Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan (centre) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) talk to National Chief Shawn Atleo (left) before the start of the First Nations Gathering at the John Diefenbaker building in Ottawa , January 24, 2012.
Credits: CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI AGENCY
It makes a historic apology for the residential school debacle, it fronts a reconciliation commission, it acquiesces (too much in our view) to unreasonable demands from aboriginal "leadership" in cesspool reserves such as remote Attawapiskat, it negotiates land claim disputes and pipeline routes without being overly aggressive, and yet it still comes out a loser.
Regardless of what it does, too many First Nations leaders still see the federal government as the enemy, despite billions in taxpayer welfare.
Almost 2,000 years ago, Chinese general Sun-tzu -- no, it was not Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II -- coined the phrase, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
These wise words have obviously stood the test of time.
Now one would think that Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo, an embracer of such wisdom, would be a shoo-in for re-election next month for finally honing a reasonable relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But he, too, can't win for losing.
The seven other candidates vying for his job accuse him of being too cozy with the Harper government, and being the aboriginal equivalent of an Uncle Tom.
This is patently wrong.
For the 700,000 aboriginals in this country living on and off reserves, what should be paramount are the issues they face: The lack of safe drinking water on more than 100 reserves, the crippling cost of food in northern communities, the never-ending housing crisis, land rights and resource sharing and still unhonoured treaties.
What our First Nations need today is not a leader who bangs war drums and blows smoke, but a leader who is able to sit down with the "other side" and talk solutions.
It is not an idiot like challenger Terry Nelson, for example, the five-time chief of a southern Manitoba reserve, self-proclaimed "radical," and the fool who went to Iran's consulate in Ottawa as if it knew anything about human rights.
He is also the "leader" who said, "The Northern Gateway project is dead if I am elected national chief."
Compromise, not confrontation, is the route Shawn Atleo has been following.
Let's hope he is not dead-ended.