Leon Jourdain says he is the candidate who has been given the nod by the grassroots.
“My grandchildren, everybody’s grandchildren, those people I look to on the ground level, are saying, ‘You need to run. You’re on the ground all the time. We tell you about our issues,’” said Jourdain. “All the information I have is shaped by the people on the ground.”
He adds that he was nominated by chiefs and Elders.
The former two-term Treaty 3 grand chief says he comes to the position with a unique perspective, presently serving as a counsellor and therapist in Lac La Croix.
“I’ve heard and seen the struggles and the pain that our people have been going through since contact,” he said.
Jourdain says he also knows the struggles chiefs, including himself, have experienced in dealing with the both the federal and provincial governments.
“The processes have gone astray, like when it comes to treaties, when it comes to inherent rights, when it comes to Aboriginal rights,” he said. “There is a drastic change that needs to happen in Canada.”
Jourdain is proposing returning to the “original foundation of building nations, which would bring about change that would bring back the dignity and the pride as well as securing our own revenues.”
First Nations governance needs to be taken out of the hands of the Indian Act, he says, which restricts what chiefs can do to meet the needs of their people.
“At the time of contact, there were nations right across the country. And those nations must be rebuilt. Those nations have to be reborn,” he said. “We have to concentrate on building our own method of government as Indigenous people.”
Another priority for Jourdain is to develop a platform that would set out interim steps to allow First Nations to make their own laws on such issues as health and education and make the necessary moves to become self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
Going back to the original foundation also means operating on a nation-to-nation basis, with First Nations interacting with the federal government at the same level.
Jourdain said the Assembly of First Nations would “have to evolve as the nations begin to develop” and he envisions the AFN playing a role similar to an embassy.
“When the nation comes to life, the treaty comes to life,” he said.
Jourdain would also create an urban strategy to guide the AFN in dealing with urban-residing First Nations people. He notes that people are forced off the reserve because of lack of housing and employment only to end up living in poor conditions in the cities.
“But they have a right to vote in the community,” he said. “They should be given the right by their voting to be able to be provided the service they rightfully need … off the reserve.”
Jourdain says he favours a national inquiry “to an extent” on the subject of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls
“There’s been inquiries, there’s been commissions, there’s been different types of vehicles put forward every time there’s a national crisis on our people....Where do those (recommendations) go? They sit on a shelf of the government,” said Jourdain.
His approach would be to lobby corporations and private donors for funding for an inquiry.
“We would be in control and we would design whatever the recommendations are that come out and we ensure that we would own the problem and it would be us that makes sure the (recommendations) get implemented,” he said.
Being approached by the grassroots to run for the position of national chief is a strong position to be in, said Jourdain.
“I believe I am the candidate who can at least begin the foundation of transforming the nations to a better place,” he said. “It’s time for change. We are at a crossroads right now.”