The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is at a crossroads as they vote for a new National Chief today.

The eventual winner must adopt reforms to put First Nations first. Among them:

1) Become accountable.

Results of the annual Frontier Centre for Public Policy Aboriginal Governance Index, an on-the-ground survey of indigenous people in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, found:

• Close to half of all respondents reported fav-ours and payments were exchanged for votes.

• About 74 per cent said members of the chief’s family disproportionately receive jobs in the community.

• About 30 per cent knew of people removed from the community for political reasons through a band council resolution.

• Sixty-two per cent said they “do not really” or “never” received access to the band’s business plan or financial statements.

2) Recognize the central role of private property in promoting prosperity.

The AFN is uniquely positioned to promote private property rights within First Nations, which would allow members to secure loans, build businesses and become self-reliant. Preventing development may look bold, but traps communities in poverty.

3) Lead by example and reform the AFN.

In 2005, the AFN’s Renewal Commission called for drastic reforms, including adding a one-member, one-vote system for the national chief. Do it.

4) Stop playing politics.

The AFN stalled major initiatives that would have improved the lives of indigenous peoples: Axing the First Nation Governance Act in 2003 allowed electoral fraud to continue; the AFN’s call for a three-year period before human rights legislation can be mandated for reserve governments exposed indigenous people to further oppression; recent calls to pull legislation that grants equal matrimonial property for First Nation women leaves women more vulnerable.

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