Shawn Atleo elected to second term as national chief of Assembly of First Nations
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has been elected to another three years as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The hereditary chief of the Ahousaht First Nation won 341 votes in the third round of the Assembly of First Nations election in Toronto today (July 18), out of a total of 512 ballots cast by chiefs and their proxies from across the country.
After taking the oath of national chief, Atleo delivered a speech surrounded by members of his family and supporters from his community, vowing that First Nations will “stand together”.
“We will work together, recognizing that we share inherent rights and title, irrespective of what territories we come from," he said. "We will reject government’s attempt to deny or extinguish our rights, and we will move forward together with a clear plan for reform, based on recognition, nation-building, and building the capacity of our governments.”
Atleo’s win followed an eight-candidate race for leadership of the advocacy organization, including an unprecedented four women contenders.
Among those challengers was Pam Palmater, who came in second to Atleo at 141 votes on the third ballot. The Mi’kmaq lawyer and Ryerson University professor was one of the most vocal critics of the national chief during the race, calling for the AFN to take a tougher stance against the Harper government on First Nations issues, and describing the organization’s current association with the federal government as “an abusive relationship”.
The accusations were refuted by former AFN chief Ovide Mercredi, who introduced Atleo at the general assembly Tuesday (July 17).
“He is not close to government—he is close to the people, which matters most,” Mercredi said at an all-candidates forum.
In a speech today following the voting results, Palmater referred to "a momentum that won't stop now".
"Our people are strong, and whether it’s this forum or another fourm, the momentum is just going to keep going, and I will keep defending our sovereignty, our treaties and our people," she said.
The third candidate in the final round of voting was Bill Erasmus, the national chief of the Dene Nation and Assembly of First Nations regional chief for the Northwest Territories. Erasmus secured 30 votes on the third ballot.
Candidate Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and former head of the Quebec Native Women’s Association, was out of the race after the second ballot, while Terrance Nelson and lawyer Diane Kelly voluntarily withdrew from the race for the final round of voting. Earlier in the day, candidates Joan Jack and George Stanley dropped off after the first ballot.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement following the vote to congratulate Atleo on his reelection.
“During the Crown-First Nations Gathering in January 2012, we reaffirmed our commitment to further strengthen this important relationship by working together toward common goals, including creating the conditions for greater First Nations participation in the economy, and improving standards of living and quality of life," he said in the statement.
“I look forward to continue working with National Chief Atleo to keep building solid partnerships between First Nations people and other Canadians, to the mutual benefit of us all.”
B.C. Premier Christy Clark also issued a statement congratulating the national chief.
"I am confident he will continue to distinguish himself as a leader and visionary, with the ability to make positive changes in peoples' lives," she said. "I believe National Chief Atleo will continue to be a strong voice for B.C. at the national level."
In his speech to the general assembly in Toronto today, the national chief also made reference to Wesley Prankard, a non-aboriginal teen who was recognized earlier in the day for his efforts to raise money for a playground in Attawapiskat.
“Like my late grandmother said, who stood with me in a similar moment in 2009, ‘grandson, we are just beginning to be seen,’” Atleo told the assembly. “Now, the voice of young Wesley shows that we’re beginning to be heard.”
Atleo, who will now begin another three-year term as national chief, was elected to his first term on July 23, 2009.