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Meet the candidates seeking to be national chief of the Assembly of First Nations

Candidate Sheila North, centre, speaks during the All Candidates Forum on the first day of the annual Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly (SCA) in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations is choosing a new national chief as part of its three-day special assembly in Ottawa.

There were six candidates competing to lead the Assembly of First Nations, a political advocacy organization representing more than 600 First Nations across Canada.

The first two ballots did not produce a winner; 60 per cent of the vote is required to name a new national chief.

Three names were dropped after the first two rounds of voting: Reginald Bellerose, chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority; former Alberta regional chief Craig Makinaw; and longtime Batchewana First Nation chief Dean Sayers. 

Here are the four remaining candidates: 

Sheila North: North, a former grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women, is running on a platform promising to prioritize respecting the inherent rights of First Nations. North has also said the assembly itself needs to improve and act in the best interest of the chiefs it represents.

David Pratt: Pratt currently serves as the vice-chief for the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. He says the assembly is at a "critical juncture," and the election necessary to restore and rebuild trust in the AFN after years of internal turmoil that tested its legitimacy and influence.

Cindy Woodhouse: Woodhouse, who serves as the assembly's regional chief for Manitoba, was a central player in a landmark $23-billion child-welfare settlement approved last month by the Federal Court. If elected, she says she would continue fighting for the rights and well-being of First Nations children and help to advance economic reconciliation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2023.

Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press

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