Monday, July 27, 2009

The debate over the representative nature of the AFN continues.
One blogger named Shmohawk thinks that it is a travesty to even consider one member, one vote for the AFN.
His big argument is, "The AFN has never been an organization of individual status Indians." Profound, eh?
Of course, not having a history of being representative must mean it must forever be that way. Shmohawk is one of those indigenous activists who believe that indigenous culture must never change.
To add more fun to the discussion, Shmohawk compares the AFN to a national union: "The AFN’s structure is closer to that of a national union, like CUPE, for instance. The union’s membership in a local (say Local 233) vote for a local representative, much like band members vote in band council elections.Local reps may then elect regional or provincial representatives, similar to the way in which John Beaucage was elected to head up one of the regional Indian organizations in Ontario."

And then he goes on:

"Local and regional union reps then get to select the national executive for CUPE. (Correct me here, but I don’t believe every member has a direct vote for national president of CUPE.) Similarly, every now and then, the chiefs cluster to select a new head of their national organization, the AFN. It was never meant to be a “one member, one vote” system."

Of course, all of these theorizing ignores the AFN's own Renewal Commission of 2005 which called for a change in the AFN's internal structure, including a move towards a one member, one vote system.
One of my good indigenous friends, Annette Cyr, has even provided some excellent other suggestions, such as referenda at the band level, so that at least the chief is voting for who the average people want.
People like Shmohawk do not understand the difference between what things were intended to be and what they could become.
No one argues the AFN is an indigneous government. It does not have governmental powers. It is a registered lobby group. But, if it affects the national Aboriginal agenda and sways legislation that affects the lives of everyday indigenous people, don't those people have a say?
Especially if their chief does not consult with the membership on who they should vote as national chief, this institution needs to be reformed.

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