FSIN chief Perry Bellegarde was elected the new chief of the AFN in Winnipeg today. He recieved 291 votes on the first ballot with Ghislain Picard picking up 136  votes and Leon Jourdain 35 ballots.

In his first address as national chief, televised live on APTN, Bellegarde told the audience, “It’s done. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

He said that his priorities include making sure the issue of water is addressed, particularly with Shoal Lake which provides water to Winnipeg, amending the AFN charter, maintaining a focus and pushing for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to put in place a national Indigenous language strategy. He stressed the importance for coming together in unity to work toward these priorities.

He also had strong words for everyone in Canada, federal, provincial and other governments included. “We will work together but to the people of Canada, I say to you, that the values of fairness and tolerance which Canada exports to the world is a lie when it comes to our people. Today we stand in the shadow of our great leaders who have passed into the spirit world. I vow to you and to them, that I will fight for the teachings that unite us all. Today we renew the sacred vows of our ancestors to protect the land, protect our children, to protect our women and our communities.

“To Canada, we say, for far too long we have been dispossessed of our home lands and the wealth of our rightful inheritance. Canada will no longer develop pipelines or transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual. That is not on. First Nations peoples will oppose any development which deprives our children of the legacy of our ancestors. We will no longer accept poverty and hopelessness while resource companies and governments grow fat off our lands and territories and resources. If our lands and resources are to be developed, it will be done only with our fair share of the royalties, with our ownership of the resources and jobs for our people. It will be done, only done on our terms in our timeline. Our teachings leave us no choice but to stay true to this path and this work. Canada is Indian land. This is my truth and this is the truth of our peoples.”

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