First woman elected to lead Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Cathy Merrick took the title after the second round of voting Wednesday

Cathy Merrick is all smiles as she is announced as the winner in Wednesday's vote for grand chief of the AMC. Photo: Sav Jonsa/APTN News

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has elected Cathy Merrick as its new grand chief.

Merrick, the former chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake), beat six other challengers Wednesday in a byelection to replace Arlen Dumas.

Dumas was removed in August – part-way through his second, three-year term – because of harassment and sexual assault allegations.

Dumas has denied the allegations.

“We should all be proud,” Merrick said during her victory speech.

“We have the first woman chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).”

The vote by the AMC Secretariat was part of a three-day, annual general assembly at a Winnipeg hotel.

Merrick is the first woman elected to the post.

She beat George Kemp, former chief of Berens River First Nation, on the second ballot 37 to 22.

The AMC advocates for 62 First Nations in Manitoba; there were 59 chiefs registered to vote, according to electoral officer Harold Cochrane. No ballots were spoiled.

Winnipeg Journalist Sheila North, who is Cree, did not receive enough votes to make it to the second round.

“I’d like to thank the 10 chiefs that voted for me,” she said, while holding her grandson in her arms.

The other candidates were: Eugene Eastman, former chief of the O-Chi-Chak-Ko Sipi First Nation; Jennifer Flett, vice-chief and former councillor with Opaskwayak Cree Nation; Cora Morgan, AMC’s First Nations family advocate; Sheila North, journalist and former grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak; and Darrell N. Shorting, band councillor at Little Saskatchewan First Nation.

Candidates were eliminated after the first ballot if they didn’t receive 20 per cent of the vote.

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