Atleo vows to 'put the final stake in colonialism'
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 10:57AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 18, 2012 8:19PM EDT
Shawn Atleo has been re-elected as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations after three rounds of voting Wednesday.
Atleo received 341 of 512 votes on the third ballot, claiming 60 per cent of the vote needed for the victory.
After he was sworn in, Atleo congratulated his seven challengers, saying their work in their respective communities needs to be recognized.
He also said the election “offers an opportunity for reflection” about the future of First Nations citizens and their roles in provincial and federal issues.
New Brunswick Mi’kmaq lawyer and Ryerson University professor Pam Palmater, who ran an anti-Atleo campaign, finished in second place with 141 votes.
“This is a momentum that won’t stop now. Our people are strong,” she told delegates from the podium without congratulating Atleo.
“I will keep defending our sovereignty, our treaty and our people,” she said.
In his first term as AFN chief, Atleo was known for his diplomatic, respectful relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal government officials.
As the head of an executive committee of 10 regional chiefs, the AFN's national chief is seen as the one individual who most influences the tone of relations between First Nations and the federal government.
Critics accused Atleo of being too conciliatory in his dealings with Ottawa, but he vowed Wednesday to be an unrelenting leader.
“We will take our rightful place is our respectful territories. We will stand together and put the final stake in colonialism,” he said. “We will reject government’s attempt to deny or extinguish our rights.”
Atleo also said he’s happy to finally see “corporate Canada” supporting input from First Nations when it comes to natural resource development projects across the country.
Minutes after the result of Wednesday’s vote was announced, Harper issued a statement congratulating Atleo.
“The Government of Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support," Harper 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."
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also offered his congratulations.
Other candidates vying for AFN leadership included AFN Alberta regional chief George Stanley, Mohawk activist Ellen Gabriel, Manitoba lawyer Joan Jack, Chief of the Dene Nation Bill Erasmus, former five-time Roseau River First Nation chief Terrance Nelson, and the former grand chief of Ontario's Grand Council of Treaty #3 Diane Kelly.
In 2009, it took 23 hours and eight ballots for Atleo to win his first three-year mandate as AFN leader.
Atleo took the reins from Phil Fontaine at the AFN General Assembly in Calgary that year.