Andrew Coyne on Friday’s comic opera performance by the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations:
It’s not yet clear precisely what the Prime Minister and Assembly of First Nations chiefs accomplished at their meeting Friday, but the fact that they met at all, after the tumult and confusion of the preceding 24 hours, must be counted as achievement enough.
Rarely has the penchant of native leaders for what a former prime minister’s chief of staff, Derek Burney, has called “theology” been on such open display. The whole future of the country seemed to hang on whether ministers and chiefs met in a hotel or in a government building, or whether the Prime Minister and the Governor-General attended at the same time or in sequence.
In the process, it became more evident than ever just how divided the AFN has become: among the other unresolved matters as I write are the future of AFN chief Shawn Atleo and, one has to think, the AFN itself, with much of the organization now in open revolt against his leadership. The proxy issue may have been whether to attend the meeting, but the broader conflict is foundational.
By their decision to participate, Atleo and his supporters were not just staring down the demands of what I’ve called the fundamentalists, many of whom have taken up the flag of the Idle No More movement. They were casting their lot with a more pragmatic, forward-looking vision of natives’ future. By no means were they signing onto the whole of the present government’s reform agenda, but they were signalling a willingness to work with it. That took enormous courage, and it is vitally important that the government respond in kind.