Shawn Atleo re-elected as Assembly of First Nations chief

It looks like it's status-quo at the helm of the Assembly of First Nations.

Shawn Atleo has been re-elected chief after receiving 341 votes on the third ballot Wednesday evening during the meeting in Toronto. It went to three ballots because a candidate needs 60 per cent or more of the votes to win. With the win, Atleo earns a second three-year term as head of the AFN.

Mi'kmak lawyer Pam Palmater was the runner-up in the final ballot, garnering 141 votes.

After the second ballot, Atleo was just three votes shy of a re-election with a strong lead of 318 votes.

Assembly of First Nations gather to elect national chief Eight candidates vying to be the next Assembly of First Nations national chief are divided over how confrontational to be with Ottawa. Incumbent national chief Shawn Atleo says they all agree that they must smash the status quo.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement to congratulate Atleo.

"The Government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support," the statement said. "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."

Atleo's victory certainly vindicates his much maligned policy of co-operation with the Harper government.

Throughout the course of the campaign, most of the other leadership candidates strongly rebuked the work of Atleo, accusing him of being too close to the Tories and enabling the assimilation of First Nations people.

At an all-candidates meeting Tuesday night, Palmater argued that the organization needs to take a tougher stance against the Harper government.

"We are in a crisis and we need to call it what it is. We cannot move forward unless we, as the AFN, are the first to stand up front and say we won't take this from this point forward. So what do we do? We know the status quo is killing our people," she said.

"It's no secret Canada has tried to assimilate us and it remains their ultimate objective. But we now have a government that has put that on fast forward, laid down the gauntlet and said, 'I dare you to do something about it.' I'm here today to do something about it."

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Atleo, for his part, has maintained his critics don't understand the proper role of the national chief.

"I see my role not as a hierarchical leader but as an advocate," he said in a recent interview. His job in Ottawa is "to open doors or kick them down."

After being sworn in, he vowed to be an unrelenting leader.

“I believe that this is our moment...We will take our rightful place in our respectful territories. We will stand together and put the final stake in colonialism,” he said. “We will reject government’s attempt to deny or extinguish our rights.”

It appears the majority of Canada's chiefs agree with Atleo.

Here are some quick facts about the organization which has become, in many cases, the face of First Nations for many Canadians. (Source:

  • BC had the most possible votes, with 198 chiefs. Followed by ON (126), SK (70), MB (63), AB (45), QC (39), YT (16), NWT (26), NB (15), NS (13), NL (4) and PEI (2).
  • There have been ten National Chiefs since the formation of the Assembly of First Nations (then called the National Indian Brotherhood).
  • Saskatchewan has produced the most National Chiefs of any province or territory (3). Followed by Manitoba (2), BC (2), Ontario (1), Quebec (1) and Northwest Territories (1).
  • There has never been a National Chief from Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut or Yukon.
  • The longest serving National Chief was Phil Fontaine, who held the position for 9 years, a record 3 terms.
  • At the 2009 AFN convention in Calgary, voting for National Chief lasted a record 8 ballots, over 23 hours.
  • Since 1982, 8 women have run for the office of National Chief but none have been elected.
  • In this 2012 election, 4 women were running for the office of National Chief — a record.
  • At age 29, Noel Starblanket became the youngest National Chief in 1976.

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