The newly elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations says today’s leaders must work together, and must remember the work of past leaders like Nova Scotia’s own Donald Marshall Jr. to ensure economic and environmental prosperity for future generations.
“It’s our responsibility to create, maintain and uphold relationships,” Shawn Atleo told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce yesterday at Casino Nova Scotia. “Build on exactly that which our ancestors did – the treaties that were signed.
“We need to remember the late Donald Marshall Jr. and what he and so many stand for,” Atleo added. “These are very exciting times filled with potential. It’s completely up to us as to whether or not we will choose to grasp this moment.”
Yesterday’s appearance in Halifax marks Atleo’s inaugural speaking engagement since replacing former National Chief Phil Fontaine. The 42-year-old businessman from the Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island was elected in a tight race in late July, and picked Atlantic Canada as his first stop to mark the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada's Marshall Decision on native fishing rights.
It’s particularly timely since Marshall died Aug. 6 of complications from a double lung transplant. The Membertou First Nation man ended up in the midst of the Supreme Court decision that recognized the Mi’kmaq community’s constitutionally-protected treaty right to make a living from fishing and hunting.
Marshall also spent 11 years in prison before being exonerated after an inquiry ruled institutional racism and incompetence contributed to his wrongful murder conviction.
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs is holding a press conference today at the World Trade and Convention Centre to discuss the historic decision.
According to a news release, chiefs across the province “are distressed that the Marshall decision and their treaties have not been implemented.”
An Atlantic Policy Progress of First Nation Chiefs news release handed out yesterday after the Chamber of Commerce talk, however, says a new report shows “measurable progress” in the native fishery.