Perry Bellegarde won’t seek re-election as national chief of Assembly of First Nations

National chief announces retirement prior to annual special chiefs assembly.

Perry Bellegarde

National Chief Perry Bellegarde addressing chiefs in assembly in December 2019. Photo: APTN.


National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations says he won’t seek re-election as the head of the organization next summer.

Bellegarde, who has served in the role since 2014, made the announcement in a series of tweets.

“Last night, I wrote to the Chiefs of Canada – saying I will not be seeking re-election in next July’s AFN National Chief’s election,” he said. “Being National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has been the greatest job I could have imagines.”

Bellegarde also wrote that he has successfully advocated for laws protecting Indigenous children and languages and the new bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

He says his advocacy has also helped to secure more than $27 billion in new funding and brought widespread attention to issues and concerns that were previously talked about only among First Nations themselves.

He says he will address the chiefs at the annual special chiefs assembly, which is normally held in Ottawa but is being broadcast virtually because of the pandemic starting Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is schedule to address the assembly Tuesday afternoon.

Several ministers will appear Tuesday evening including Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Justice Minister David Lametti who introduced the UNDRIP legislation last week.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller will also appear. Miller announced last week that Canada will not fulfill its target of removing drinking water advisories in First Nation communities by 2021 as promised in the 2016 election.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair will appear alongside his colleagues Tuesday evening. Blair, whose ministry is responsible for the RCMP, has been under pressure to reform the Mounties after several high profile reports and incidents involving the national police force.

The national chief is elected every three years to lead the AFN, a political advocacy organization that represents more than 600 First Nations in Canada.

At its general assembly, the AFN is set to urge the government to address inequities faced by First Nations during the pandemic and to support safe and high-quality education, health-care resources and infrastructure, among other issues.