Perry Bellegarde named new AFN national chief

West Coast Native News

Saskatchewan’s Perry Bellegarde has been named the new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

perry-bellegardeIt only took one round of voting for Bellegarde to win, after getting more than 60 per cent of the 464 ballots cast during the event in Winnipeg.

The AFN’s top job has been vacant since the abrupt resignation in May of Shawn Atleo amid controversy over his support of the federal government’s proposed overhaul of aboriginal education.

Bellegarde, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and former regional vice-chief for the AFN, ran against Atleo in the 2009 AFN leadership election.

That year, it was a 23-hour voting contest that ended on the eighth ballot, after six successive ballots in which Bellegarde and Atleo were virtually tied.

This time around, Bellegarde faced competition from Leon Jourdaine, chief of the Lac La Croix First Nation in northwestern Ontario, and Ghislain Picard, regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, who has been interim national chief since Atleo’s resignation.

The results were:

Bellegarde — 291.
Picard — 136.
Jourdain — 35.

Bellegarde will have an extra six months added to his three-year term as the organization restructures amid questions about its relevance.

Many have argued, during the lead-up to Wednesday’s vote, that the organization should wean itself off federal funding, while others have argued it doesn’t reflect the views and concerns of the grassroots.

With files from The Canadian Press