The Assembly of First Nations has voted to create a new vice-chief position to solely represent the two Mi’kmaw First Nation communities in Prince Edward Island.
The newly created position would sit on the AFN’s executive committee representing the Lennox Island First Nation and Abegweit First Nation in PEI.
“The AFN has become an increasingly important voice on Indigenous matters in Canada, ” Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard said in a news release on July 7.
“It made no sense for PEI to be excluded from that very important Executive Council,” Chief Bernard said.
“This has been a long time coming and I could not be more pleased,” she said.
One AFN vice-chief had represented NB, PEI
The AFN’s 42nd annual general assembly got underway on July 6 in Toronto. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, nearly all of the chiefs or their proxies across the country took part in the three-day assembly virtually.
The AFN is a national advocacy organization that represents the 634 First Nation communities in Canada. First Nation leaders attend assemblies and meetings at the AFN on behalf of communities they represent.
The AFN’s executive committee is made up of the national chief and ten regional vice-chiefs representing the First Nation communities in each province, region and territory in Canada except Nunavut. However, Quebec and the Labrador region have one vice-chief while Nova Scotia and the Newfoundland region also have one vice-chief.
Prior to the vote on July 6, one vice-chief represented New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Chief Bernard and Abegweit First Nation Chief Roderick Gould first submitted a resolution to the AFN in 2019 to consider amending the AFN’s charter to allow for a vice-chief position for PEI. After examining the issue for the past two years, both chiefs decided it was time for the AFN to make a final decision on the matter.
“We’re completely different” – Abegweit Chief Roderick Gould
During the debate on Tuesday, Chief Gould explained to his fellow chiefs that PEI First Nations never had proper representation at the AFN executive committee.
“We were lumped into one under New Brunswick, Chief Gould said. “We’re completely different. We have a different set of provincial rules and regulations which guide us and that’s what we have to follow,” he said.
“I can be at the First Ministers meeting with my premier of Prince Edward Island. I can address our issues and be an advocate for our people but I’m not given that respect from the Assembly of First Nations,” Chief Gould explained.
“This is a lobbying organization that claims to represent First Nations. Represent us properly and give us the authority to represent ourselves,” he added.
After more than ten minutes of debate, approximately 70 per cent of the delegates voted in favour of amending AFN’s charter to include the creation of a vice-chief position to represent PEI. Another 25 per cent voted against the resolution while five per cent abstained from the vote.
The newly created position means there will be three AFN regional vice-chiefs in Atlantic Canada. Paul Prosper is the vice-chief that represents 13 First Nations in Nova Scotia and the two Mi’kmaw First Nations in Newfoundland and Labrador. Roger Augustine will now only represent the 15 First Nations in New Brunswick on the AFN executive committee.