Aamjiwnaang chief stepping down to take on provincial post

Chris Plain, long-time chief of Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia, said Friday he’s stepping down following his recent selection as deputy grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation, a provincial organization.

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In a letter Aamjiwnaang posted on social media, Plain said he had “regretfully” submitted his resignation from the band council he was first elected to in 2000.

“These are two demanding positions that require full-time duties,” Plain said.

The 39 First Nations represented by the Anishinabek Nation have a combined total of 65,000 citizens, who make up one-third of Ontario’s First Nation population.

“I sincerely wish I was able to complete the term, however the timing was off and many in the Anishinabek Nation were asking me to step forward,” Plain said.

He said the Aamjiwnaang council is expected to appoint an acting chief for the four months left in the current term.

Plain has been chief of Aamjiwnaang since 2005, saved for a 2016-18 term as a band councillor.

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He said his resignation is effective June 21.

Plain said the current term presented challenges, but the council was able to continue community development, including recreation upgrades, housing, opening of a hospice-like facility, addition of a dedicated Sarnia police officer for the First Nation, and others.

Most recently, the First Nation has been dealing with the impact of elevated benzene emissions recorded near its band offices and playing fields, leading it to declare a local state of emergency.

Earlier this week, Ineos Styrolution said it would permanently close its styrene production site located across the road from the band offices.

In his letter, Plain thanked his family and supporters, and said it was “an honor and a privilege” to serve the First Nation.

“I am looking forward to my new position, but my heart will always be with Aamjiwnaang,” he said.

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