Some First Nations could quit AFN in wake of Atleo victory

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Call it sour grapes if you will, but some of the losing candidates at the Assembly of First Nations election campaign are going down swinging.

Shawn Atleo was re-elected as the national chief of the AFN Wednesday night, with 66 per cent of the vote after three turns on the ballot to secure the minimum 60 per cent needed for a victory.

Atleo's convincing victory, however, left behind some poisoned feelings.

[ Related: Shawn Atleo re-elected as Assembly of First Nations chief ]

Terry Nelson, a former Ojibway chief and candidate who withdrew from the race after the second ballot, told APTN News that up to 10 First Nations could pull away from the Assembly of First Nation as a result of Atleo's victory.

Nelson said there are a handful of chiefs who truly believe that the AFN is "assimilationist" and don't want to be part of the organization under Atleo's leadership.

"Some of the chiefs are going to be pretty clear that the AFN is assimilationist as far as they are concerned and they are saying that some of them will be pulling out and some announcements are going to be made this week," said Nelson.

Mi'kmak lawyer Pam Palmater, who finished second to Atleo, suggested her gender played a part in her defeat.

"Many people were very straightforward about that," she said, conceding the change in attitude won't come overnight.

"It's extremely difficult because many of our nations were led by women … The Indian Act messed with everything and wiped women of the leadership map, prevented them from being chiefs and prevented them from voting."

Palmater also had some parting shots for the re-elected chief.

"If Mr. Atleo continues on this path of assimilation with Harper, I will stand up and ask for something different," she said according to the Globe and Mail.

"There is a joint plan between Alteo and Harper and this vote shows that a majority of chiefs are okay with that plan, but there is a good 40 per cent that are not."

It appears job one for Atleo is to mend the organization's divisions.

[ Related: The digital age and social media spice up AFN elections ]