This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Canada’s primary aboriginal group elected its new chief on Wednesday as the entire group reinforced its objective to oppose development of pipelines, mines and other resource projects unless the government provides a “fair share” of benefits for often impoverished natives. Head of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Perry Bellegarde, was elected as new chief of the national Assembly of First Nations (AFN). He acquired 62.7 percent support on the first ballot from delegates at a convention in Winnipeg and is now slated to serve a 3-1/2-year term.
Bellegarde has openly promised to fight for aboriginal control of their lands and resources and the importance of getting their consent for development. He mentioned that “we will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our land and territories and resources.” In his first speech as leader of the often fractious group, Bellegarde highlighted that “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.”
In recent years, almost 1.4 million aboriginals have had clashes with industry and the government over development of crude oil pipelines, mines and other resource projects on their traditional territories. Previous chief of the group, Shawn Atleo, resigned earlier in May amid criticism he was too close to Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, undermining the AFN’s credibility.