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Norwegian out as Dehcho grand chief after vote

Herb Norwegian was ousted Wednesday as grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories, following two days of intense debate by delegates in a special assembly.

Herb Norwegian was ousted Wednesday as grand chief of the Dehcho First Nations in the Northwest Territories, following two days of intense debate by delegates in a special assembly.

Norwegian was recalled late Wednesday in a vote by Dehcho chiefs, elders and other delegates in a meeting that began Tuesday morning in Fort Simpson.

Fifty-nine out of 61 delegates voted in favour of removing Norwegian, while two delegates abstained.

Norwegian's leadership was called into question after he pleaded guilty in December to assaulting a woman.

For that offence, he was sentenced to one day of jail, 50 hours of community service and six months of probation.

Norwegian was in his second three-year term as grand chief of the First Nation, which covers 11 communities in southwestern N.W.T. He had held the position since 2003.

Delegates at the special assembly said they felt they had to vote him out of office, in order to send a strong message that violence against women is not tolerated. The Dehcho First Nations has stated it has a policy of zero tolerance for violence.

Despite the clear outcome of the vote, the choice to recall Norwegian was difficult for delegates, said CBC reporter Loren McGinnis, who was at the meeting in Fort Simpson.

The mood in the room during and after the vote appeared serious, and some delegates shed tears. Norwegian sat through the decision and then left the assembly quickly, but not before some of his critics embraced him, McGinnis said.

Many of the people around the table are longtime colleagues, friends and even family members of the ousted chief.

"I have very mixed feelings towards this. Of course in the bottom of my heart, as a family, it was very difficult," Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Keyna Norwegian, who is Herb Norwegian's cousin, told CBC News on Thursday.

"But the message that we need to send to the youth [is] violence of any type is just not acceptable. And if you want to be a public figure, we cannot condone that kind of behaviour."

Norwegian said she hopes the former grand chief's work is not overshadowed by his removal.

An acting grand chief is expected to be selected Thursday, and an election for a new grand chief is expected to take place this summer.

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