Konrad Sioui has announced he will run for the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations next July 6.

Sioui, the former Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation, is the first francophone from Quebec to run for the job. “Just the fact of being able to speak French will make a big difference and it will be important,” Sioui told La Presse. “We can’t ignore what will happen in Quebec, the possibility of a referendum. It’s necessary that someone be there who is able to understand Quebec politics and the challenges here.”

Also running are Mike Mitchell, former Chief of the Canadian part of Akwesasne, Bill Tooshkenig of Walpole Island, Ont., and Delia Opekokew, a Cree lawyer from Saskatchewan. The current National Chief of the AFN, Ovide Mercredi, hasn’t yet announced if he will run again. Kahnawake Chief Joe Norton was rumoured to be a possible candidate, but he now says he won’t run. Waskaganish Chief Billy Diamond is also rumoured to be a possible candidate.

In an interview about the AFN election, Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said the AFN must be more willing to come to the defense of the First Nations in Quebec. “There is a need for a national organization to be sensitive to the volatile situation in Quebec,” he said. “Right now, they’re silent just like Canada is silent. They need to speak out. Who else will do it?”