By Tim Fontaine
APTN National News
Jody Wilson-Raybould should quit her post as an Assembly of First Nations regional chief if she wants to run for the federal Liberals, says a former British Columbia chief.
“We didn’t elect her to be a candidate for the Liberal party. The respectful position is to tell the Indian people she’s going to resign her post,” said Art Manuel, a former chief of the Neskonlith First Nation in BC.
Wilson-Raybould was acclaimed Thursday as the Liberal Party of Canada candidate in the new riding of Vancouver Granville.
She dodged a question about the controversy by an APTN National News reporter.
“I fundamentally love the role I have as regional chief and I’m committed to continuing to serve chiefs of British Columbia who put me here,” Wilson-Raybould said. “But I’m also proud to work with the Liberal team and working to move forward and think about moving into 2015.”
Wilson-Raybould has said she plans to take a leave of absence from the AFN when her campaign officially kicks off in 2015 and will only resign if she’s elected.
Manuel is the son of the late former national chief Arthur Manuel, who served when the AFN was called the National Indian Brotherhood. He says Wilson-Raybould’s decision to run for a political office while holding a senior AFN position is unheard of.
“She was at the front line of issues, on Aboriginal rights and title, and at the same she’s courting being a part of the Canadian government and the Canadian political system,” he said. “My dad was in this. He never would have done that.”
Serpent River First Nation chief Isadore Day wrote a letter to the interim national chief of the AFN calling on Raybould-Wilson to resign.
“Wilson-Raybould’s legal background would suggest she understands the ethical lines being blurred by her decision to remain a paid official of the AFN,” Day wrote. “There are very obvious fears that the AFN mandate is being affected by a partisan influence and that fiscal resources are funding a formally announced candidate.”
The AFN says that under the organization’s charter it’s up to BC chiefs to decide if Wilson-Raybould can run or should resign.
In an email, the director of the board of the BC AFN defended Raybould-Wilson’s decision to stay on as regional chief while she runs for the Liberals.
“The board has fully discussed, with Regional Chief Jody, the steps required as this process unfolds and, as a board, we have performed the due diligence required to follow the (AFN) constitution and by-laws of the organization,” wrote Chief Maureen Chapman of the Skawahlook First Nation.
Chapman dismissed Day’s concerns.
“While an Ontario chief is certainly entitled to their opinion, the business of the BC AFN will be handled in BC, as I expect Ontario business would be handled in Ontario,” said Chapman.
Still, Art Manuel says more consultation should have been sought. Though no longer an elected official, Manuel often serves as a proxy for other First Nation chiefs at AFN meetings.
“I don’t recall the Union of BC Indian Chiefs passing a resolution endorsing her to be a Liberal candidate.” Manuel said.
But Manuel has a warning for Wilson-Raybould if she loses the election and returns to her post.
“If she does then she’s just going to embarrass the Liberal Party of Canada because I’m going to make sure we demonstrate against her on that,” he said.