Shawn Atleo meets the PM

Tease the day: The PMO claims progress on the aboriginal file
Nick Taylor-Vaisey
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo addresses a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. The head of Canada’s largest aboriginal group is acknowleging that he is about to go into a critical meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a divided membership and weakened mandate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
CP/Fred Chartrand

Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper twice this year. You probably heard something about that first meeting, back in January, at the height of the Idle No More movement’s influence. Atleo met with Harper against the wishes of many vocal chiefs, particularly a Manitoban contingent, who wanted the prime minister and governor general to meet with then-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence—on their terms, not the prime minister’s.

Atleo and his aboriginal allies met with Harper and a team of federal ministers, and a major outcome of that meeting was further discussions down the road; a commitment to keep talking. For months, Atleo complained that no further meetings were on the docket, no movement was forthcoming. Earlier this month, Postmedia recalls, Atleo downplayed the significance of face-to-face meetings, saying they weren’t an indicator of concrete action. “Progress should not be determined about whether or not I meet with or talk with the prime minister,” he said at the time.

Then, all of a sudden, a second meeting between the two happened last week—very quietly, with no discernible media coverage. Postmedia reports on the outcome of the meeting.

Harper spokesman Carl Vallee said the prime minister and national chief discussed “the progress made since Jan. 11 on priorities we share with First Nations, particularly education and comprehensive claims.” Vallee said the prime minister noted the senior oversight committee on comprehensive claims is making “concrete progress.”

Concrete progress? The day after Atleo and Harper sat down, the country celebrated National Aboriginal Day. That morning, The Globe and Mail quoted Atleo as “talking less about conciliation and more about things that will be done to drive home the urgency of the [aboriginal] situation.” The paper said Atleo is “supportive of whatever peaceful actions are taken to make the point that the relationship is not working.”

The head of the Assembly of First Nations isn’t happy. The Prime Minister’s Office says progress is being made. It’s tempting to suggest that something’s gotta give. But will it?

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the estimated $5-billion cost of the Alberta floods. The National Post fronts Canadian border officials’ wariness of a group of Iranian nationals who’ve attempted to enter Canada in recent years. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Mayor Rob Ford’s public dispute with Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa over a funding arrangement for the city. The Ottawa Citizen leads with a proposed TransCanada pipeline running through the outskirts of the nation’s capital. iPolitics fronts the benefits of walking away from a Canada-E.U. trade deal. leads with Canadian banks’ roles in moving money to and from offshore tax havens. CTV News leads with a deadly Taliban attack on Afghanistan’s presidential palace. National Newswatch showcases a Huffington Post story about how the Prime Minister’s Office was behind a recent protest of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Aboriginal relations. The prime minister met with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo last week, a quiet meeting that was their first since a high-profile gathering in January.2. Online voting. Ontario’s chief electoral officer wants the province to test online voting during a by-election. He admitted the process is fraught with challenges, but thinks they can be overcome.
3. Strike. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois says she’ll introduce back-to-work legislation if striking construction workers and their employers can’t reach a deal within a reasonable amount of time.4. Statcan. Canada’s chief statistician defended the voluntary National Household Survey, the government’s controversial replacement for the mandatory long-form census.
5. Lebanon. The city of Sidon has seen two days of clashes between Lebanese soldiers and the militant followers of Sunni Muslim cleric Sheik Ahmad Al-Assir. In total, 47 people have died so far.6. Nazi. A 94-year-old Minnesota man is subject to a preliminary German investigation into his past as a Nazi commander in Poland. Michael Karkoc entered the United States in 1949.