Perry Bellegarde was re-elected to a second term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations on Wednesday fending off a challenge to his leadership from opponents who argued he had not been forceful enough in dealing with the federal government.
The new three-year term will include the contentious debate over federal plans to expand the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which has outraged a number of B.C. First Nations but has some support in Alberta, as well as a 2019 federal election campaign during which the Liberals will have to defend their record on First Nations issues.
The former chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations won on the second ballot with just over the required 60-per-cent support. Sheila North, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, was second, with 24 per cent.
In a victory speech, Mr. Bellegarde described the leadership fight as “humbling” but now concluded, clearing the way for work on key First Nations files such as better housing, health care and resource access.
While opponents have accused Bellegarde of being too cozy with Ottawa, and challenged his commitment to deliver on the issue of Indigenous sovereignty, he said his tenure as National Chief had produced real results for First Nations people.