The 2018 AFN Annual General Assembly was held on July 24 to July 26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre amid cruise ships and the beautiful Burrard Inlet’s picturesque setting.
A total of 522 chiefs attended the Assembly, along with their proxies, to vote for a National Chief. It took a second ballot to declare incumbent, Perry Bellegarde ultimately came out as the winner of this year’s election. There were five candidates who ran for national chief, including Kathryn Whitecloud, who did not go onto the second ballot because she secured the fewest votes in the first round of voting. The national chief must secure 60% of the votes to be declared the winner:
- Perry Bellegarde — 328
- Sheila North — 125
- Miles Richardson — 59
- Russ Diabo — 10
Controversy swirled at the convention centre as the voting took place. Candidate Russ Diabo, a policy analyst from Kahnawake in Quebec, accused Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett of “political interference” on the Wednesday after she met with a group of chiefs on voting day.
Diabo told CBC News that, “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.”
A statement from Minister Bennett’s office read, “In no way did the Minister interfere in the electoral process for National Chief. This is a decision for First Nations to make without outside interference.”
The Ministers office also said that “the Minister was invited by Regional Chief [Marlene] Poitras to listen to the regional concerns of Alberta Chiefs this morning. At no point was the election for national chief ever discussed.”
After the results revealed that Perry Bellegarde was elected national chief, Diabo addressed his closing statements to the convention centre, “You’ll suffer the consequences” in reaction to election results. A chorus of boos erupted during Diabo’s closing speech.
Carolyn Bennett addressed the Chiefs on July 26th to a half empty convention centre, as most chiefs returned home after the June 25th elections.
Also speaking, were the families and representatives of Colten Bouchie, urging the national chief and leaders to end the injustices.