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Updated: Sat, 10 May 2014 10:04:54 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Chiefs say no to rare measure amid education act strife



Nominations for the position of Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief will close today. Stan Beardy held the position for the last 12 years and was elected the Regional Chief of Ontario for the Assembly of First Nations last month. CBC

Nominations for the position of Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief will close today. Stan Beardy held the position for the last 12 years and was elected the Regional Chief of Ontario for the Assembly of First Nations last month. CBC

CBC News has learned the Assembly of First Nations national executive committee has decided against convening a long-dormant governing body called the Confederacy of Nations.

The Confederacy is a mechanism by which chiefs can give direction to the AFN in between scheduled annual assemblies, but it hasn't been used in about 10 years.

Some First Nations leaders saw the call for a confederacy as an attempt by those who want to kill the education bill to influence the AFN's response to the legislation.

While there is widespread opposition to the government's legislation, known as the First Nations control of First Nations education act, some aboriginal leaders say it can be improved without throwing it out, particularly because it came with nearly $2 billion in funding with yearly increases.

However, the decision on the confederacy means the May 27 special assembly of chiefs meeting the executive has called will be where the official response to the education legislation will be drafted. It is also where chiefs will decide when to elect a new national chief.

On May 1, Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy called for the confederacy. Beardy said it was urgent because the federal government's controversial First Nations education reform bill was at second reading and the next AFN assembly was not until July.

But Beardy's fellow executive members have said no, telling him the situation has changed.

"As you are aware, some circumstances have changed since these letters were submitted. On May 2, 2014 Shawn Atleo resigned his position as national chief and on May 5, 2014 the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stated that Bill C-33 is being placed 'on hold' until the Assembly of First Nations 'clarifies its position,'" said AFN executive spokesperson and Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard in a letter to Beardy on Friday.

Under the AFN charter, it takes a majority of regional chiefs to agree to the confederacy. The confederacy also requires a certain number of regional representatives to attend. Sources tell CBC News that since the mechanism has not been used in a decade, many of the regions wouldn't have had those people selected in time to go.

And sources tell CBC News that the logistical challenges of putting together a confederacy by May 14 were just too many.

But Nova Scotia and Newfoundland regional chief Morley Goo Goo said that doesn't mean there can't be a meeting on that day even if it isn't be a full-fledged Confederacy of Nations.

"I understand the importance of listening to all points of view from all regions," Goo Goo said when contacted by CBC News. "And we're committed to doing that."

May 14 is also the day slated for a National Day of Resistance by First Nations.

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