Voting for Assembly of First Nations national chief gets pushed to Thursday


Cindy Woodhouse and David Pratt are the last candidates standing at the special chiefs assembly.

There will be another round of voting for national chief at the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs assembly in Ottawa Thursday after the two remaining candidates failed to obtain the required number of votes.

The field was narrowed to front-runners Cindy Woodhouse, the current regional chief for Manitoba, and David Pratt, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, commonly called the FSIN.

Neither Pratt nor Woodhouse secured 60 per cent of the ballots needed to win, leading to a sixth round and second day of voting.

Woodhouse had been leading throughout Wednesday and after the final ballot finished with 234 (50.8 per cent) to Pratt’s 181 (39.3 per cent).

Pratt didn’t concede as expected after the fourth ballot, leading to a tense conversation with Woodhouse on the floor of the convention centre in downtown Ottawa.

According to AFN’s electoral officer, voting will continue continue until a winner is declared or one of the candidates concedes. Because the convention centre where the assembly is being held closes at midnight, voting was put over to Thursday.

In 2009, the election between Shawn Atleo and Perry Bellegarde also went overtime. It ended when Bellegarde conceded and Atleo won with 58 per cent.

Sheila North, former grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and a longtime advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women, threw her support behind Pratt after bowing out.

She said she wants the organization to continue to push for better protections for Indigenous women and girls, and confront gender-based violence.

“I believe in our people,” North said in her concession speech, “and I’m putting my support behind David Pratt.

“As someone just told me behind the scenes here, women can be violent, too, and we saw what happened to (deposed national chief) RoseAnne (Archibald). It was just six months left in her mandate and she was disrespected at the highest level. She did not deserve that.”

Sheila North exits the stage following her concession speech Wednesday night. Photo: APTN.

North, who ran unsuccessfully for national chief in 2018, said it’s not the outcome she wanted but is accepting defeat “gracefully.”

“You can do it, chiefs,” she told delegates. “Our relatives are waiting for us to do better.”

North brought to four the number of candidates who were eliminated throughout the evening.

“I remind all of the candidates that are left that that’s who we work for – the future generations,” said Dean Sayers, a longtime Batchewana First Nation chief who dropped off after the second ballot.

“I hope that we are a fortitude, and strengthen how we’re going to work together and unify across this country.”

The election comes after Archibald was ousted over the findings of an investigation into complaints from five staff members about her conduct.

A third-party independent review concluded some of her behaviour amounted to harassment, and she breached confidentiality rules and violated internal policies by retaliating against complainants.

Archibald denied the allegations. Her supporters maintain she was removed from the post for trying to change the organization’s status quo.

Of the 231 chiefs who took part in the special assembly, 71 per cent voted to remove her.

Six candidates were in the running to replace Archibald, including Reginald Bellerose, chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, and former Alberta regional chief Craig Makinaw.

Both were eliminated after bringing up the rear on the first ballot.

With files from the Canadian Press

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