Shawn Atleo resigns from Assembly of First Nations amid chiefs' condemnation of education act

Shawn Atleo. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Shawn Atleo. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Jessica Hume, National Bureau

, Last Updated: 12:07 AM ET

OTTAWA — Shawn Atleo has resigned as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

He said he did not want to be "a lightning rod" to distract the ongoing debate over the First Nations Education Act.

"I have fought for this work and to achieve this mandate," he told reporters. "This work is too important and I am not prepared to be an obstacle to it or a lightning rod distracting from the kids and their potential."

The aboriginal education act has been in the works for months and was endorsed by Atleo, but it has been condemned by many of Canada's more radical chiefs, including Manitoba's Derek Nepinak.

Chiefs representing five provinces went to Parliament Hill on Monday to voice their concerns over the act. Though the bill earmarks more than $1 billion in additional funding over three years, it doesn't kick in until 2016 and many chiefs complain their communities weren't adequately consulted.

"I challenge every First Nation to carry this forward," Atleo said before making a quick exit.

AFN CEO Peter Dinsdale said he did he know what was behind the timing of Atleo's announcement, or who would replace him, but admitted he was "deeply disappointed."

According to the AFN's rules, the executive committee takes over until a new leader is chosen.

The AFN meets in July in Halifax.

 


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