Atleo to return to AFN this week, urges First Nations unity
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo speaks at a news conference Thursday January 10, 2013 in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld)
Published Monday, January 21, 2013 4:51PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 21, 2013 11:22PM EST
The head of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, announced Monday he will return to work this week after a brief medical leave and urged First Nations leaders to form a united front as Idle No More protests continue.
In a statement posted on AFN’s website, the national chief thanked everyone who wished him well as he recuperated from a bout of norovirus and exhaustion.
Atleo took some time off after a controversial meeting between First Nations leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, spurred by demands that Ottawa address aboriginal treaty rights and problems plaguing First Nations communities.
“I am making good progress,” Atleo said in his statement.
He said First Nations have reached a “critical moment in our history,” as the Idle No More movement continues to highlight the socioeconomic struggles of Canada’s aboriginals.
He said the AFN will continue to “maintain this pressure” on the government “as it presents the greatest opportunity to make real progress for all of our peoples.”
“It is important that we remain united behind these demands, the agenda adopted by our peoples in one Assembly after another,” he said.
Some chiefs criticized Atleo for not taking a more aggressive approach in his discussions with Ottawa, suggesting he should have boycotted the Jan. 11 meeting with Harper.
Others stood with northern Ontario’s Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has not eaten solid food since Dec. 11 in protest, demanding that Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnson face aboriginal leaders together.
“At many different points, there have been periods of disagreement and discord,” Atleo said. “But, at each point, when our peoples have engaged in vigorous debate, we have also listened and respected one another.”
Spence and others are still pushing for a new meeting with Harper and Johnston in the coming days. In the meantime, Idle No More organizers are planning a national day of action on Jan. 28.