National Chief Shawn Atleo resigns

National Chief Shawn Atleo’s resignation Friday marked a sad day for First Nations politics, said Williams Lake Chief Ann Louie Monday.

“It’s just another way for government to get what it wants,” Louie said as she suggested government doesn’t work properly in the consultation process.

In a surprise move, Atleo announced Friday he is leaving his position as head of the Assembly of First Nations, stating he did not want to be an obstacle or lightning rod distracting kids and their potential from the current federal government proposal on education for First Nations reserves.

“This work must be understood in that context — as a challenge, not for me, or any one individual — but a challenge and a call to action for the entire country,” Atleo stated Friday.

The latest current proposal on education is the latest attempt and a sincere, constructive effort on the part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a step forward, Atleo said.

Harper issued a statement Friday saying he was saddened to hear of the resignation.

“Since 2009, when he was first elected as National Chief, our government worked closely with him to strengthen our historic relationship,” Harper said.

“Together, we helped improve opportunities for greater participation by First Nations in the economy and standards of living and quality of life on reserve, including through the Crown-First Nations Gathering in 2012. National Chief Atleo was a conciliator and strengthened the relationship between First Nations and the Crown.”

Louie said she is afraid Atleo’s replacement will receive the same treatment from government and from some First Nations leaders who feel Atleo didn’t do a good enough job.

“I honestly can never see our First Nations supporting a National Chief 100 per cent, but I think it’s really critical they understand showing total disrespect to our elected officials is unjustified,” Louie said.

Atleo has dedicated his life to improving the lives of First  Nations people in B.C. and across the country, Premier Christy  Clark said.

The First Nations education act will be put on hold due to Atleo’s resignation, the government announced Tuesday.

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