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Idle No More Not on Agenda at All Chiefs Meeting

Well attended rally in Halifax, but out in the cold at APC forum

by Miles Howe

Idle No More organizers turned back at key All Chiefs Meetings in Dartmouth [Photo: Miles Howe]
Idle No More organizers turned back at key All Chiefs Meetings in Dartmouth [Photo: Miles Howe]


K'jipuktuk (Halifax) – Despite a well-attended March 21 rally that saw participants weave their way through the Halifax downtown core, organizers from Idle No More found themselves on the outside looking in on this 'International Day to End Racial Discrimination,' as staff from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat (APC) would not let them attend the two-day 'All Chiefs Forum' being held in Dartmouth.

“We thought that [the chiefs] had agreed to allow us into the All Chief's meeting,” said Idle No More organizer Shelley Young. “They were expecting us, actually. Some of the chiefs said they knew we were coming, and then today the staff at APC went up to ask the chiefs whether we were allowed in and they said 'no.' We sat there for almost an hour, pleading pretty much, to get into the meeting.”

The All Chiefs Forum sees chiefs from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Maine come together to discuss policy related to pertinent topics such as housing and infrastructure, fisheries and economic development strategies.

It was, in Young's opinion, a key opportunity in which to assert the supposed goodwill and spirit of inclusion between chiefs and community members that she had just recently spent 11 days on a hunger strike attempting to achieve. This two day forum in particular, with Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo in attendance, was seen by Young and other organizers as being a vital series of meetings.

“This is the end of the fiscal year,” said Young. “And at these meeting they're discussing all these things that affect our people. And we're also concerned about the social reforms.

“As you heard from Burnt Church being in the news, all of our chiefs were given these new social reform agreements that didn't include our treaty clause. We know that Burnt Church stood up against it, because the government was coercing us and threatening us. And we wanted to know whether our chiefs in Nova Scotia and across Mi'kma'ki signed it or whether they're going to do something about it.”

John Paul, executive director of the APC, noted that no one had informed him that Shelley Young or anyone from Idle No More was to be admitted into the meetings.

“I prepare the agenda, and I had nothing from anybody to tell me that I was to invite [Shelley Young] or anything, basically,” said Paul. “So I didn't, and she wasn't on the agenda. She showed up and wanted to come and be on the agenda, and we said 'no', and that's it.

“It's probably a misunderstanding talking to one of the chiefs who thought 'No big deal.' But I talked to them today and I told them, 'We've got to follow the agenda. You agreed to an agenda, we're just going to follow the agenda,' to get through the stuff we've got to get through in two days.”

As for the adherence to agenda and protocol, however, observers noted that the expediency with which the meetings took place would have allowed for ample to time to have had Young come and briefly address the assembled chiefs.

By 2 p.m., when a group of protestors showed up in the parking lot of the APC building, the meetings were finished, the chiefs were gone and the blinds were drawn at the building. Yet an agenda for the meetings noted that they were supposed to continue until 3:30 p.m.

Paul noted that he had talked to the chiefs and suggested that Young be invited to the June All Chiefs Meeting, where “she can come and do her speech then.”

“Today the chiefs are not acting in good faith,” said Young. “Especially since just last week we had a meeting and publicly, in the news, said that we're going to begin to work with one another and work as a nation. Especially since I just finished starving for 11 days to have a voice, and today, just a week later, I'm shut down. We're trying to stand up for our community members and today they're still saying that community members don't have a voice.”

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