local leader from one of five national organizations lobbying on behalf of Indigenous and Métis people is questioning his own organization after the organization's chief claimed it was unnecessary to discuss his Indigenous ancestry in a recent interview.
John Hanikenne first joined the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) 14 years ago. Since being elected president of the Saskatchewan chapter in the spring of 2017 he’s been confronted with facts which have upset him and he said he wants to see change and accountability.
CAP represents non-status and off-reserve Indigenous people, Métis and Southern Inuit people at a national level.
While recovering from heart surgery and with at least two more major operations ahead of him, Hanikenne said now is the time for him to speak up.
“They cut out the piece of my heart that had any time for bullshit,” Hanikenne said with a laugh. “I’m at the age now and in the health now, I don’t have the time or the inclination to play games… if you’re standing in my way and you’re representing Aboriginal people, I’ve got some questions for you.”
Hanikenne’s concerns started after he watched an APTN interview with the organization's national chief, Robert Bertrand. The national chief was unable to prove his Indigenous ancestry and said he felt it was unnecessary to do so.
“I am, in my opinion, I am Métis from the Quebec side,” Bertrand said in the interview last September. "I don't see the relevance of the question."
Now, Hanikenne refuses to attend any events organized by CAP until not just Bertrand provides unquestionable proof he is Indigenous, but all members of the organization's executive.
“They won’t [provide the documents]. One has, one lady from Prince Edward Island… sent me a picture of her status card and she’s laid down her family unit on paper and showed her roots, and I’m happy with that,” Hanikenne said. “At least show some pride in who you are and where you came from.”
Hanikenne said once he knows the organization's leadership is aware and has an understanding the struggle of Indigenous people face he would have an easier time supporting CAP’s goals. Right now, he said he felt as though the group operates without any passion and likens it more to a bureaucratic system than a lobbying group.
The regional president said he would like to see the organization shift its focus from chasing other lobbying organizations on national topics of interest to leading discussions around economic development.
Hanikenne challenged the five national lobbying organizations – CAP, the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada to gather.
“Let’s not be scared of one another. Why not have a real big forum and start discussing our issues collectively?” Hanikenne asked. “If we all got together and have a real meeting at one place and had proper protocol… it would be an awesome thing.”
Through an email representatives from CAP said national chief Bertrand would not be commenting on any of the concerns raised by Hanikenne.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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