AFN Election Blog

Shawn Atleo's team erupts upon hearing the election results


Shawn A-in-chut Atleo wins second term as AFN's National Chief

It was another tough run for National Chief Shawn Atleo, who earned himself a second mandate from the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations after three voting rounds on July 18 in Toronto.

The Atleo team was confident going into voting day, and their candidate was well ahead of the pack after the first ballot, garnering 284 votes out of 540; this compared to his next closest challenger Pam Palmater, who took 95 votes.

The six other contenders split the remaining votes with George Stanley dropping off the ballot with only five votes to his name, instead of the required 15 needed to stay in the race. Also dropped from the first ballot was the gregarious Joan Jack who received only 20 ballots.

The Atleo team, buoyed by the fact that Atleo was so close to the finish line with only 40 or so votes needed to meet the 60 per cent threshold required by the election rules for a win, scattered to talk up their man with the delegates.

Jack was soon in the Atleo camp pledging her support to the candidate. Despite the poor showing, the rest of the candidates stayed in the race, hoping against hope to woo supporters to their side.

“Radical” Terrance Nelson had 35 votes after the first round, while Diane M. Kelly had 39. Ellen Gabriel of Oka fame took only 33 votes, despite getting a genuinely encouraging response from the chiefs at the candidates’ forum the day before. Long-time AFN regional chief Bill Erasmus received a disappointing 29 votes.

When the results of the next ballot were announced there was shock and frustration. Atleo was just three ballots away from the 60 per cent mark with 318 votes of 535, and his supporters questioned the wisdom of the other remaining candidates holding fast.

Protocol would be for the candidates to recognize the futility of their situation and concede the contest. The Atleo team had done the math, and Palmater had gained only 12 votes in round two. They thought even if all the votes that were not for Atleo were combined and went to Palmater, she would not reach the 60 per cent mark.

That would mean that Atleo would have to lose support for Palmater to win, and history was not in her favor. The only other hope for Palmater was if there was attrition in the Atleo ranks, people going home or failing to show up for the next vote. The Atleo team had experience on their side, however, and they keep close tabs on who’s with them and who is not, and they know how to wrangle their supporters to the voting station.

Soon after the second ballot results were announced, Nelson, whose support had slid by 10 votes, went to the podium and pledged his support to Palmater, and his name was officially dropped from round three.

Gabriel, who had earlier been seen speaking with members of the Atleo team, received only 17 votes and was dropped from the ballot. She would later say a rumor had begun to circulate during the second round of voting that she was throwing her support to Atleo, and that had cost her votes. She would throw her support to Palmater.

The rest of the candidates remained unmoved going into round three. Kelly had dropped to 35 from 39, while Erasmus was up by five to 34.

So the Atleo team was back to beating the bushes for the extra votes, and they found them in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. The die was cast for Palmater and Erasamus (Kelly had released her supporters, deciding not to endorse another candidate) and the third voting round results pushed Atleo over the finish line.

Palmater was defiant as she took the podium to thank her supporters. She raised the eagle fan she had been holding throughout the election process (she had called it her armour) and declared she would never give up the fight for sovereignty. She failed to congratulate Atleo on his win.

Erasmus was more magnanimous and asked the chiefs in assembly to rally around Atleo as he takes up the mantle for the next three years.

For his part, Atleo failed to react to the win immediately, looking somber as the election results were announced and as his supporters erupted in cheers.

After taking the oath of office from his relative and Elders Council co-chair Barney Williams, he acknowledged the powerful part the grassroots people played in this election, despite not having a vote. Through social media, the people were engaged in the process, he said, and the dialogue was significant and game-changing.

He reflected back on the residential school era when education was used as a tool to oppress First Nations and how that time has come to a close. He said future generations would look back on this moment when the chiefs decided to stand together and put the final stake in colonialism. He told the delegates and their advisors that “assimilation is no longer our reality.”

After his supporters sang a victory song for their candidate, Atleo stood on the stage for more than an hour as people lined up to shake his hand.

When Atleo finally retired to his caucus hall, bluesman Murray Porter could be heard rocking the house of the victory party that had started there.

Shawn Atleo takes the oath as AFN National Chief


Shawn Atleo thumbs up after being relected AFN National Chief

Read the Windspeaker Editorial Comment on the election: The Chiefs have spoken 


Election for AFN National Chief

Shawn Atleo retains his position as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. More soon.

Third ballot results.

Total Ballots cast: 512

Need 308 to win ( 60%)

Third ballot results:

Shawn Atleo: 341
Pam Palmater: 141
Bill Erasmus: 30


Second ballot voting:

Total Ballots cast: 535

Need 321 to win ( 60%)

Second ballot results:

Shawn Atleo: 318
Pam Palmater: 107
Diane Kelly: 34
Terrance Nelson: 25
Bill Erasmus: 34
Ellen Gabriel: 17

Due to AFN election rules Ellen Gariel will be dropped from the third ballot. Shawn Atleo missed reelection in the second round by only 3 votes and garnered 59% of the votes.

First ballot voting:

Total Ballots cast: 540

Need 324 to win ( 60%)

First ballot results:

Shawn Atleo: 284
Pam Palmater: 95
Diane Kelly: 39
Terrance Nelson: 35
Ellen Gabriel: 33
Bill Erasmus: 29
Joan Jack: 20
George Stanley: 5....

Due to AFN election rules Joan Jack and George Stanley will be dropped from the second ballot. Shawn Atleo only requires 40 more votes to win on the second ballot.

The National Media and the AFN’s “Angry Indians”

By Hayden King  - mediaINDIGENA July 18, 2012

It’s an auspicious week for the Assembly of First Nations. The AFN’s Annual General Assembly will either re-elect Shawn Atleo as National Chief or select one of seven challengers to lead the organization through the next three years.

Today’s vote is the culmination of a relatively short and mostly unexciting campaign, yet it is one that has nonetheless caught the attention of some in the national media, in particular, the two Johns: John Ibbiston of the Globe and Mail and John Ivison of the National Post. Each have filed a number of stories. Interestingly, both writers share a remarkable and disappointing similarity: a very apparent tendency to cast the field of candidates as angry, ungrateful militants.

Rather than mask some kind of agenda, Ibbiston’s inaugural AFN-related piece (“Shawn Atleo appears unchallenged in push for native-education reform”) on June 18 perhaps demonstrates the writer’s lack of qualifications to report on First Nations politics. The Globe veteran illustrated this sophomoric understanding when he confidently asserted that, “barring an unexpected last-minute challenger, Shawn Atleo will be acclaimed for a second three-year stint as National Chief to the Assembly of First Nations.” Not only was Ibbitson very poorly informed at the time of his assessment that Atleo would go “unchallenged,” but the field vying for the National Chief position actually became the largest in the organization’s history.

Read more:

We want an AFN of the people

By Richard Wagamese The Globe and Mail - July 17

At the risk of being politically incorrect, there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians in the Assembly of First Nations. When the AFN votes today to elect a new national chief, only 633 voices will count. Those are the voices of the elected chiefs of Canada’s first nations communities. They or their proxies are the only ones who are allowed to vote. To be a first nations person in Canada is to be rendered voiceless by the very organization that purports to represent you.

But every three years, the chiefs meet to elect or re-elect a national leader. This is illusory. What they are electing is an advocate in an assembly of advocates, because the AFN is not a government but rather an advocacy group for the chiefs. For the most part, the concerns and issues of individual first nations people do not play a part in the electoral process.

We are the people for whom treaty implementation, economic development, education, resource management, potable water, mould-free housing and affordable food for our children remain daily concerns. We are the people whom all these issues affect directly. But when the AFN votes, only the chiefs hold sway over the outcome.

Eight candidates are on the ballot today. This is a historic number. What it represents is not so much discontent with the leadership of incumbent Shawn Atleo as with the efficacy of the AFN itself. Four of the candidates are women. Three of those women have never been chiefs of their first nations, nor do they have AFN experience. This says a great deal.

Primarily, it says women, in support of grassroots concerns, want a new order. They want to ensure the security of their children. They want an end to violence against women and children. They seek protection of indigenous identity and for the land that informs it. They want to know that the voice of the people is what guides the process of dealing with government.

This is not to discount the pursuit of resolution to land claims, treaty implementation, health, education or the myriad concerns on the first nations agenda. Rather, it is to augment them with an ear to the realities in communities right now. For first nations women, our indigenous identity, our land and our future never were, and never will be, for sale, barter or diminishment.

Read more:

How to make the Assembly of First Nations more relevant

One suggestion: Let communities have a direct say in selecting the national chief

Much has changed in Wasauksing First Nation in just a generation.

Physically, the Anishinaabe community on Georgian Bay has undergone a significant overhaul.

Dirt roads have become asphalt. A new recreation centre with a hockey rink sits beside the old baseball field. And today, fire hydrants line the roads and a water tower and treatment plant are near completion, thanks to new infrastructure funding from Ottawa.

When I grew up there, none of that existed. The rez is starting to look more like typical rural Canada than the stereotypical desolate images many Canadians have in their minds.

Still, a couple of things haven't changed that much when you look at First Nations communities across the country.

One is the huge disparity among these communities in the quality of life — the sub-standard drinking water and housing —with Attawapiskat in northern Ontario being the poster community last year for everything that could go wrong.

The other, in the teeth of such disparity, is the question of leadership, a thorny one sometimes within our culture, particularly when the role of the national Assembly of First Nations is brought to bear.

In my home community, members largely attribute the housing and infrastructure upgrades to the work of our own chief and council.

And when Attawapiskat was in the media spotlight, community leaders there pointed the finger at the funding inefficiencies and Byzantine rules of the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
But in both the positive and negative examples like these, an important organization seems to abide on the periphery — the AFN, which begins its annual assembly in Toronto on Tuesday, this one to elect a new national chief, a process that comes up every three years.

If it's an event that has flown under the radar for most Canadians, that has also been the case in many First Nations communities, which is not how it should be.

If the AFN is to be a true national advocacy organization, it needs to engage people in communities more directly in order for them to understand how it can support them.

One of those ways is letting First Nations people have a direct say in deciding who should be the national chief.



Read more:

AFN's national chief faces challenging times

By Doug Cuthand, Special to The StarPheonix July 13, 2012
The chiefs who represent the Assembly of First Nations will gather from Monday to Wednesday in Toronto to select a new national chief or to confirm Shawn Atleo as their leader for another three years.

It's shaping up to be one of the most interesting elections in years. The chiefs can choose from the largest field of candidates ever to run for the national office. In addition to the two camps representing aboriginal rights or treaty rights, there are issues of tactics, gender, education and experience.

Each of the eight candidates offers something unique. Atleo, the incumbent is being challenged by: Bill Erasmus, a national vice chief from the Northwest Territories; Ellen Gabriel, former leader of the Quebec Native Women's Association and member of the Kanesatake Mohawk Nation; Joan Jack, a lawyer from the Berens River First Nation in Manitoba; Diane Kelly, a lawyer and former grand chief of the Grand Council of Treaty 3; Terry Nelson, former chief of the Rosseau River First Nation in Manitoba; Pam Palmater, an academic who heads the Centre for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University in Toronto; and George Stanley, the AFN's regional vice chief from Alberta.

Traditionally the assembly consists of two groups - those with treaty rights, and those who rely on aboriginal rights. Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms the existence of both sets of rights, but their definition and implementation remain elusive.

Read more:

Eight candidates vie for title of National Chief [afn election]

By Shari Narine Windspeaker Contributor TORONTO

Shawn Atleo faces a slate of seven others, including two Regional Chiefs, as he tries to retain his position as head of the Assembly of First Nations.

When the country’s 633 AFN-member First Nations Chiefs or their proxies cast their votes on July 18, the second day of the three-day Annual General Assembly in Toronto, Atleo’s name will be followed on the ballot by Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene Nation and AFN Regional Chief of the Northwest Territories; Ellen Gabriel, former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association; Manitoba lawyer Joan Jack; Diane M. Kelly, former Grand Chief of Treaty 3;  former Manitoba Chief Terrance Nelson; Ryerson professor Pamela Palmater; and Alberta AFN Regional Chief George Stanley. Nelson is the only candidate in the running to have challenged Atleo in 2009 when Atleo became National Chief.

Stanley holds that the large number of contenders – three more than the last election – has to do with general discontent.

“I think everybody wants to get rid of our leader,” he said. “I think everyone is a good candidate.”

Atleo is not surprised by the strength of the candidates and is pleased by the split between men and women. In 2009 there were no women candidates.

“We have such strong women leaders, right across the country, strong women chiefs,” he said.

Joan Jack says it is time for women to take their place as leaders and is pleased to be joined by Gabriel, Kelly and Palmater in contesting the position of head of the national organization which represents First Nations citizens.

“The chiefs, who are predominantly male, are constantly going around saying that they respect women…. But I think we really need to look at this. We can’t be saying we respect something and don’t take action on it,” she said.

In endorsing Palmater, Morris Swan Shannacappo, twice-elected Grand Chief of Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization, said, “We believe it’s time for the AFN to be led by a female leader – one who can exercise her perseverance and knowledge and give life to an organization that seems to be failing our peoples because of our diversity.”

The National Chief is elected by a majority of 60 per cent of the ballots cast.

Atleo and Nelson were involved in the marathon voting session that took place in 2009 when Atleo was declared victorious when runner-up Perry Bellegarde conceded the race. Twenty-three hours and eight rounds of balloting saw Atleo finish with 58 per cent of the vote. After the first round of balloting, Atleo had 43 per cent of the supporters while Bellegarde had 29 per cent. John Beaucage, who had garnered 15 per cent of the vote and third place and was eligible to remain on the second ballot, made the surprise move of dropping out. He then threw his support behind Bellegarde as did Nelson and the fifth candidate, Bill Wilson. Atleo’s selection as leader marked the longest AFN vote. Atleo succeeded long-time National Chief Phil Fontaine.

The candidates:

Shawn Atleo - Current AFN National Chief

Bill Erasmus - Chief of the Dene Nation

Ellen Gabriel - former president of the Quebec Native Women’s Association

Joan Jack - Manitoba lawyer

Diane M. Kelly - former Grand Chief of Treaty 3

Terrance Nelson - former Manitoba Chief

Pamela Palmater - Lawyer and Professor

George Stanley - Alberta AFN Regional Chief

Chiefs are looking for more than just a pretty face to head up AFN [editorial]

News: Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau endorses Shawn Atleo for office of AFN National Chief.