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National chief Shawn Atleo resigns


Last updated 5/25/2014 at 1:47pm

AFN Photo

Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, announced his sudden resignation during a press conference in Ottawa.

OTTAWA, ON-Shawn Atleo has resigned as Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations over the federal government's proposed overhaul of Aboriginal education.

The AFN chief announced his decision at a news conference in Ottawa on May 2.

Chiefs from across the government have been divided over the Canadian government's First Nations education bill and Atleo had faced calls for his ouster on social media and criticism from some regional chiefs over his support for the overhaul. He said he was no longer willing to be a "lightning rod" for criticizing the bill.

"I have stated clear priority on the recognition of treaty, of indigenous rights and title, on the safety and security of our most vulnerable, and I have also made my priority on education for our kids plainly clear," Atleo said, reading from prepared remarks.

"The current proposal on education is the latest attempt and a sincere, constructive effort on the part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a step forward.

"I have fought for this work and to achieve this mandate.This work is too important and I am not prepared to be an obstacle to it or a lightning rod distracting from the kids and their potential. I am therefore, today resigning as national chief," Atleo said.

Harper 'saddened'

The prime minister issued a statement late Friday to say he was "saddened" by Atleo's decision.

"Since 2009, when he was first elected as national chief, our government worked closely with him to strengthen our historic relationship," Harper said in the statement.

"Together, we helped improve opportunities for greater participation by First Nations in the economy and standards of living and quality of life on reserve, including through the Crown-First Nations Gathering in 2012. We also shared a commitment to improving First Nation education and ensuring that students on reserve have the same education standards, supports and opportunities that most Canadians take for granted."

"National Chief Atleo was a conciliator and strengthened the relationship between First Nations and the Crown. As the Hereditary Chief from the Ahousaht First Nation, he showed leadership to his nation and all First Nations across Canada," Harper said.

Atleo won a second term as grand chief less than two years ago. He scored a third ballot victory in the June 2012 vote, receiving 341 votes out of 512 cast by First Nations leaders from across the country.


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