Sheila North won't seek re-election to MKO, mulling bid for national chief

Sheila North won't seek re-election to MKO, mulling bid for national chief

Grand Chief Sheila North won’t seek another term as leader of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, but that doesn’t mean she’s done with politics. 

“At this time, I can confirm I have told the MKO executive I will not be seeking re-election as I prepare for new opportunities,” North said in a statement Saturday.

That could include a run for a position as national chief once her term with MKO ends this year.

“I have been approached by some chiefs, elders and band members across Canada to consider a run for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. I take this request and responsibility very seriously and am considering the necessary planning. I will have more to say in the near future,” North said. 

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak represents 30 First Nations in Northern Manitoba. North’s 2015 election made her the organization’s first-ever female chief.

The Assembly of First Nations represents 634 First Nations across the country.

Sheila North Wilson is the new grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) after being elected at the annual general assembly being held in the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. 1:58

Last month, four MKO member communities in the Island Lakes region announced they would be pulling out of the organization to advocate on their own behalf. 

Wasagamack Chief Alex McDougall previously told CBC there is no bad blood between MKO and the Island Lake First Nations. He said, however, that often when they are negotiating for better services, they feel they are not heard by the provincial and federal government and are referred instead to MKO.

North, a former journalist for CBC and CTV, is credited with starting the #MMIW hashtag and co-producing a documentary on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is originally from Bunibonibee Cree Nation. 

In her three-year term, North has taken public stands on the suicide crisis in Indigenous communities and racial profiling, spoken at the UN and called the Manitoba government out as “‘the most racist provincial government in Canada.

Bellegarde running for re-election

Nominations for the Assembly of First Nations national chief election close in May. 

Incumbent Perry Bellegarde, from Little Black Bear First Nation in Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan, has launched his re-election campaign, touting a close and fruitful relationship with the Trudeau government which has added $16 billion in new spending for the Indigenous file over the last three federal budgets.

He was elected in 2014 after Shawn Atleo stepped down. 

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde is seeking re-election. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Russ Diabo from Kahnawake, a Mohawk community south of Montreal, is also in the running, spurred by what he calls the “threat” posed to Indigenous rights by the AFN having too close a relationship with the Trudeau government.

The vote for AFN national chief is scheduled for July 25 in Vancouver.

Published at Sat, 28 Apr 2018 18:00:49 -0400