AFN: Chiefs assembly centres on countrywide issues

By Marcus Bankuti

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) grand chief Victor Bonspille and MCK chief Valerie Bonspille travelled to Ottawa last week to represent Kanesatake at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) special chiefs assembly, where points of shared importance were discussed.


“I was glad that I was able to attend and meet some influential people that will hopefully advance our community in a positive way.

I can’t wait for the next one,” said the grand chief.


The assembly, which took place from December 6-8 in Ottawa, welcomed First Nations leaders from across the country as well as a handful of federal government ministers, including prime minister Justin Trudeau.


While opportunities for one-on-one time with these politicians were limited, Bonspille said he raised the issue of the scandalous contamination of land and water by the G&R Recycling site in Kanesatake with Canada’s Indigenous services minister Patty Hajdu and minister of Crown-Indigenous relations Marc Miller.


“I wanted to just remind them that we still need to bring this to the table,” said Bonspille, adding that the responses he got from the ministers were positive and that they seemed to be concerned about the issue.


“We’re trying to bring everybody to the table. That’s it. But I think it’s going to move forward in a positive way. There’s always bumps in the road, and that’s it. I can’t really speculate. But I’m hoping. I have my fingers crossed.”


According to Bonspille, the necessity of the elevator pitch is one of the challenges of the conference format.


He raised the issue of Vegibec, he said, with one minister in passing in the hallway. However, there were no substantial conversations on this escalating issue.


“I haven’t had a chance to discuss that. I planted a seed in their minds, and they do know about my concerns with that,” said Bonspille.


As for the overarching issues, which made up the majority of assembly discussion, Bonspille cited Jordan’s Principle, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and gun control as particularly memorable.


“Those are the ones that stood out most to me. Those are the ones that took the longest to debate and agree upon,” he said.


Despite the well-known discord at the MCK of late, Bonspille noted the importance of Indigenous communities presenting a united front in pursuit of shared goals.


“If we don’t stand in solidarity, we’re not going to get anywhere,” he said. “We have to stand united and together on these issues that are going to affect all First Nations.”

 Marcus Bankuti is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE EASTERN DOOR. The LJI program is federally funded.



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