TORONTO - If the federal government wants its pipeline, it better be prepared to fall in line with First Nations demands, the re-elected national Assembly of First Nations chief warned Thursday.
B.C.‘s Shawn Atleo attempted to shake off his nice-guy image a day after winning over delegates at the AFN meeting in Toronto to get another three-year mandate, with a message that sounded more like a shakedown.
He said the Harper government needs to work in partnership with First Nations or be faced with further protest to hold up the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
“If efforts to develop the pipeline are contrary to free, prior and informed of First Nations, the responsibility of the national chief is to stand with those First Nations, and I will absolutely do so,” Atleo said.
Atleo was criticized by other contenders, including Ryerson University professor Pam Palmater, in his bid for re-election because they thought he was too co-operative with the feds. But he insists his “people will stand up” if the government doesn’t fulfil its obligations.
He even slipped in a bit of his militant past – that he previously blocked a B.C. ferry in a canoe because a sacred site in Nanaimo, B.C. was being desecrated.
“You don’t choose who the prime minister is,” he said. “You’re instructed to work with all parties, we have done that throughout the course of the last three years.”
During his term, Atleo says he will also pressure the government to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. He also says education will continue to be a key priority.
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