.'s First Nations Summit.

      The 62-year-old lawyer and member of the Cape Mudge band on Vancouver Island has the support of past AFN chiefs Ovid Mercredi and Matthew Coon Come.

      "Bill is running on an aboriginal rights agenda. I know that he would never sacrifice his principles for programs," said a statement of endorsement from Coon Come, who now works in Ottawa for the Grand Council of the Crees.

      Wilson, who is known as a sharp-tongued speaker, agreed some of his past comments about "the white man'' have been controversial.

      During a meeting over land rights in the late 1980s, B.C. native leaders called on Wilson to address a group of white lawyers after what they believed were condescending remarks.

      Wilson said he reluctantly agreed and launched into a lecture, during which he contended European settlers were not exactly knights in shining armour when they arrived.

      "For the most part, they were the people from the ghettos in London and Liverpool and all over Europe who simply couldn't make a living there," he said.

      "'Why would they leave if they were doing so well? Realistically, you're nothing but a bunch of dirty, smelly, white people who fell off the boats and had we known what you were going to do to us, perhaps we should have considered killing you all."

      Wilson has said the lawyers gave him a round of applause.

      Wilson acknowledged his comments were controversial but said he wouldn't have had the same record of accomplishments if he didn't risk being offensive.

      "I was an egotistical, arrogant guy and I happen to consider myself to be talented and relatively good-looking, even in my old age, and you say things when you're young because of effect.''

      But some observers say the fact that Fontaine is only up against one challenger means he is favoured to win a third term.

      It will be the first meeting of Canada's aboriginal chiefs since Fontaine secured a $1.9-billion windfall settlement for former students of residential schools.

      At a meeting in Kelowna last fall, Fontaine also managed to get then-prime minister Paul Martin and the premiers to agree to a 10-year, federal-provincial deal to help aboriginal people.

      While the plan has fallen by the wayside under the current government, the Tories have promised that natives will receive $450 million in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 in areas of priority that include education; advancing socio-economic conditions for women, children and families; and improving the water supply and housing on reserves.

      © Copyright 2002-2006 Bell Globemedia Inc.

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