McLeod wins easy re-election in NFN

·4 min read

It's another three years for Scott McLeod as Chief of the Nipissing First Nation (NFN).

McLeod easily defeated five challengers,picking up 483 votes in Friday's election.

McLeod's vote tally remained unofficial as of Saturday afternoon and still had to be confirmed by NFN's electoral officer.

McLeod's margin of victory was about equal to all votes garnered by his challengers.

That would put the total number of NFN residents voting for their Chief at more than 900, making the turnout easily the highest the First Nation has had in its history.

The 2016 Census lists the population of Nipissing First Nation at 1,590 people.

McLeod told the Nugget he was very happy with the results.

“When you're going for re-election you're being judged on your past achievements,” McLeod said.

“So this is a report card on how I've done. And I think the people are telling me I'm essentially doing a good job and they want me to keep doing it. I don't take it lightly and I'm humbled by it I look forward to continuing to work for our people.”

The Nugget asked McLeod what was behind the high number of people turning out to vote and he thinks there were two reasons.

McLeod believes the pandemic created an environment where more people were paying attention to what's going on around them, and as a result of being more aware of matters they became more engaged by voting.

He thinks the second reason for the high turnout was technology driven.

“By switching to online voting, it made it easier to reach some voters,” he said.

McLeod said although the voter turnout for Chief wasn't as high in the 2018 election, he says proportionally speaking the margin of victory between his votes and those of his challengers was about the same.

In total six people ran for Chief, including McLeod, which is believed to be another record for NFN's top office.

McLeod believes COVID-19 again may have been a factor with more people paying attention to the issues and deciding to run for Chief.

However, McLeod also acknowledges all elections attract people who believe they can “perhaps do a better job.”

As for why he won so easily, McLeod says “I think the community likes to choose some people who have experience before becoming Chief.”

“They like for people to be on council for at least one term,” McLeod said.

“These were all fresh faces. So I think the community stuck to someone who has experience and I think that's why there was such a spread in the votes.”

McLeod was first elected as Chief of Nipissing First Nation in 2015.

The Nugget asked McLeod if people have asked him to consider running for Regional Chief of Ontario.

“Yes, I have been asked several times to run for Regional Chief as well as the Grand Chief of the Anishinabek Nation and even more recently to run as National Chief,” he said.

“My answer is always that my commitment and loyalty is to my community first. Serving my community to me is the highest office. Yes, the other positions do help move First Nations issues forward. But being a community Chief has more personal value to me at this point in time.”

But McLeod left the door open to take a run at higher First Nation offices in the future.

“I'm not suggesting I would never consider doing the other jobs,” he said.

“But right now, I have work to do in my community. I'm focusing on that at this point. Maybe somewhere down the line I would consider it but at this time this is where my heart and mind are at and where I'll continue to work for the next three years.”

McLeod also drew attention to two historic events that took place just before First Nation band elections were held which he doesn't believe have received much attention.

The first is the appointment of Mary Simon as Canada's latest Governor General.

Simon is an Inuk leader and the first Indigenous person in Canada named to the Governor General's post.

“This sends a strong message on the role Indigenous people play in Canada,” McLeod said.

McLeod says the second significant First Nation historic event is seeing RoseAnne Archibald, the former Regional Chief of Ontario, become the first woman elected as the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

“That's huge and it's about time,” McLeod said.

The Nipissing First Nation election also saw seven people elected to office out of 20 who ran.

Back for a three-year term are Mike Sawyer, June Commanda, Jane B. Commanda and Eric (Rick) Stevens.

The newly elected band councillors are Joan Shabogesic McLeod, Tyeler Commanda and Daniel M. Stevens.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget

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