Perry Bellegarde was re-elected as national chief for the Assembly of First Nations on Wednesday. (CBC) Perry Bellegarde won a second term as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on Wednesday amid allegations a federal minister interfered in the election.
Bellegarde clinched the victory after receiving 328 votes which pushed him over the 60 per cent threshold needed to win.
It took him two rounds of voting to emerge from a field of five candidates.
Sheila North, a grand chief from Manitoba, received 125 votes, putting her in second place. Miles Richardson, a former president of the Haida Nation, came in third with 59 votes and Russ Diabo ended his run with 10.
The fifth candidate, Katherine Whitecloud, dropped out after the first ballot.
A total of 538 chiefs and proxies cast ballots on Wednesday.
But controversy erupted between the first and second round of voting after Diabo, a policy analyst from Kahnawake, accused Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett of interfering in the election.
Diabo’s allegation surfaced after she met with chiefs from Alberta.
"This is the first time I have seen a minister come in to influence chiefs on voting day," said Diabo. "I see that as political interference."
Alberta AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Bennett was invited to the meeting to speak about community issues.
"She did not whatsoever speak about any of the candidates, any of the election, none of it was brought up during the time she spent with the chiefs," said Poitras.
Bennett’s office said in a statement that "at no point was the election of national chief ever discussed," during the meeting.
Diabo said it didn’t matter if Bennett was invited, she should not have agreed to the meeting.
The issue spilled into the assembly after North, Richardson and Whitecloud supported Diabo’s criticism.
AFN’s Chief Electoral Officer Loretta J. Pete Lambert refused to investigate, arguing it fell outside her jurisdiction.
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