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‘Secret Santa’ eating up too much time at AFN assembly, critics say

Some leaders say the annual ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange is taking up too much time at the Assembly of First Nations special Chief’s assembly, which is underway in Ottawa this week.

The gift exchange, an annual tradition started by former National Chief Noel Starblanket in 1977, includes all of the organization’s 634 Chiefs and can sometimes take hours to complete.

“Yes it’s a lot of fun and yes I love the Pendelton blanket I received this year but this is time we should be using to talk about housing, Crown-First Nations relations and closing the gap,” said Chief Diane Mokemon, from the Big Clear Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.

“Plus, last year I got a travel mug yet Grand Chief Stewart Phillip got an iPad…now how is that fair?”

This year, as is tradition, National Chief Perry Bellegarde wore a Santa hat and stood at the podium, reading out names and watching as gleeful Chiefs ran up to collect their presents.

A spokesperson for the AFN said they would add the Secret Santa exchange to its list of things to review in 2018.