The Assembly of First Nations, leaderless since the resignation of Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on May 2, will hold elections in the fall for a new National Chief.
So far, two have been named as potential contenders to succeed Atleo, who resigned amid fallout from the poorly received First Nations Education Act, which has since been put on hold.
Two possible contenders have been named so far: journalist, professor and musician Wab Kinew, and Innu Chief Ghislain Picard, who has been serving as official spokesperson for the AFN as its remaining leaders plot the next course of action.
There had been some speculation as to whether the AFN was needed at all, given the diverse nature of the 900,000 indigenous people living in 634 First Nation communities, cities and towns across Canada.
However, the organization decided at its 35th General Assembly, being held July 16-17 in Nova Scotia that with a number of important aboriginal issues being pushed to the forefront, and federal elections approaching in 2015, the need for a cohesive body is great than ever.
"We really need a national chief to deal with the current government of Canada, to deal with Stephen Harper and to get ready for the federal election that will be coming," said Roger Fobister, chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario, at the meeting in Halifax, according to the Canadian Press.
The chiefs voted to hold a special meeting in Winnipeg in December to elect a new leader. Picard, AFN regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, has said he is considering a run, reported the Chronicle Herald. And Kinew’s name has been put forth, though he has not officially declared a candidacy.
“We are in a unique era when First Nations people are moving ahead in big ways but still face too many challenges,” he told Now magazine in Toronto. “At the same time, there is a stronger desire among average Canadians to get things right with indigenous people. I want to help make sure we take advantage of those two big trends and take a real step towards the vision our ancestors had of sharing the land [for our] mutual benefit.”
Whether Kinew will have the political clout to win an election is in question, but there are those who think his unique background could be just what the country’s First Nations need.