Shawn Atleo re-elected as AFN national chief
Victory foils critics who wanted a more strident tack
Shawn Atleo will serve a second term as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations after beating out his competitors in three rounds of voting in Toronto.
Atleo earned 341 votes on the third ballot out of 512 cast by First Nations leaders from across the country, putting him far ahead of his closest competitor — Mi'qmaq lawyer Pamela Palmater of Ontario, who got 141 votes. The third candidate in the race, Dene Chief Bill Erasmus from the Northwest Territories, received 30 votes.
A candidate needed 60 per cent of the votes cast to win, meaning Atleo had to get 307 to retain his post.
Atleo, who has strong support in his British Columbia base, defeated seven other candidates to earn a second three-year term at the helm of the AFN.
"We are part of a movement not only in this country we call Canada, but of indigenous peoples around the world who have coalesced around the effort of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples," Atleo said after his victory.
"And we will take our rightful place in our respective territories," he said.
Wednesday's result endorses Atleo's leadership over the last three years and deflates some of his critics, who say he's become too cozy and conciliatory with the federal government.
Palmater, who was trying to become the first woman to serve as national chief of the AFN, said she hopes the challenge to Atleo's leadership influences how the re-elected national chief deals with Ottawa.
"He may take what has transpired and say 'OK, I've listened, I've learned my lesson, I'm going to engage with the chiefs, we're going to take a different agenda,'" Palmater said.
She said she will give Atleo the benefit of the doubt and watch him closely during his next three-year term.
Atleo's supporters said a second term will give him the chance to build on his carefully cultivated, mutually respectful relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Harper issued a statement congratulating Atleo shortly after his re-election, saying he looked forward to continuing to work with him on First Nations issues.
"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."
Choosing a leader was not nearly as time-consuming as the last time around. Three years ago in Calgary, eight ballots were required before Atleo emerged victorious. This time, the incumbent chief had wider support for his re-election among the 500-plus chiefs who spent the day casting ballots.
With files from CBC's Jody Porter, Ron Charles and The Canadian Press