Canada national chief re-elected, vows to give voice

Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:34pm EDT
 
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By Julie Gordon

TORONTO (Reuters) - The national chief of Canada's First Nations aboriginals was re-elected on Wednesday in a vote of confidence for his non-confrontational approach with the Conservative federal government over its pro-development policies.

Even though critics have said Shawn Atleo's relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper is too close, the British Columbia native leader cruised to victory in the third round of voting by chiefs at an assembly in Toronto.

"All voices must be heard," said Atleo, addressing a conference hall packed with hundreds of chiefs and First Nations members from across Canada. "It's also equally, if not more important, that all voices are understood. Every one of our citizens has a right and responsibility to share in this effort with us."

The national chief heads the Assembly of First Nations, an executive committee of 10 regional chiefs. The advocacy group lobbies the federal government on aboriginal and treaty rights, along with issues like education and resource development.

A record eight candidates, including four women, were on the first ballot on Wednesday, with Atleo winning in the third round with 341 votes, or 67 percent of the vote.

The chief from the Ahousaht First Nation in British Columbia has strong support in his home province, which has the largest number of votes on the national level.

First elected in 2009 after then leader Phil Fontaine stepped down, Atleo was criticized ahead of the vote for his comfortable relationship with the federal government.

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Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo speaks during a news conference in Ottawa January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie